You can’t get your hearing back — so it’s worth protecting. Read on for a few tips to take with you to that next music festival.

There’s nothing like seeing your favorite band or DJ perform live (which explains why music festivals are an annual pilgrimage for fans these days). And it usually doesn’t get much better than a front-row spot. But being that close to Chance the Rapper or Arcade Fire can do serious damage to your hearing, especially if you’re going to concerts on a regular basis.

Hearing loss is significant because it’s hard (if not impossible) to restore it. Typically, the best you can do is minimize damage in the first place — and that’s a tough ask when you’ve paid for a ticket and have been looking forward to the concert ever since.

One good tip-off that you need to step up your hearing protection: ringing in your ears. If you experience it after you left your last concert, it’s a sign of damage. And though the ringing may subside over time, that sort of damage can last, even once your hearing seems to go back to normal. Over time, and with constant exposure, that damage can add up, eventually becoming noticeable. It could even turn into tinnitus, in which that ringing becomes constant.

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“Noise-induced hearing loss is a major cause of hearing loss across the country,” said Courtney Voelker, MD, PhD, assistant professor of clinical otolaryngology – head and neck surgery at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. “We live in a society where we are all exposed to loud noises. Concerts, weddings, movie theaters, restaurants, nightclubs, places of worship, etc. These are all examples of places where we are exposed to too much noise. Permanent damage to the inner ear can occur after one extremely loud noise exposure or repeated exposure over time.”

But that doesn’t mean you can’t join your friends at that Drake concert or take a date to your favorite jazz club. With a few precautions, you can enjoy a live concert and protect your hearing. Here are a few ways to get started.

Stock up on earplugs

Earplugs are an easy (and relatively affordable) way to protect your hearing. Don’t worry — you’ll still be able to hear the music. Just opt for musician-grade earplugs, which lessen the sound intensity while keeping the quality intact.

“The number one thing that you can do to protect your ears from damage is to use ear plugs,” said Dr. Voelker, who also is an ear specialist at Keck Medicine of USC.

Stay in the back

Forget the first row. Standing close to the speakers exposes your hearing to a higher volume of sound — and, the closer you are to the noise, the more intense it is. This might seem great in the moment (after all, you’re there to hear the music), but it can leave your ears ringing.

Take breaks

Enjoying two solid hours of loud music sounds like a dream — but it also means your ears don’t get a break. During a lull in the music, step outside for five minutes to let your ears adjust to normal noise levels. It’s better than nothing.

Go on a noise diet

So you went to the concert and pushed your way to the front, hearing be damned. There’s still hope! After a night of loud music, go on a 24-hour “noise diet.” This entails avoiding loud sounds as much as you can, turning down the volume of your headphones (if you use them at all) and giving your ears a break from the noise of daily life. It’ll give your hearing a chance to recover — which, bonus, will help with any residual ringing in your ears.

By Deanna Pai

If you’re in Southern California and are having issues with your hearing, make an appointment at our Hearing and Balance Center. To schedule an appointment, call (800) USC-CARE (800-872-2273) or visit ent.keckmedicine.org/request-an-appointment.