Whether it's the NBA, the NFL, or the MLB, we love our sports, and nothing compares to seeing our favorite team live. Here in the Bay Area, local residents love our favorite teams; The Golden State Warriors, the San Francisco 49ers, the Oakland Athletics and the San Francisco Giants. We’ve all been there — cheering and whistling from the stands as our favorite team takes the field. It's exciting. We feel a sense of community — a camaraderie with those around us whose only other bond is their love for the game.
When we attend these kinds of events, it is natural for the crowd to raise their voices in exuberance, whether out of excitement, anger, or resentment — whatever the reason, we assume that their voices will not damage our hearing, right? The reality is that the decibel levels at most sporting events are dangerously high and can lead to permanent hearing damage without preventive measures.
The NFL: Where noise is the norm
The Guinness record for the loudest crowd cheer in history, 137.6 decibels, was set by the Seattle Seahawks fans during a 2013 Monday Night Football game against the New Orleans Saints. This sound is like a jet engine taking off right next to you.
This is an extreme case, and the average decibel level in a football stadium is between 80 and 90. That still falls into the "loud" or "very loud" category, which necessitates the use of hearing protection.
According to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, hearing loss can be caused at levels of 85 decibels during eight hours. The recommended exposure duration is cut in half for every 3-decibel rise in sound level. That suggests that 4 hours of exposure to a stadium with an average decibel level of 88 can result in permanent hearing loss.
This can be a frightening reality for football fans, not to mention the players, cheerleaders, musicians, refs, and personnel participating in the games. It may only take one game to harm your hearing. Those who regularly attend football games are at an even higher risk since the noise impacts the ears build up over time.
Noise-induced hearing loss
Hearing loss can occur when someone is exposed to dangerous sounds. Prolonged exposure to loud noises is particularly hazardous. Noise-induced hearing loss can happen all at once or develop gradually over time. Season ticket holders should proceed with caution, as years of games spent surrounded by raucous audiences may result in hearing loss as an unexpected consequence.
While the short-term impacts of a loud setting can be unsettling, noise-induced hearing loss is irreversible in the long run. You will eventually lose your ability to perceive high-frequency noises. Conversational voices will be distorted. Listening becomes so difficult for people with mild to moderate hearing loss that they shun conversation and socializing. Interpersonal interactions are harmed, and loneliness, isolation, and depression may result.
Noise-induced hearing loss symptoms
When deciding whether the sounds you've heard are dangerously loud, you should ask yourself three questions:
Have you had any temporary hearing loss since you left the event?
Is there a ringing in your ears during or after the event?
Do you have to yell to communicate with a buddy within arm's reach?
If you answered yes to any of the following questions, you've been in a situation that has put your hearing health in danger.
How to protect your hearing from excessive noise
To determine how loud a noise is and whether it could be harmful, you can use a sound level meter or a sound level meter app. Apps are more convenient because you don't need to invest in any equipment. Just download and use it straight from your phone when you're at the game. This will help you identify if the noise around you is potentially harmful.
Here is an article on the best apps to measure noise level.
Ear protection is the best way to safeguard your hearing health if dangerous noise levels surround you. De-escalating a hazardous hearing situation into something manageable and sustainable for your sensitive auditory system is as simple as lowering noise levels by 20 to 30 decibels. Ear protection earmuffs or foam earplugs will reduce noise levels, but perhaps the best option is custom-fitted hearing protection.
Noise-induced hearing loss treatment
If you've noticed signs of noise-induced hearing loss in your life, the best action is to get a certified diagnosis. Treatment is virtually always available, and today's hearing aids are more discreet than ever, allowing for smooth integration into practically any lifestyle. After you've completed a hearing test and received an accurate diagnosis, you can book a consultation with an experienced audiologist to discuss your options.
If you think you could be suffering from hearing loss, come in for a consultation and a hearing test at Silicon Valley Hearing.