Some activities are just staples of summer: Air shows, concerts, fireworks, state fairs, Nascar races, etc. As more of these activities go back to something resembling normal, the crowds, and the noise levels, are growing.
And that can be an issue. Because let’s be honest: this isn’t the first loud concert that’s caused your ears to ring. That ringing is often called tinnitus, and it could be an indication of something bad: hearing damage. And as you keep exposing your ears to these loud noises, you continue to do further permanent damage to your hearing.
But don’t worry. If you use effective ear protection, all of these summer activities can be safely enjoyed.
How to know your hearing is suffering
So how much attention should you be putting on your ears when you’re at that air show or concert?
Because, obviously, you’ll be pretty distracted.
You should watch out for the following symptoms if you want to avoid serious injury:
- Dizziness: Your inner ear is largely responsible for your ability to keep yourself balanced. So if you’re feeling dizzy at one of these loud events, especially if that dizziness coincides with a charge of volume, this is another indication that damage has occurred.
- Headache: If you’re experiencing a headache, something is probably wrong. This is certainly true when you’re attempting to gauge damage to your hearing, too. Excessive volume can result in a pounding headache. If you find yourself in this scenario, seek a less noisy setting.
- Tinnitus: This is a buzzing or ringing in your ears. It means your ears are sustaining damage. You shouldn’t necessarily dismiss tinnitus simply because it’s a relatively common condition.
This list isn’t complete, obviously. Loud noise leads to hearing loss because the excessively loud volume levels damage the tiny hairs in your ear responsible for sensing vibrations in the air. And once these tiny hairs are destroyed, they never heal or grow back. That’s how delicate and specialized they are.
And it’s not like you’ve ever heard anyone say, “Ow, the tiny hairs in my ear hurt”. That’s why you need to look out for secondary signs.
It’s also possible for damage to occur with no symptoms at all. Damage will happen whenever you’re exposed to overly loud noise. The longer you’re exposed, the more severe the damage will become.
What should you do when you experience symptoms?
You’re rocking out just awesomely (everybody sees 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?)
Here are some options that have different levels of effectiveness:
- Put a little distance between you and the origin of noise: If your ears start hurting, make sure you aren’t standing near the stage or a big speaker! Put simply, try moving away from the source of the noise. You can give your ears a rest while still enjoying yourself, but you might have to let go of your front row NASCAR seats.
- Bring cheap earplugs wherever you go: Cheap earplugs are, well, cheap. They aren’t the ideal hearing protection, but they’re relatively effective for what they are. So there’s no reason not to keep a set with you. This way, if things get a little too loud, you can just pop these puppies in.
- Find the merch booth: Disposable earplugs are obtainable at some venues. So if you can’t find anything else, it’s worth trying the merch booth or vendor area. Your hearing health is important so the few dollars you pay will be well worth it.
- You can get out of the venue: If you really want to safeguard your ears, this is truthfully your best option. But it may also finish your fun. It would be understandable if you’d rather stay and enjoy the concert using a different way to protect your hearing. But you should still consider leaving if your symptoms become significant.
- Use anything to block your ears: The goal is to protect your ears when things are loudest. So if you don’t have any earplugs and the volume levels have caught you by surprise, consider using anything you can find to cover and protect your ears. Although it won’t be as effective as approved hearing protection, something is better than nothing.
Are there any other strategies that are more reliable?
So, disposable earplugs will do when you’re primarily interested in safeguarding your hearing for a couple of hours at a concert. But it’s a bit different when you’re a music-lover, and you attend concerts nightly, or you have season tickets to NASCAR or football games, or you work in your garage every night restoring an old Corvette with noisy power tools.
You will want to use a bit more sophisticated methods in these scenarios. Here are some steps in that direction:
- Use a volume monitoring app: Most modern smartphones will be able to download an app that monitors the ambient noise. These apps will then alert you when the noise becomes dangerously high. In order to safeguard your ears, keep an eye on your volume monitor on your phone. This way, you’ll be capable of easily seeing what decibel level is loud enough to harm your ears.
- Professional or prescription level hearing protection is encouraged This may include custom earplugs or over-the-ear headphones. The degree of protection increases with a better fit. You can always take these with you and put them in when you need them.
- Come in and see us: We can do a hearing test so that you’ll know where your hearing levels currently are. And when you have a recorded baseline, it will be easier to observe and record damage. Plus, we’ll have a lot of personalized tips for you, all tailored to protect your ears.
Have your cake and hear it, too
Okay, it’s a bit of a mixed metaphor, but the point holds: you can have fun at all those great summer activities while still protecting your hearing. You will enjoy those activities safely by taking a few simple measures. And that’s true with everything, even your headphones. Identifying how loud is too loud for headphones can help you make better choices about your hearing health.
As the years go on, you will probably want to continue doing all of your favorite outdoor summer activities. If you’re not smart now you might end up losing your hearing and also your summer fun.
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