Health Watch -- Sounds of Summer

Health Watch is a Public Service of the Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.

Summer fun can be noisy fun, but your ears could pay a heavy price.

Lawnmowers, outdoor concerts, poolside boomboxes, fireworks displays -- these are some of the sounds of summer. But they're also noises that can be hazardous to your hearing. Hearing experts at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas say that fragile cells in your ears can be damaged by exposure to loud noises.

Permanent hearing damage can be caused by exposure to one sudden, loud noise -- like a gun or explosion going off near you -- or frequent exposure to loud noises over time. That's why many jobs where workers are constantly exposed to loud noise require workers to wear hearing protection. You see people who work on airport runways and people using jackhammers wearing muffs over their ears.

But there aren't really any guidelines for exposure to fun noises. That's when it's up to you to protect yourself. One way to tell if you've been exposed to noise that's too loud is if your ears feel stuffy when you're in a quieter environment -- like when you leave a concert.

To protect your hearing, use some kind of hearing protection when you go to a concert, mow the lawn or have a close-up seat at a fireworks display. There are little foam earplugs that protect almost invisibly. Also, keep an eye on the volume when you control it. Turn your car stereo down, and when listening to music with headphones, keep the volume where others can't hear your music.