Sports fans reminded about hearing health


As fans gear up for Herd football games, their enthusiasm is often measured by the amount of noise they create on game day, and, according Dr. Kathy Newman, clinical audiologist of Marshall Health Ear, Nose and Throat specialists, this can lead to hearing problems.

“The average volume during a Marshall football game is estimated to be in the mid-90-decibel range – about the level of power tools. Repeated exposure to sounds that are louder than 85 decibels can cause permanent hearing loss,” she said. And according to Newman, it’s the actual noise on the field and in the stands that can create real challenges for hearing health.

Even if you are not a football enthusiast, Newman points out that noise levels among fans in other crowded venues, such as sports bars, can reach hearing-damaging levels. A group of audiologists for leading hearing solutions manufacturer, Oticon, tested noise levels during the NBA playoffs at popular sports bars in several cities. They found that, on average, bar noise was in the 80-decibel range, about the noise level of an alarm clock. During baskets, fan noise rose to 110 decibels and during big plays, ratcheted up even higher to 114.9 decibels – louder than a car horn.

But there are some things that a passionate fan can do, according to audiologists. Marshall Health’s Ear, Nose and Throat Specialists recommend adding a pair of foam ear plugs to game-day attire. “Inexpensive ear plugs are readily available at local drug or home stores,” they explained. “At about $3.50 for a package of ten pairs, you have enough to suit up 10 fans with inexpensive but effective hearing protection.”

While the focus in October will be mainly on football, Newman says coming up with an ear-protecting game plan makes good sense for any sporting event where excitement raises the decibel level. That advice is especially relevant to parents of youngsters who participate in school or community sports. “Don’t assume that helmets and other head gear protect hearing,” she said. “Talk to your children’s coach about protecting young ears and look for ways to tone down the noise at games. Move away from loudspeakers. Schedule breaks to the snack bar or walk around the stadium to give your ears a rest.”

While it’s not uncommon for ears to ring for a short period after being in a noisy environment, if the ringing doesn’t go away after three or more days, health care specialists recommend a checkup with a hearing care professional.

Find out more facts about sports noise, hearing health and hearing protection at www.marshalhealth.org/services/surgery. To schedule a hearing evaluation, contact Marshall Health’s Ear, Nose and Throat Specialists at 304-691-8690.