Summer is almost here. For many people in San Diego, that means it’s festival season. Whether you’re going to see a three-day lineup of the hottest bands in the country or a one-off concert, the music is bound to be loud. To avoid damage to your ears, you’ll have to be sure to protect your hearing.
Music and Hearing Loss
The biggest cause of hearing loss is noise – and exposure to loud music is one surefire way to cause irreversible damage if you aren’t careful. Anything louder than 85 decibels (dB) has the potential to permanently destroy the tiny hair cells in your cochlea that are responsible for processing sound. The louder the volume, the less time it takes to do damage.
Curious about decibel levels? Let’s put it into context. Everyday speech clocks in at about 65 dB, while a rock ‘n roll concert is nearly double that – around 110 dB on average. Obviously, a heavy metal band will be noisier than an acoustic folk trio, so take that into consideration. The closer you are to the stage – and the speakers – the louder the volume will be. At 110 dB, hearing loss can occur in as little as two minutes if you aren’t wearing hearing protection. If you think wearing earplugs to a concert isn’t “cool,” you know what else isn’t cool? Asking your friends to repeat themselves a hundred times because you can’t hear them!
If you’ve ever been to a concert and experienced a ringing sensation in your ears afterward, then you’ve already put your hearing at risk. Tinnitus is a common side effect of noise exposure. It usually disappears after a few hours, or maybe the next day, but repeatedly listening to loud music without protecting your ears can lead to a permanent ringing in the ears – and trust us, that’s no fun. Tinnitus causes anxiety and irritability, can interfere with sleep, and may lead to depression. Recent studies even show higher rates of suicide among tinnitus sufferers, so it’s no joke.
And there’s a lot of overlap between tinnitus and hearing loss: 50 million Americans suffer from tinnitus and 48 million have hearing loss to some degree.
Protecting Your Ears
If you’re going to be attending concerts this summer, your San Diego audiologist urges you to wear earplugs. They’re the easiest (and most effective) way to protect your hearing from the damage loud music can cause. You can pick up a pair of disposable foam earplugs from most drugstores, and they will help, but your best bet is to purchase custom earplugs made from molds of your ear canals. They cost a bit more but will fit you perfectly and offer superior noise protection. If you’re a frequent concert-goer, they are well worth the investment.
Music isn’t the only potentially damaging source of noise in the summertime. Popular recreational activities such as boating, attending baseball games, watching fireworks – even mowing the lawn – can cause hearing damage if you aren’t careful. Be prepared by bringing along your earplugs whenever you participate in any of these activities.
Your San Diego audiologist can give you additional tips on protecting your hearing this summer.