The Connection Between Athletics and Hearing Loss

The Connection Between Athletics and Hearing Loss

Gulf Gate Hearing Aid Center / July 15, 2022

When was the last time you were at a big sporting event? Do you remember the roar of the fans, the booming music, and the triumphant announcements over the loudspeaker? Going to a game at a sports arena or gymnasium can be exciting but it can take a toll on your ears.

A Lasting Ringing In the Ears 

Have you ever left the stadium with a ringing in the ears that seems like it’s coming from nowhere? This is the sound of tinnitus, a phantom sound with no source other than the trill of your brain. In most cases, it recedes after a few hours, but it still signifies lasting hearing damage. 

This is all too common for sports fans who experience a noticeable shift in hearing ability after a game. While most fans are lucky to attend one or two games a year, imagine the toll of loud sound can take on the athletes who play multiple games per season. Year after year. Football players traditionally play 17 games per season while professional baseball players play 162 games annually! That is a lot of noise for your ears to be subjected to night after night, year after year.

Noise Induced Hearing Loss

The loudness or volume of sound is measured in decibels and any sound over 85 dBA can create vibrations loud enough to damage the inner ear, creating permanent damage. It’s not just the level of sound but the length of exposure. At 85 dBA constant exposure takes 8 hours for damage to occur but as the sound rises the amount of time it takes for damage to occur shrinks. At 95 dBA it takes less than an hour and at 105 dBA it takes around 15 minutes. The loudest game on record was a Kansas City Chief’s game where the decibel level reached 142.2 dBA! That is loud enough to damage hearing instantaneously. About as loud as a gunshot but more sustained over hours.

The Other Causes of Athletic Hearing Loss

The roar of fans and announcers is just one concern for professional athletes. Those who play high-impact sports are at advanced risk. Due to the nature of many sports where tackling is common, such as football, rugby, or lacrosse, the risk of head injury is high. Even with the proper protective gear, impact to the head is a cause of permanent hearing loss. We collect sound with our ears, but to hear the sounds, they must reach the brain. They do this by way of a series of organs such as the eardrum, the ossicles, and cochlea which house tiny hair-like cells called stereocilia. The stereocilia transform the vibrations from the eardrum and ossicles into electrical pulses sent to the brain, where sound is processed. When the stereocilia become damaged due to impact during sports or due to noise the damage is irreversible leaving even young people with lifelong hearing loss.

Preventative Measures against Athletic Hearing Loss 

Because of the irreversible nature of hearing loss, it’s recommended that athletes and fans alike take preventative measures. Hearing protection can come in several styles and can decrease the decibel level between 15-33 dBA. For especially loud games it’s recommended to wear hunter’s ear protection which allows quiet noises through electronically but limits sound once it passes a safe listening level. Wear foam plugs or adorn your over-the-ear protective headgear with swag from your favorite team.

Treating Hearing Loss

If you are concerned that your hearing has been compromised due to the numerous games you’ve attended or due to your years in the field, it’s time to act today. While hearing loss is commonly thought of as a condition that only affects the elderly, it can affect anyone of any age. It can limit social interaction, decrease the quality of relationships, decrease a sense of independence, and activity and contribute to social isolation. Don’t give hearing loss a chance to affect the quality of your life. We are here to help. Contact us to schedule a hearing exam and we can help you find the best solution for all your hearing needs!

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