Hearing protection is becoming more and more common at live music events and concerts. Those attending these performances know they are in for a noisy experience, and many come prepared with their own earplugs.
Most music venues offer essential earplugs for purchase, as well. Some avid music fans and performers may invest in custom-fitted hearing protection, knowing they risk future enjoyment of music should their hearing be lost. Even those who did not come prepared for a loud concert will often know when the noise level is too loud, and they will tend to step outside a venue or even place tissue paper in their ears as a makeshift form of hearing protection.
Did you know that some of the same risks can occur at sporting events? Though it seems intuitive that loud music could be harmful to the ears, most sports fans are ill-equipped for the loud levels of noise they will face when they enter a stadium. Although we may recall the experience of ringing in the ears after a sports event, fewer people remember to protect their hearing when they attend a sporting event than those who do so in live music venues or nightclub environments.
Noise Levels at Sporting Events
In addition to the general noise generated by a large group of people at a single location, some fans have engaged in battles to see whose fans can be the loudest. Although all in good fun, this sound can become so loud as to damage the sensitive hairs of the inner ear, and unfortunately, that damage cannot be reversed.
Jack Wrightson of the acoustical consulting firm Wrightson, Johnson, Haddon & Williams, Inc. in Dallas reported to NPR that the crowd noise at NFL games currently averages between 80 and 90 decibels. That being the case, fans are at risk of severe damage. As a general guideline, The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) advises that exposure to 85 decibels for more than eight hours could lead to permanent hearing loss. With attendance at a long game, fans may be at risk of damage, and staff and players are often subjected to repeated and extended lengths of noise.
Protecting Your Hearing
Although making noise in support of your favorite team is part of the fun of attending one of these events, you can take steps to ensure that you are not incurring permanent consequences from your good time.
The first step is to consider investing in quality earplugs. These units can be custom-fitted to your ears, making them comfortable to wear, effective at blocking damaging noise, and still making it easy to communicate and hear what is happening. Some people worry that wearing earplugs will dampen sound so much that they will be disconnected from their surroundings, or not able to hear announcers or conversations with friends and loved ones at the game. These high-quality earplugs make it possible to have the best of both worlds.
If you aren’t ready to take the plunge and buy a pair of high-quality earplugs, even the basic plugs available at drug stores will work wonders to preserve your hearing. Foam plugs are better than nothing, and you can easily purchase a pack for your next time at a sporting event that might get out of hand. If possible, you can take a “noise break” from the game if you find the continued noise levels to be overwhelming. Going to a quieter area or the bathroom can allow your ears to rest.
Monitoring Your Hearing Health
The next time you are getting ready to attend a sporting event, take a moment to consider your hearing ability. Your future self will thank you for using hearing protection in these loud environments, making sure you can hear as well as possible for as long in life as you can.