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Protect Your Hearing from the Sounds of Summer

Reviewed by Dr. Porter on October 24, 2018

Summer sounds include more than crickets chirping and waves breaking.

Parades, outdoor concerts, July 4th fireworks, construction sites and even public transportation all have one thing in common: intense sound at high decibel levels that can damage your hearing.

It can take just one exposure to loud noise to cause permanent damage to your hearing.

Extremely loud concussive noises can damage the eardrum and three bones in the middle ear. In the most extreme cases, just one exposure can do serious damage. A single exposure to extremely loud sound, for example, won’t necessarily damage the auditory hair cells in the spiral-shaped organ of Corti in the cochlea of the inner ear, but repeated exposure to loud noise will.

Hearing loss progresses as long as exposure to loud sound continues. Damage to the inner ear is usually permanent.

What kinds of problems can result from hearing damage caused by loud noise?

You may gradually lose your ability to hear high pitches. To a certain extent, everyone loses the ability to hear extremely high pitches they could hear as children and young adults. But damage to the inner ear can make the problem worse.

You may lose your ability to focus in on a conversation when there is background noise. As you lose hearing, your brain compensates by paying attention to all the sound that comes into your ear. You hear everything around you all at once, until the underlying problem is corrected.

You may develop tinnitus. This is a condition that causes the perception of ringing, buzzing, clicking, or electronic sounds that originate inside your head, not outside it. This is like the ringing in your ears after you hear a nearby gunshot or exploding fireworks, only it never goes away.

You are born with about sixteen thousand auditory hair cells in your inner ears. You can lose five thousand, six thousand, even seven or eight thousand of them without any changes that can be detected on a hearing test. There is a point, however, at which hearing loss becomes serious and permanent.

In Washington State, summer is the time when loud sounds cause the greatest damage to good hearing. According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology (AAO), a normal conversation registers at 60 decibels. By comparison, some of summertime’s most fun activities wreak havoc on our ears:

  • Boats and jet skis – 100 decibels
  • Loud concerts – 115 decibels
  • Racecars – 130 decibels
  • Fireworks and jet engine takeoff – 150 decibels
  • Cannon and shotgun – 170 decibels

But these aren’t the only sounds that can cause permanent damage to your hearing. The AAO recommends earplugs for prolonged exposure to noises starting at the 85-decibel level. Blenders, power mowers, hair dryers, forklifts, and trains can generate sound in the 100- to 120-decibel range. Operating a pneumatic drill, or a bulldozer, using an impact wrench on the lug nuts of a wheel, or taking a spin on your motorcycle can generate sound as loud as 140 decibels.

One in 10 Americans has hearing loss that prevents them from understanding normal speech. While aging is the most common cause of this condition, exposure to excessive noise can also irreversibly damage your hearing.

Here are some tips to protect your hearing in the summer months:

  • Cover your ears

Invest in custom-made earplugs designed for comfort and durability. Buy them now and keep them handy in purses, wallets, briefcases, and backpacks so you can easily pop them in when noise is continuously loud. This is especially important for children spending time at fireworks displays, concerts and the like.

  • Avoid swimmer’s ear

Swimmer’s ear – caused by membrane swelling due to trapped moisture in the outer ear – is a common problem for swimmers. To avoid painful – and costly – ear infections, purchase custom plugs designed for swimming. After a swim, tilt your head to each side for about a minute to drain water from the ears and carefully wipe the outer ear with a towel. Do not try to remove inner ear moisture with a cotton swab!

  • Travel safely

Many of us are eager to hit the road during warmer months. During road trips, keep the stereo at a moderate volume, and don’t use music to drown out background noise. Opt for noise canceling earphones, instead. Air travelers often complain about ear discomfort, too. When the plane is taking off or landing, yawn, swallow, or chew gum to unplug your ears. If these tips aren’t effective, pinch your nostrils shut, inhale a mouthful of air, and direct the air back to your nose, as if you’re trying to gently blow, to equalize the pressure in your ears.

  • Prepare for loud activities

The Silverdale, Gig Harbor and Tacoma, Washington areas have countless activities scheduled this summer, including Independence Day fireworks and airshows, as well as concerts and boat rentals. Just don’t forget to protect your ears! During concerts, sit in the middle or back rows.

While being close to the stage seems like a treat, prolonged exposure to loud sounds in close proximity can cause tinnitus and even permanent hearing loss. Protect your ears by wearing ear plugs and taking regular breaks when attending longer music festivals.

Airshows are extremely loud. Custom-made earplugs will protect your delicate inner ear from damage.

You can prevent damage to your hearing by the sounds of summer. But if you haven’t, Harbor Audiology can help you achieve the best hearing possible.

Your hearing is essential to your quality of life. The onset of hearing loss is so gradual you may not know what you are missing until you get the hearing correction you need.

Harbor Audiology provides state-licensed, professionally certified audiologist services for people in Washington state.

Our audiologists can diagnose hearing issues and prescribe the precise hearing correction that you need. In addition to custom fitting of hearing aids, we can help patients with balance issues and tinnitus relief.

Harbor Audiology offers a wide range of services and products to fit your hearing needs, including custom earplugs.

We are experienced in filing claims for Medicare and VA benefits in addition to all kinds of insurance. We specialize in finding the best hearing aid to fit your lifestyle and budget, utilizing all of the major brands of hearing aids.

Let Harbor Audiology put more than two decades of experience to work for you.

Call (253) 999-9649 today to make your appointment or schedule an appointment online for our offices around the Sound. Contact us for appointments in Sequim, Silverdale, Port Angeles, Tacoma, Gig Harbor, and Federal Way.

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