Ear plugs in the Summer

You’ve got your swimsuit ready. You’ve bought the sunscreen, bug spray, sandals, and hat. Summer is upon us, and you’re prepared to make it a great one.

But are you forgetting something?

Don’t let hearing loss put a damper on summer fun. Here are 5 activities that are best enjoyed with earplugs.

1. Swimming or Soaking

CNN recently did a special report on bacteria and parasites living in perfectly balanced pool water. These can lead to Swimmer’s Ear, an infection of the ear canal. They can cause gastrointestinal issues.

Some people are more likely to get sick than others.

If you have wounds that take a long time to heal or get sick frequently, you likely have an immune system that struggles to fight these infections. Additionally, some people have larger ear canals than others, making it easier for water to get inside.

People who use cotton swabs to clean their ears are also at greater risk because they’ve removed their protective wax.

You already knew that was bad though, right?

While pool-borne illness is rarely serious, contaminated water getting into the ear canal is never good. It can lead to swelling, pain and even temporary hearing loss.

Left untreated, this can cause damage to the eardrum and other delicate inner workings of the ear.

We know it’s not possible to completely avoid all pathogens in our environment. But if you plan to spend significant time in the pool or hot tub this summer, wearing swimming earplugs can help keep contaminants out.

(And never ever put your head under in a hot tub!)

2. Concert in the Park

Summertime is the perfect time for an evening of music at the park. But because the entertainers are trying to reach such a large audience, the noise levels are often off the charts.

Actually, they’re not. Depending on where you’re standing you may be exposed to as many as 120 decibels (dB). That’s enough to cause instant and permanent hearing loss.

Earplugs are designed to reduce sound, not distort it. But if you’re not getting the right ones you won’t be able to enjoy the concert.

Earplugs have an NRR rating, which determines how strong the protection is. This ranges from 20-33. A 20 NRR will lower the sound by 20 decibels. So a 120-decibel concert will only be around 100.

That’s still a damaging level.

The closer you are to the speaker, the higher NRR you’ll need to prevent permanent hearing damage. Even if you get the highest level of hearing protection, your ears are still being exposed to sound loud enough to cause permanent damage within 15 minutes.

Alcohol consumption can increase the damage rate.

For best protection stand away from speakers and wear earplugs. And don’t try to use your swimmer’s earplugs here. They’re not designed to dampen sound.

The same goes for an inside concert, sporting event, play, movie, barbecue, festival or anywhere where the sound is being amplified through speakers.

3. Maintaining the Lawn

You do it every week, but that grass keeps growing. You keep having to edge the flowerbeds and steps to avoid your yard looking like a mess. And then you have to get the weed wacker to touch up around the trees, and there’s…

Sadly, maintaining your lawn can do serious damage to your hearing.

A lawnmower or weed eater produces around 90 dB of sound. That’s enough to cause permanent hearing loss with prolonged exposure.

Some are as loud as 110, which causes damage in 15 minutes.

It’s important to realize that you usually don’t lose total hearing at once. It happens over time.

You may think you’re immune because you haven’t noticed it yet. But if you’re mowing without earplugs, we can say with 100% certainty that you’re slowly causing hearing loss.

It will become more noticeable over time.

A low NRR of 20-25 is typically sufficient for mowing. But more protection is definitely better, especially if you have a large yard that takes over 15 minutes.

4. Independence Day

It wouldn’t be Independence Day without them. When July comes around, it’s time to celebrate the birth of our nation.

But fireworks have a dark side. They can exceed 175 dB. That’s as loud as a pistol right next to your head.

If they’re being set off way down the street and you’re inside, you may be okay, but have them on hand just in case.

If you’re at a firework show where the fireworks are thunderous and repeated, you need earplugs. If you’re close to the action, the highest rating is advised.

You’ll still hear the fireworks. It will still be loud. But you’ll be protecting your ears.

5. Notable Mention

Summer thunderstorms can reach 120 dB. If the thunder is close and you’re outside, wear your earplugs.

Protect Your Hearing

Hearing loss caused by noise can’t be reversed. Since it happens so slowly, people don’t realize they’re doing damage. Get your hearing checked regularly. Know your risk level.

Don’t wait until the damage is severe to seek professional help.