Protect Your Ears at Your Favorite Sporting Events

Bary E. Williams Au.D. Lifestyle & Leisure, Noise-Related Hearing Loss

Watching a sporting event in person has so much more atmosphere than watching from your couch. Nothing beats screaming support for your team along with thousands of your best friends that are also fans. The crowd noise gives you a shot of adrenaline with the crowd and then there’s the music, too! If you are at a race, add in the roar of the engines. But, there’s a downside to all this enthusiasm.

Sustained or even extremely loud one-time noise can damage your ears and result in hearing loss. Team owners, want fan support and fan enthusiasm to stay high in stadiums to keep their teams pumped up, but they are also starting to recognize the dangers to fans as well as sport teams’ staffs because of the constant barrage of sound.

At Exceptional Hearing Care, we can help you out with custom ear plugs and also talk to you about noise cancelling headphones. Some will block out all the noise, some just some of the noise. They are great for sports enthusiasts as well as those who enjoy hobbies that involve noise like target shooting, and motorcycling. Anyone involved in a profession that has lots of noise such as airline pilots, firefighters, musicians, construction workers and factory workers should consult us for regular hearing evaluations. Your hearing is important!


What is “Loud?”

Anything over 80 to 85 decibels is considered loud. An acoustical firm, Wrightson, Johnson, Halddon and Williams did a crowd noise testing at an NFL game and the results came in between 80 and 90 decibels. That, says the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association is considered “loud” to “extremely loud.” An acoustical consultant did a test at Century Field during the Seahawks/Saints game in December. Fan noise set a Guinness World Record for loudest crowd noise at that game with a booming 137.6 decibel level.

The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health warns exposure to 85 decibels for more than eight hours at a time can cause hearing loss if an individual isn’t wearing hearing protection. The risk of damage raises exponentially with the rise in sound. Each time the decibel rate goes up by three decibels, the “safe” exposure time is cut in half. The average football game lasts about three hours, so if fans and stadium noise pump up the decibel rate to over a hundred, that means damage to your ears.

During the time the decibel rates were being monitored at the Seahawks game for the world record, counts before the record were between 100 and 108. When the decibel record was broken, it was actually recorded as a mini-earthquake. The ground and stadium shook. Here’s a comparison – the 137.5 decibel level is just about equivalent to the sound level a jet makes during takeoff. Airport employees wear ear protection – football fans do not.


Spectator Ear Strain

Everyone is affected differently by noise. For some, one football game could result in ear damage, for others, it would take a couple of games. But season ticket holders put repeated strain on their ears. Many spectators may experience temporary hearing loss without knowing what that is. After exposure to loud noise you may have a temporary “ringing” in your ears and speech may sound muffled. Sometimes the ringing, also referred to as tinnitus, doesn’t go away.

If your hearing goes back to “normal” there still could be damage. The tiny hair cells in your ear which transmit sound to be processed to the brain, get permanently damaged. The other cells compensate, but over time, you run out of healthy cells and you experience hearing loss.


There’s a Simple Solution

Remember that photo that showed up all over the internet of New Orleans Saints Quarterback Drew Brees holding his infant son up in the air after the 2010 big win? His son was wearing ear protecting headphones. If you are a NASCAR fan, the TV shots of the crew members in the pits as well as many of the fans in the grandstand, show them wearing earmuffs or noise cancelling headphones. Even something as simple as a pair of foam earplugs would help and they can be purchased from us or at a drug store. You can still hear, but the sound is reduced by 20 to 30 decibels.


Exceptional Hearing Care

If you are in a profession or have a hobby that puts your hearing at risk, get a hearing exam at Exceptional Hearing Care to set a base level which will allow us to monitor your hearing for damage. We also provide comprehensive hearing health services and can help you protect the hearing you have.

Bary E. Williams Au.D.