Sporting event

Protect Your Ears at Your Favorite Sporting Events

Seeing your favorite team at a live sporting event is an exciting experience for most people. Between going to the game and the action during the game, crowds can get loud. While this shouldn’t stop you from enjoying your time at the game, there are some considerations to take into account before going.

Noise Exposure and Hearing Loss

The three primary types of hearing loss are sensorineural, conductive and mixed hearing loss. They are distinguished by where in the ear the hearing loss originates. Sensorineural hearing loss occurs in the inner ear, conductive hearing loss in the middle and outer ear, and mixed hearing loss, as the name suggests, is a combination between the two others.

Noise exposure causes damage to the hair cells in the inner ear, making noise exposure a type of sensorineural hearing loss. Hearing loss from noise exposure can happen suddenly with one massive sound or gradually over time. The two factors that control extent of hearing loss are the level of noise, measured in decibels, along with the length of time that decibel is heard. 

The average noise level at an NFL game is between 80 and 90 decibels, however at its peak can reach into the hundreds. According to the CDC, the average lawn mower or leaf blower is around 80 to 85 decibels. Sustained noise at this level can damage hearing in as little as two hours. The length of an NFL game is often double this time.

How to Protect Your Hearing from Noise Exposure

The excitement of going to a live sporting event shouldn’t be overshadowed by the potential for hearing damage from noise exposure. There are several inexpensive options available to protect your hearing. 

  • Sound Level Meters, or SLMs, are available as individual devices you can purchase or even as an app on a smartphone. The ease of access as an app allows users to check the noise level quickly and simply anywhere they have their smartphone. 
  • Ear plugs and headphones are the most common option for those trying to protect their hearing and both options work well to reduce noise exposure. There are even total noise cancelling headphones available now. Ear plugs have the advantage of being very small and easy to carry in your pocket or purse. 

Furthermore, understanding the correlation between noise level with length of time allow you to better protect yourself at sporting events and other crowded events. 

Symptoms of Hearing Loss from Noise Exposure

Common symptoms of hearing loss related to noise exposure include tinnitus and difficulty understanding. 

Tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, is often reported by those how have had sudden, loud noise exposure such as an explosion. It can happen in one or both ears and can occur with or without hearing loss. 

Additionally, a common statement by those experiencing hearing loss is that they “can hear, just can’t understand.” This has to do with the damage to hair cells and how that impacts various frequencies of sound differently. 

Treatment Options for Hearing Loss Related to Noise Exposure

Prevention is the best measure to take when it comes to noise exposure, however if you have already started to experience some signs and symptoms of hearing loss, then it is time to consult with a hearing health professional. They will be able to determine treatment options but also steps to take in order to prevent further damage to your hearing. 

At your first appointment, a hearing health professional will review your past medical history and occupational history as well as the signs and symptoms you have experienced. A hearing test will likely follow to determine the best course of treatment.

Hearing aids are the most common treatment for mild to severe hearing loss related to noise exposure. Today, hearing aids are often made to physically fit each individual ear as well as programmed to meet the exact needs of your hearing loss.

Ultimately, sporting events are an exciting experience however the potential for hearing loss should not be taken lightly. There are just a few inexpensive steps you take to help prevent damage to your hearing. If you have any questions or think you may be experiencing symptoms of hearing loss, speak with a hearing health provider as soon as possible.