Here’s What An Audiologist Says About Protecting Your Hearing During Festival Season

by Margaux MacColl
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It’s summer, sun pouring down, an icy drink in your hand. Your favorite band comes on stage and the venue floods with cheers. The speakers you're standing right next to spark to life, and you can feel the bass almost to your core. It sounds like a perfect summer concert— until you get home and notice your ears are ringing. If you're going to a lot of concerts this festival season, you might not realize how important it is to prevent hearing loss after listening to so much loud music.

“If you look around, there are so many people in that venue that are going home suffering [from hearing damage],” Dr. Shelley Borgia, Au.D., chief audiologist at Lipo-Flavonoid and founder of NYC Hearing Associates, tells Bustle.

With the many music festivals that populate the warm months, more people will be spending their days jamming to their favorite music— and, unfortunately, more people will be putting their hearing at risk. The noise level at the average concert — even at outdoor venues — poses a genuine risk for everyone in the crowd.

Hearing loss is is more common than people think, being the third most common physical health condition (after arthritis and heart disease) in older adults, and impacting about 48 million Americans, according to the Hearing Loss Association of America. Although it predominantly affects people above the age of 60, noise-induced hearing loss can happen at any age. You can also lose your hearing gradually, so your constant concert-going may be harming your ear health, even if you don't feel the impact immediately.

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DJ Nicole Rosé, who recently designed headphones specifically made for women's ears, called Rosé Rockers by DJ Rosé, learned this firsthand. After being a DJ for years without using hearing protection, she tells Bustle that she began feeling a dull pain in her left ear. She went to see an audiologist, who informed her that she actually was suffering from mild hearing loss. “I found out that I really needed to make some lifestyle changes if I wanted to remain in this career,” Rosé says.

Rosé’s ear pain is a only one symptom of hearing damage. Dr. Borgia says that experiencing ringing or a clogged sensation — especially after a concert — is another sign of possible hearing loss. If you experience any of these symptoms, Dr. Borgia says it’s vital to see a doctor immediately to determine if the loss is permanent and to decide on a treatment plan.

“There really is more support and treatment options today than we've ever had in the past,” Dr. Borgia says. From medication — you can treat symptoms like persistent ringing (tinnitus) with over the counter supplements like Lipo-Flavonoids — to hearing aids, visiting a doctor can help make hearing damage significantly more manageable.

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Fortunately, not all hearing damage is permanent. After following a comprehensive plan from her doctor, which included rotating which ear she listened to music with when she DJ-ed and wearing over-the-ear headphones instead of in-ear, Rosé was able to regain most of her hearing. The main pillar of the plan hinged on her always being armed with a pair of ear plugs. “Every single handbag I own has a pair of ear plugs in them,” Rosé says. “I usually keep a pair for a friend — that's what real friends do.”

Dr. Borgia says wearing earplugs to concerts is the number one way you can prevent damage. She recommends investing in custom earplugs; they are perfectly molded to your ear, which makes them easier to wear and guarantees maximum protection. While these can cost around $250, generic earplugs usually cost just a few dollars at any pharmacy and are still very effective.

Dr. Borgia adds that it’s not just high-risk events like concerts that can compromise your ear health. Construction, traffic, and many other everyday noises can damage your hearing irreversibly. In addition to wearing noise cancelling headphones, Dr. Borgia says that even playing your music at a low level can significantly help prevent hearing damage.

The bottom line is that, as you prepare for your summer plans, it’s vital to keep your hearing health in mind. “The main thing we have to drive home is that you can't go to a concert without hearing protection,” Dr. Borgia says. “Don't risk your hearing.”