Get the Home-Field Advantage With Hearing Protection
It’s not fall without football. It’s not football without the shouting, whistling, and
stomping of thousands of fans — a cacophony so powerful that it alone can change
the course of a game. Many teams consider their fans their extra player, their 12th
Being the 12th man is inspiring and energizing, but if you’re not careful, it can
damage your hearing.
How Noise Causes Hearing Loss
The hearing damage that occurs during games — that is, in stadiums and sports bars
— is called noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). If a sound is loud enough, it actually
damages cells in your inner ear called hair cells. These cells translate sound into
signals your brain can interpret, and it’s nearly impossible for your body to repair
them once they’re damaged. The loss is subtle, though; over time, you start missing
the s, f, sh, ch, h, and soft c sounds.
When Noise Causes Hearing Loss
A decibel (dB) is a measurement of sound intensity. For comparison:
• Conversation = 60 dB
• Vacuum cleaner = 70 dB
• Lawn mower = 91 dB
• Rock concert = 112 dB
Somewhere between the noise of a vacuum cleaner and a lawn mower, hearing
damage occurs (specifically, at 85 dB or louder). But it’s more complicated than that.
For example, at 85 dB, hearing damage occurs after eight hours of exposure; at 91
dB — only 6 dB louder — damage occurs after 2 hours.
The Fan Factor
On average, the stadium noise during an NFL game is in the mid-90-dB range. That’s
like standing next to an especially loud lawn mower for 3 ½ hours. That doesn’t take
into account the noise spikes, however. In 2014 Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City,
Missouri, reached 142.2 dB to break the world record for stadium noise. This was
only a year after Seattle’s CenturyLink Field had broken the record with 137.6 dB, a
roar so powerful it was detected as a minor earthquake by the Pacific Northwest
Hitting your favorite sports bar to catch the game instead? You’re still at risk. A team
of audiologists hit its local sports bars during the playoffs and discovered the
average noise level was a sensible 70 dB, but during touchdowns and big plays, it hit
almost 112 dB — the same noise output of a chain saw.
Get Game-Day Ready
So what’s a fan to do? Here are some tips to make sure you’re not stuck throwing a
hearing Hail Mary during the game.
Take a time out
It’s not just the decibels that are dangerous; length of noise exposure is a key
component of hearing damage. If you’re in a stadium, from time to time, hit the
snack bar or merch table, or wander the stadium for a few minutes. If you’re at a
sports bar, head outside for a few minutes, or find a quiet(er) corner.
Use hearing protection
The best offense is a good defense — in this case, hearing protection. Check the
noise-reduction rating (NRR) to make sure your choice works for your situation.
Typically, the higher the number, the better the protection.
Disposable earplugs. You’ll be the MVP when you bring a bag of earplugs to hand
out to friends! Inexpensive and easy to use, these foam plugs should be discarded
after each use.
Reusable earplugs. Season just starting? Might want to spend just a tad more and
get reusable earplugs. Usually a soft silicone, they can be easily cleaned and reused.
You can even get them with a cord so that if they fall out, you don’t lose them.
Custom earplugs. You can get these for general noise or as musicians’ earplugs. You
can only get these through a hearing care professional, so they cost a bit more, but
they are highly efficient because they are custom built based on a mold of your ear.
Musicians’ earplugs. Noncustom musicians’ earplugs are built to let in good
sounds, like your friends’ banter, but keep out bad sounds, like the hearingdamaging
sound swells during big plays. They seldom, if ever, come in a disposable
option, but there are plenty of reusable brands to choose from.
Earmuffs. These fit completely over the ear. Soft, padded cups are ideal for air
circulation, and they’re available in foldable, easy-to-carry styles. These are
recommended for young children because they’re safer and easier to use.
Combination. For added protection, use both earplugs and earmuffs.
Want the home-field advantage? Contact us to schedule a hearing-protection
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Loud Noise Dangers.
https://www.asha.org/public/hearing/Loud-Noise-Dangers/. Accessed May 16, 2018. Guinness World Records.
Seattle Seahawks Fans ‘Cause Minor Earthquake’ With World Record Crowd Roar.
Accessed May 16, 2018. Oticon. Raising the Bar on Noise.
https://www.oticon.com/-/media/oticon-us/main/your-hearing/2017-superbowl-infographics.pdf. Accessed May