For many people, it can be easy to take their hearing for granted until problems arise. Issues like pain or distortions of sounds will remind anyone of just how vital our ears are. Summertime is the perfect time to develop issues; swimming, nature walks, outdoor festivals, and concerts can expose people to possible ear problems. Noise-induced hearing problems usually develop slowly and can be challenging to detect until the damage is noticeably impaired. Many people experience short-term issues that clear up in a few days, like tinnitus (ringing or whooshing sounds) or diminished hearing after exposure to loud sounds like power tools, music concerts, or fireworks. But these can also be an indicator of long-term problems. To help ensure a hearing-healthy summer, we have put together this handy guide covering the most common summertime hearing hazards and some solutions to protect your hearing all season long.
Summertime Hearing Hazards: Summertime Problems That Can Affect Your Hearing
Exposure to Loud Noises and Sound
Damage from loud noises can happen after prolonged or repeated exposure to any sound louder than 85 decibels. Sounds louder than 120db can cause permanent injury after just one time. Unfortunately, noise-induced hearing loss is one of the most common summertime hearing hazards that a person can face. In decibel measurement studies, road traffic has been measured at 85db to 90db, music concerts (even outdoor) can be as high as 115db, and fireworks have been recorded at 150db to 160db. For those who love summertime events, attending multiple events each year contributes to degrading hearing slowly over time with each exposure.
While some may scoff at the idea of taking hearing protection to a concert or music festival, wearing earplugs can significantly reduce any chance of damaging your ears during the show. You will still be able to hear as ear plugs won’t block out all the sound, and the music will still come through clearly. If you still can’t bear to wear or maybe forgot a pair, stand well away from the speakers. These same tips can be applied to any loud noises, like fireworks, power tools, and lawn equipment.
Summer Allergies and Colds
Like cold weather allergies and illness, ear infections are common. Also called acute otitis media, ear infections can occur anytime excessive mucus production and swollen Eustachian tubes combine to create a blockage. Common symptoms include headache, sore throat, runny or blocked sinus, and excessive drainage.
While most of the time, these issues will clear up after a short duration. If they persist, it would be a good idea to make an appointment with a doctor or health care specialist. In the meantime, over-the-counter remedies like acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help with pain and discomfort. And home remedies such as a warm compress over the ears can help with sinus pressure. However, if you have a bacterial infection, you will need an antibiotic if symptoms persist.
Changes in Altitude and Pressure
Traveling in aircraft or deep dives underwater can also affect Eustachian tubes. Issues can occur if the pressure outside the ear changes faster than the ears can adjust. In severe cases, too sudden of a difference can lead to the inner eardrum rupturing and causing a perforated eardrum.
The most common way to relieve this unbalance in pressure is to perform the Valsalva maneuver; pinch your nose closed and blow gently into your nose; be careful not to blow too hard as this can also rupture your eardrum. Chewing gum or sipping water can stimulate the sinuses and balance the pressure.
Everyone knows water activities are a great way to beat the summer heat. However, multiple issues can occur due to prolonged exposure to water. Infections inside the ear canal from moisture can lead to swimmer’s ears. Pressure changes from dives further than 10 feet below the surface can create pressure imbalances that could lead to a rupture if ascending or descending too fast. Surfer’s ear, also known as external auditory exostoses, is an issue that takes years to develop from constant exposure to cold water.
All these issues should be treated carefully, as damage can continue to occur while you’re trying to take care of the initial problem. Use cotton balls to absorb excess moisture instead of a cotton swab as these can damage the ear canal, compact earwax, or puncture the eardrum, making issues even worse. If an infection does occur, you’ll need a doctor to determine whether the condition is bacterial or fungal and prescribe antibiotics or anti-fungal drops to resolve the issue. If your problems are persistent, make sure to see a doctor immediately and tell them what activities you have been up to before the problems developed.