Sporting Events and Hearing Loss

Any sports enthusiast knows how much cheering for their favorite team actually helps them win, right? Cheering, yelling, screaming, music, and other noises are a part of most sporting events. As a matter of fact, many sports, such as football and basketball, take pride in the amount of noise that can be created in their home team stadium or arena. There is even competition between schools and teams just on the amount of noise their fans can produce.
There is one major downside to all of this noise, commotion, and, of course, fun: hearing loss or damage.So, the defining question is, “How much does this affect ones hearing and to what degree?”
According to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, or NIOSH,without proper protection, exposure to 85 decibels of sound for more than eight hours could lead to permanent hearing loss. Each time the noise level increases by three decibels, the recommended exposure time is cut in half.1
 Thankfully, a sporting event normally does not last more than eight hours; however, hearing damage can still be caused in the time you are exposed to the high amount of noise. To combat the risk of hearing damage, there is a simple solution: protection.
Another article by the America Journal of Audiology said that it “would be wise to be proactive in warning spectators about the potential dangers of noise exposure at sporting events, make earplugs available to interested spectators, and implement a hearing conservation program for employees working in noise.”2
The above articles made it clear that sports fans would be better off using proper hearing protection at events. The next question that is raised is; what types of protection are there for spectators?
If you have been to a NASCAR race than you have seen fans with the large earmuff looking devices on their heads. These look like true earmuffs but are made to block out sound by covering the entire ear. Some even have built in radios to listen to the announcers at the event. Although these are widely acceptable to wear at the raceway, it may look a little off at a basketball game. For other types of events such as a baseball game or a wrestling match, simple ear plugs would be the easiest form of hearing protection.
Although it is necessary for all to take into consideration the possibility of hearing damage, it is also important to know and understand that everyone responds differently to noise. For those who already have hearing loss and/or damage, being aware of the possibility of further damage is extremely important.
Other things to consider include:

  • How often you attend loud events
  • What other normal life hearing strains occur
  • What (if any) hearing protection do you use

The answers to these questions play into the overall hearing health and response to noisy games and other events. Those who have hearing loss should consider speaking with their hearing professional on the safest means of hearing protection for loud events.
Enjoy your favorite events by being prepared for the loud fans, music, and whatever else your ears may face. By keeping your hearing health up to par, you can enjoy these events that much more.

  1.  UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF LABOR. Safety and Health Topics. Accessed June 27, 2016.
  2. Noise Levels Among Spectators at an Intercollegiate Sporting Event. American Journal of Audiology Published March 2014. Accessed June 27, 2016.

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