Summertime has some activities that are just staples: Outdoor concerts, fireworks shows, state fairs, air shows, and NASCAR races (look, if you enjoy watching cars go around in circles, no one’s going to judge you). As more of these events return to something like normal, the crowds, and the noise levels, are growing.
But sometimes this can bring about issues. Let’s face it: you’ve noticed ringing in your ears after going to a concert before. This ringing, known as tinnitus, can be a sign that you’ve sustained hearing damage. And as you continue to expose your ears to these loud noises, you continue to do additional irreversible damage to your hearing.
But don’t worry. With the correct hearing protection, you’ll be able to enjoy those summer experiences (even NASCAR) without doing long-term damage to your ears.
How can you tell if your hearing is taking a beating?
So how much attention should you be putting on your ears when you’re at that air show or concert?
Because, naturally, you’ll be pretty distracted.
You should watch for the following symptoms if you want to avoid severe damage:
- Tinnitus: This is a buzzing or ringing in your ears. It means your ears are taking damage. Tinnitus is fairly common, but that doesn’t mean you should dismiss it.
- Dizziness: Your sense of balance is largely controlled by your inner ear. Dizziness is another signal that damage has taken place, especially if it’s accompanied by a spike in volume. So if you’re at one of these noisy events and you feel dizzy you could have injured your ears.
- Headache: Generally speaking, a headache is a good indication that something isn’t right. This is certainly true when you’re attempting to gauge injury to your hearing, too. Too many decibels can lead to a pounding headache. And that’s a good indication that you should find a quieter environment.
Needless to say, this list isn’t exhaustive. There are little hairs inside of your ears which are responsible for detecting vibrations in the air and overly loud noises can harm these hairs. And once these tiny hairs are damaged, they never heal or grow back. They’re that specialized and that delicate.
And it’s not like people say, “Ow, the tiny hairs in my ear hurt”. So watching for secondary symptoms will be the only way you can know if you’re developing hearing loss.
You also may be developing hearing loss without any detectable symptoms. Any exposure to loud noise will lead to damage. And the damage will worsen the longer the exposure continues.
When you do detect symptoms, what should I do?
You’re getting your best groove on (and everybody is loving it), but then, you start to feel dizzy and your ears start ringing. How loud is too loud and what should you do? Are you standing too close to the speakers? How should you know how loud 100 decibels is?
Well, you’ve got several options, and they vary with regards to how effective they’ll be:
- Use anything to cover your ears: When things get noisy, the goal is to protect your ears. Try to use something near you to cover your ears if you don’t have earplugs and the high volume abruptly takes you by surprise. Although it won’t be as efficient as approved hearing protection, something is better than nothing.
- Keep a pair of cheap earplugs with you: Cheap earplugs are, well, cheap. For what they are, they’re moderately effective and are better than nothing. So there’s no excuse not to keep a set with you. That way, if things get a little too loud, you can just pop these puppies in.
- You can go someplace less noisy: Truthfully, this is most likely your best possible option if you’re looking to safeguard your hearing health. But it’s also the least enjoyable option. So if your symptoms are serious, think about getting out of there, but we understand if you’d rather pick a way to protect your hearing and enjoy the show.
- Find the merch booth: Disposable earplugs are available at some venues. So if you don’t have anything else, it’s worth trying the merch booth or vendor area. Typically, you won’t have to pay more than a few bucks, and when it comes to the health of your hearing, that’s a deal!
- Try moving away from the source of the noise: If you experience any ear pain, distance yourself from the speakers. Essentially, distance yourself from the source of the noise. You can give your ears a rest while still having fun, but you may have to let go of your front row NASCAR seats.
Are there more effective hearing protection methods?
So, disposable earplugs will work when you’re primarily concerned with protecting your hearing for a couple of hours at a show. But if you work in your garage every day fixing your old Chevelle with power tools, or if you have season tickets to your favorite football stadium or NASCAR, or you go to concerts a lot, it’s not the same.
You will want to use a bit more advanced methods in these scenarios. Those measures could include the following:
- Talk to us today: We can do a hearing exam so that you’ll know where your hearing levels are right now. 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 designed to protect your ears.
- Use a decibel monitoring app: Most modern smartphones will be able to download an app that monitors the ambient noise. These apps will then notify you when the noise becomes dangerously loud. Keep an eye on your own portable volume meter to ensure you’re safeguarding your ears. This way, you’ll be able to easily see what decibel level is loud enough to harm your ears.
- Professional or prescription level hearing protection is encouraged This could include personalized earplugs or over-the-ear headphones. The better the fit, the better the hearing protection. When you need them, you will have them with you and you can just put them in.
Have your cake and hear it, too
Alright, it’s a bit of a mixed metaphor, but the point stands: you can safeguard your hearing and enjoy all these fabulous outdoor summer events. You will enjoy those activities safely by taking a few simple measures. You need to take these steps even with headphones. You will be able to make better hearing choices when you understand how loud is too loud for headphones.
Because if you really love going to see an airshow or a NASCAR race or an outdoor summer concert, chances are, you’re going to want to continue doing that in the future. Being sensible now means you’ll be able to hear your favorite band decades from now.
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