Summer has some activities that are simply staples: Outdoor concerts, fireworks shows, state fairs, air shows, and NASCAR races (look, if you like watching cars go around in circles, nobody’s going to judge you). The crowds, and the decibel levels, are growing as more of these events are getting back to normal.
And that can be a problem. Let’s face it: you’ve had ringing in your ears after attending a concert before. This ringing, known as tinnitus, can be an indication that you’ve sustained hearing damage. And as you continue to expose your ears to these loud sounds, you continue to do additional permanent damage to your hearing.
But it’s ok. With the proper ear protection, you’ll be able to enjoy those summer activities (even NASCAR) without doing long-term damage to your ears.
How to know your hearing is hurting
So how much attention should you be putting on your ears when you’re at that concert or air show?
Because, obviously, you’ll be pretty distracted.
Well, if you want to avoid significant injury, you should be looking out for the following symptoms:
- Dizziness: Your sense of balance is generally controlled by your inner ear. So if you feel dizzy at one of these loud events, particularly if that dizziness coincides with a rush of volume, this is another indication that damage has happened.
- Tinnitus: This is a buzzing or ringing in your ears. It means your ears are taking damage. Tinnitus is rather common, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore it.
- Headache: Generally speaking, a headache is a good sign that something isn’t right. This is definitely true when you’re attempting to gauge damage to your hearing, too. Too many decibels can trigger a pounding headache. And that’s a strong indication that you should find a quieter setting.
This list isn’t exhaustive, obviously. There are little hairs in your ears which are responsible for picking up vibrations in the air and overly loud noises can damage these hairs. And once these tiny hairs are destroyed, they never heal or grow back. They’re that specialized and that fragile.
And it isn’t like you’ve ever heard anyone say, “Ow, the tiny hairs in my ear hurt”. So looking out for secondary signs will be the only way you can detect if you’re developing hearing loss.
You also could be developing hearing loss with no detectable symptoms. Any exposure to loud noise will lead to damage. And the damage will get worse the longer the exposure continues.
When you do detect symptoms, what should I do?
You’re rocking out just amazingly (everybody notices and is instantly captivated by how hard you rock, you’re the life of the party) when your ears begin to ring, and you feel a bit dizzy. How loud is too loud and what should you do? And are you in the danger zone? (How loud is 100 decibels, anyhow?)
Well, you have several options, and they vary in terms of how helpful they’ll be:
- You can get out of the venue: If you really want to protect your ears, this is really your best option. But it’s also the least enjoyable option. It would be understandable if you would rather stay and enjoy the show utilizing a different way to safeguard your hearing. But you should still consider getting out if your symptoms become extreme.
- Keep a pair of cheap earplugs with you: Cheap earplugs are, well, cheap. They aren’t the best hearing protection in the world, but they’re moderately effective for what they are. So there isn’t any reason not to keep a pair in your glove compartment, purse, or wherever. That way, if things get a little too loud, you can simply pop these puppies in.
- Use anything to cover your ears: The goal is to protect your ears when things are too loud. Try to use something near you to cover your ears if you don’t have earplugs and the high volume suddenly takes you by surprise. It won’t be the most effective way to reduce the sound, but it will be better than nothing.
- Put a little distance between you and the origin of noise: If you experience any ear pain, distance yourself from the speakers. To put it bluntly, distance yourself from the origin of the noise. Perhaps that means giving up your front row NASCAR seats, but you can still have fun at the show and give your ears a needed break.
- Find the merch booth: Disposable earplugs are obtainable at some venues. Check out the merch booth for earplugs if you can’t find anything else. Typically, you won’t need to pay more than a few bucks, and with regards to the health of your hearing, that’s a bargain!
Are there any other methods that are more reliable?
So, disposable earplugs will do when you’re mostly concerned with protecting your hearing for a couple of hours at a show. But it’s a little different when you’re a music-lover, and you attend concerts every night, or you have season tickets to NASCAR or football games, or you work in your garage every night repairing an old Corvette with noisy power tools.
You will want to use a little more advanced methods in these scenarios. Here are some steps in that direction:
- Come in and for a consultation: We can do a hearing assessment so that you’ll know where your hearing levels are right now. And it will be a lot easier to detect and record any damage after a baseline is established. Plus, we’ll have all kinds of individualized tips for you, all tailored to protect your ears.
- Use a volume monitoring app: Most modern smartphones will be able to get an app that monitors the ambient noise. These apps will then notify you when the noise becomes dangerously loud. Monitor your own portable decibel meter to ensure you’re safeguarding your ears. Using this method, the precise decibel level that can harm your ears will be obvious.
- Use professional or prescription level ear protection. This may mean over-the-ear headphones, but more likely, it will mean personalized earplugs. The level of protection improves with a better fit. You can always bring these with you and put them in when you need them.
Have your cake and hear it, too
It may be a mixed metaphor but you get the point: you can enjoy all those awesome summer activities while still protecting your hearing. You just have to take measures to enjoy these activities safely. And that’s relevant with everything, even your headphones. You will be able to make better hearing decisions when you recognize how loud is too loud for headphones.
Because if you really enjoy going to see a NASCAR race or an airshow or an outdoor summer concert, chances are, you’re going to want to keep doing that as the years go on. If you’re not sensible now you might end up losing your hearing and also your summer fun.
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