Summertime has some activities that are just staples: Air shows, concerts, fireworks, state fairs, Nascar races, etc. The crowds, and the noise levels, are growing as more of these activities are getting back to normal.
And that can be an issue. Let’s face it: you’ve noticed ringing in your ears after attending a concert before. This ringing, known as tinnitus, can be a sign that you’ve sustained hearing damage. And the more damage you do, the more your hearing will diminish.
But don’t worry. With the proper ear protection, you’ll be able to enjoy those summer activities (even NASCAR) without doing lasting damage to your ears.
How to know your hearing is suffering
So, you’re at the air show or enjoying yourself at an amazing concert, how much attention should you be paying to your ears?
Because, understandably, you’ll be fairly distracted.
Well, if you want to avoid severe injury, you should be looking out for the following symptoms:
- Headache: Generally speaking, a headache is a strong sign that something isn’t right. This is certainly true when you’re attempting to gauge damage to your hearing, too. A pounding headache can be triggered by overly loud volume. And that’s a good indication that you should seek a quieter environment.
- Dizziness: Your inner ear is primarily responsible for your ability to stay balanced. So if you feel dizzy at one of these loud events, particularly if that dizziness coincides with a charge of volume, this is another sign that damage has happened.
- Tinnitus: This is a buzzing or ringing in your ears. It’s an indication that damage is occurring. Tinnitus is fairly common, but that doesn’t mean you should disregard it.
This list isn’t complete, of course. There are little hairs inside of your ears which are responsible for detecting vibrations in the air and overly loud sounds 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 little hairs in my ear hurt”. So looking out for secondary symptoms 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 result in damage. And the damage will worsen the longer the exposure continues.
When you do notice symptoms, what should I do?
You’re getting your best groove on (and everyone is digging it), but then, you start to feel dizzy and your ears start to ring. What should you do? How many decibels is too loud? And are you in a dangerous spot? (How loud is 100 decibels, anyhow?)
Here are some options that have different degrees of effectiveness:
- You can go somewhere quieter: Truthfully, this is probably your best possible option if you’re looking to safeguard your hearing health. 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 safeguard your hearing. But you should still think about getting out if your symptoms become significant.
- Use anything to block your ears: When things get noisy, the goal is to safeguard your ears. Try to use something around you to cover your ears if you don’t have earplugs and the high volume suddenly surprises you. Even though it won’t be as efficient as approved hearing protection, something is better than nothing.
- Check the merch booth: Some venues will sell disposable earplugs. Go to the merch booth for earplugs if you can’t find anything else. Typically, you won’t need to pay more than a few dollars, and when it comes to the health of your hearing, that’s a bargain!
- Keep a set of cheap earplugs with you: Cheap earplugs are, well, cheap. For what they are, they’re relatively effective and are better than no protection. So there’s no reason not to keep a pair with you. That way, if things get a bit too loud, you can just pop these puppies in.
- Try moving away from the origin of the noise: If your ears start hurting, make sure you aren’t standing next to the stage or a giant speaker! Put simply, try moving away from the source of the noise. Maybe that means giving up your front row NASCAR seats, but you can still enjoy the show and give your ears a needed break.
Are there any other strategies that are more reliable?
So, disposable earplugs will work 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 go to concerts every night, or you have season tickets to NASCAR or football games, or you work in your garage every evening restoring an old Corvette with noisy power tools.
In these cases, you will want to take a few more serious steps to protect your hearing. Here are a few steps in that direction:
- Come in and for a consultation: You need to identify where your present hearing levels are, so come in and let us help. And it will be a lot easier to identify and note any damage after a baseline is established. Plus, we’ll have a lot of individualized tips for you, all designed to protect your ears.
- Professional or prescription level hearing protection is encouraged This might mean over-the-ear headphones, but more likely, it will mean personalized earplugs. The level of protection increases with a better fit. You can always bring these with you and put them in when you need them.
- Get an app that monitors volume levels: Ambient noise is normally monitored by your smartphone automatically, but you can also get an app that can do that. When noise gets too loud, these apps will let you know. Monitor your own portable volume meter to ensure you’re safeguarding your ears. Using this strategy, the exact volume level that can damage your ears will be obvious.
Have your cake and hear it, too
Okay, it’s a bit of a mixed metaphor, but the point holds: you can enjoy all those great summer activities while still safeguarding your hearing. You will enjoy those activities safely by taking a few simple measures. And that’s true with everything, even your headphones. You will be able to make better hearing decisions when you know how loud is too loud for headphones.
As the years go on, you will most likely want to keep 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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