Loud NFL stadiums have become a source of pride for fans and teams across the country. But with stadium noise exceeding safe decibel (sound pressure) levels, it’s also a source of hearing loss. Cheering fans can push decibel (dB) levels well into the hundreds. At these levels, it only takes 1 to 15 minutes for the sound to damage your ears.
Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL)
NIHL is damage done to the ears by exposure to loud noise; the amount of damage is dependent upon the decibel level and the length of time you’re exposed. Repeated exposure to sound levels above 85 dB can cause permanent hearing loss. Rather than not being able to hear at all, high-frequency sounds are usually the first to go, meaning you may be unable to hear s, f, sh, ch, h, or soft c sounds.
Hearing Loss by the Numbers
Cheering while the away team is in a huddle gives football fans the opportunity to get in on the action, but football isn’t the only sport that puts fans at risk. From vuvuzelas to referee whistles and fireworks, loud noise at sporting events is something all spectators should be aware of.
We know you sports fans love your stats, so here are a few to help you get your play call right.
- Hearing loss happens at sound levels above 85 dB.
- According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 12.5 percent of children and adolescents ages 6 to 19 (approximately 5.2 million people) and 17 percent of adults ages 20 to 69 (approximately 26 million people) have suffered permanent damage to their hearing from excessive exposure to noise.
- Research shows the crowd noise during touchdowns can be about 109.1 dB, and big plays can cause crowd reactions as loud as 111.2 dB.
- High-frequency sounds are the first to go — think s, f, sh, ch, h, or soft c sounds.
The Best Offense Is a Good Defense
The trick play is that hearing loss is cumulative, meaning you probably won’t notice the loss until it’s so apparent that you have no choice but to fix it. So how do you defend against hearing loss? Our key players are earmuffs and earplugs, along with awareness (which you’re already practicing). When shopping for hearing protection, use the Noise-Reduction Rating (NRR) as a guide. The number is found using a standard formula to measure potentially achievable protection; it’s helpful as a rough guideline for how many decibels are being reduced.
- Look for soft, padded ear cups with a slim headband so the earmuffs will stay on comfortably.
- Those soft ear cups will help air circulation over the ear to keep heads cool.
- Check to see if the headband and ear cups are adjustable, so they can be used next season.
- Velcro® and adjustable fabric are also effective options.
- Keep an eye out for an age range on the package so you can get an idea of whether
they will fit.
- Earmuffs can also be found in foldable, easy-to-carry styles, as well as reflective
- Be sure your kids or grandkids are protected with earmuffs as well!
- Earplugs are another way to go. From the standard foam style they sometimes hand out at games to musicians’ earplugs, they are a great, portable, and effective option.
- Musicians’ earplugs actually turn down the overall volume, rather than just muffling the sound, letting you listen to all sounds at a safe volume.
- There are two kinds of musicians’ earplugs: ones that are custom made for you by an audiologist (hearing specialist) and others that are available in stores and online.
- Look for flanges that limit the volume while still allowing for clear hearing of music or speech.
- Foam or silicone construction is best because it reduces additional decibels. If you have to yell at your fellow fans to hear one another, or if your ears are ringing when you leave your seat, your hearing is at risk.
Get your own home-field advantage with our custom hearing protection.
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