The roar of the crowd as the home team takes the lead. It’s an unforgettable rush of adrenaline and certainly a major draw of attending live sporting events. However, it’s also the moment your ears are exposed to dangerously loud levels of noise. More than ever, experts urge us to protect our irreplaceable hearing systems as evidence mounts against the extreme noise that goes along with a seat among rowdy fans.
Noise induced hearing loss
Noise induced hearing loss isn’t the most common form of hearing loss, but the effects are just as profound. In extreme cases, noise induced hearing loss can happen in an instant. The sound levels to result in such extreme hearing trauma must be incredibly loud. Think about being too close to an explosion or crash, like military personnel might be exposed to. In most scenarios, noise induced hearing loss occurs slowly and subtly as people are exposed to loud sounds repeatedly and over long periods of time. Factory workers might come to mind when you consider this type of hearing damage.
Because of the damage that loud sounds can do to our ears, OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) recommendations exist. In workplaces, noises must be below 90 decibels over an eight-hour day. And that is an average, meaning that a somewhat loud environment with frequent spikes of too loud noise is equally damaging as consistently high decibel levels. More than that and around that level require additional precautions be taken in order to preserve the hearing of workers.
Don’t take one for the team
The noise at sporting events isn’t regulated by OSHA, but the levels of sound produced are dangerously high. Hearing experts are beginning to raise the alarm as fans unknowingly put themselves in harm’s way each week. The sound measured averages between 80 and 90 decibels at NFL games around the country.
Remember that OSHA’s recommendation of 90 decibels is based upon an average and consider that when a cheer-worthy moment arises, the levels of noise at a sporting event can well exceed 100 decibels. Anyone who’s attended an exciting match in the last year can attest to the frequent moments the raucous crowd becomes a roaring one.
Signs of hearing damage
When decibel levels climb into the hundreds, it only takes between one and 15 minutes for the sound to damage your ears. In these instances, it is paramount to take stock of the listening environment you are in.
If your ears are ringing during or after an event, there is likely a large degree of damage being done to your ears. Take note of what holding a normal conversation feels like in the midst of the sporting event. If you cannot speak at a conversational level with someone at or within an arm’s length and must shout in order to be understood, the noise of the crowd is too loud.
Check in with your ears after the event, as well. Are sounds muted or distorted? If listening feels like you’re underwater or there is pain in your ears, you will probably want to protect yourself from this sort of hearing damage incurred in the future.
Ways to protect yourself
Going to the occasional game probably won’t do irreversible damage to your ears. However, season ticket holders should be aware that frequent and long-term exposure to noises of this level are likely to result in some degree of permanent hearing loss. There are ways to have your cake and eat it, too. Bring some hearing protection along with you to the next game. This can mean something as simple as a cheap pair of foam earplugs from the drug store. These lower decibel levels by a small amount without completely blocking all noise. The step further would be to purchase a pair of noise cancelling headphones. This way, you won’t miss a moment of thrilling plays, but you’ll also have the satisfaction of knowing that your hearing won’t be impacted in the slightest.
Get your hearing tested
Because of the relative newness of evaluating the dangerously loud noise levels at sporting events, many of us have spent years rooting for the home team without considering the damage being wrought. If hearing loss due to aging or exposure to too-loud noise has already made itself apparent in your life, do schedule a hearing test with us at Exceptional Hearing Care. They’re easy and painless and the only outcome is a reliable diagnosis!