Long exposure to loud noises, such as attending a concert with no ear protection, can damage the delicate structures within the ear. This can cause a ringing in the ears, known as tinnitus.
Tinnitus can be bothersome, as the sound can make hearing difficult and interrupt daily life. Tinnitus after a concert is usually temporary and should subside within a few days.
However, damage to the structures in the ear may be permanent, so it is important to take steps to prevent further hearing loss.
How does noise damage occur?
Loud noises can damage tiny hair cells in the inner ear. These hair cells vibrate in response to noise and send a message to the brain. Once destroyed, the cells do not grow back.
Scientists think that damage to these cells causes the brain to misinterpret the signal it receives, so it makes up a sound instead. This is what causes a person to hear ringing in their ears after a concert, even when the room is silent.
Some live music can be extremely loud. Any exposure to sounds at or above 85 decibels (dB) can cause noise-induced hearing loss.
For reference, the volume of a typical conversation is about 60 dB. The level of noise from heavy city traffic is around 85 dB. Concerts are usually well over this 85 dB level.
While the average concert-goer may experience symptoms that only last a couple of hours, anyone listening to live music regularly may start to experience tinnitus for more extended periods of time if they do not take steps to treat or prevent the damage.
Reduce exposure to loud sounds
While the ears can often recover from damage, it is still important to reduce exposure to loud sounds when experiencing tinnitus.
This may mean talking quietly, avoiding loud bars or events, and avoiding in-ear headphones. Watching television or listening to the radio at lower volumes than usual may also help the ears recover.
Sometimes, a person only notices ringing in the ears when there are no other sounds to compete with it. In these cases, it may help to distract the ears from the ringing by listening to soft music or an engaging podcast.
Meditation and yoga may also help take the focus off of the ringing. These techniques may also help reduce stress, which is sometimes a contributing factor to tinnitus.
Reducing alcohol and caffeine
People with ringing in their ears after a concert are often told to stop drinking alcohol and caffeine. While there is little scientific evidence to back up this claim, some people may find that reducing the amount of caffeine or alcohol they drink could help reduce their symptoms.
Another method to help reduce or eliminate ringing in the ears after a concert is a type of head tapping.
Head tapping involves a few simple steps:
- Place the palms over the ears, resting the fingers at the base of the skull in the back of the head.
- Keeping the ears covered with the palms, raise the index fingers up and tap the back of the head. This should produce a sound inside the head that is similar to the tap of a drum.
- Gently tap the head around 50 times.
- Repeat the process a few times each day as needed for relief.
If the ringing causes trouble sleeping, it may help to use some gentle white noise to distract the brain from focusing on the sound.
Some people find the hum of a room fan is enough to allow them to sleep. Others prefer the sounds of ocean waves or the static from a television to help them sleep.
Hearing ringing in the ears after a concert is a sign of hearing damage, which may be permanent. Taking preventative measures is crucial to avoid noise-induced hearing loss.
Foam earplugs are available at many pharmacies or grocery stores, and many music venues even provide them to guests.
There are even companies that make custom earplugs to help reduce the loudness of the sound of a concert without affecting the quality of the sound.
In an emergency, clean paper napkins that are balled up and gently positioned in the outer ear may help muffle the loud sounds of a concert.
When buying tickets for a concert, it may help to pay attention to where the speakers will be located in the venue. Booking seats further away from the speakers may help reduce the amount of sound reaching the ear.
Continuous loud noise only puts the ear at more risk for tinnitus. Taking regular breaks at a concert to go outside for fresh air or visit the bathroom may help give the ears a break.
When to see a doctor
If the ringing in the ears does not go away after a day or so, it may be time to see a doctor. It is possible that something other than the concert is causing the tinnitus.
Numerous things could influence ringing in the ears, and doctors will want to check the most likely culprits. During the appointment, a doctor will likely do a physical exam of the ear canal.
In some cases, excess earwax or a foreign object can get stuck inside the ear and cause tinnitus. Doctors may also check for signs of an ear infection, ask about the person’s stress levels, and ask about any medications they take.
Tinnitus influenced by any of these factors should clear up once the underlying condition is treated.
In cases of chronic tinnitus, doctors can recommend hearing devices or medications to help ease some of the symptoms.
People experiencing ringing in their ears after a concert do not need to panic, as the symptoms will likely start to fade within a few hours.
Home remedies can often help speed up the process, and a trip to the doctor may uncover any underlying cause in cases of persistent tinnitus.
While experiencing temporary tinnitus after exposure to loud music is not an immediate cause for concern, the damage done to a person’s hearing may add up over time.
Many of the causes of tinnitus are preventable, such as visiting concerts or playing music too loud in headphones, so it is important to take steps to prevent noise-induced hearing loss.