It’s easy to forget about keeping your hearing safe when you’re in the midst of enjoying all kinds of summer activities. From fireworks displays to outdoor concerts, you’re probably not thinking about your ears much at all. But if you want to continue enjoying all the fun summer has to offer for years to come, we suggest reading and following these tips for protecting your hearing.
Fourth of July fireworks
Sounds of 85 decibels (dB) or louder can destroy the hair cells in your cochlea that facilitate hearing. Meanwhile, fireworks produce a sound output between 150 and 175 dB. We suggest you take the following actions:
- Wear ear protection. Even simple over-the-counter foam earplugs will help.
- Watch from a safe distance. Adults should stand at least 50 feet away from fireworks displays. Children are better off watching 150 feet or more away.
- Remain vigilant. If the sound of fireworks seems disturbingly loud or painful, trust your ears and move farther away.
Dial down the decibels
Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is the most preventable contributing factor to hearing loss. Eight hours of exposure to 85 dB is the limit past which NIHL and tinnitus (ringing in the ears) typically occurs. Besides fireworks, you’re likely to spend a lot of time listening to sounds that far exceed that threshold, including rock concerts (avg. 140 dB), football stadiums (some have reached 136 dB), and auto races (avg. 160 dB). Here’s how you can reduce the risk of NIHL:
- Wear hearing protection. Again, foam or moldable, over-the-counter earplugs are okay, but if you’re a frequent concertgoer (or a musician yourself), you might want to consider investing in custom earplugs. If you’re going to a shooting range, you might choose custom hearing protection that, too.
- Limit your time spent in noise. Noise damage accumulates ― give your ears some recovery time in-between loud activities. If you’re going to a music festival one day, choose a quieter way to spend the next.
When contaminated water gets trapped in your ear it can cause an infection commonly known as swimmer’s ear. It usually affects the outer portions of the ear and is little more than an itchy nuisance. However, when left untreated, complications like a ruptured eardrum can result. Here’s how you can avoid swimmer’s ear this summer:
- Avoid potentially contaminated water.Watch out for ill-maintained pools, lakes, rivers, and ponds that could contain bacteria or fungus.
- Use ear protection. You can put a few drops of alcohol-based ear drops in your ears. This can provide some protection, although wearing ear protection made for swimmers is a safer choice.
- Dry out your ears as much as possible after swimming.This does not include cleaning your ears with cotton swabs. You don’t want to remove wax, as it is a natural barrier against infection.
Play hard, but safe
Water-skiing, rock climbing, playing baseball — these and other adventurous activities are fun. However, they also increase your risk of injury, including concussions that can leave you with long-term hearing difficulties like tinnitus, hearing loss, loss of balance and vertigo. While you shouldn’t give up the activities you enjoy for fear of injury we do encourage you to play safely:
- Wear appropriate headgear. Engaging in sports and other physically-risky activities should include wearing helmets made for those endeavors (e.g., a football helmet for football, a bike helmet for cross-country biking).
- Don’t ignore symptoms if you do hit your head. Even if they seem minor something serious might develop if you take a wait-and-see attitude. Get checked out by a doctor as soon as possible. It’s more important to make sure you are okay than worry you might be overreacting.
We also tend to have more free time to catch up on things like doctors’ appointments in the summer. If you already suspect you have hearing loss, now is the time to schedule that hearing test you’ve been putting off.