Stadium Induced Hearing Loss?

A battle is heating up between football fans in Seattle and Kansas City.  The Seattle Seahawks, known for their enthusiastic fans and loud stadium, may have lost the loudest fan record to the Kansas City Chiefs. During a recent Monday Night Football contest, the crowd cheering at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City was measured at 142 .2 decibels, besting Seattle’s record set in the previous season.

Comparatively speaking, a whisper registers at 20 dB, while sounds at 70 dB, such as a car passing close by at 65 mph, can become annoying or uncomfortable to the listener. The blender in your kitchen registers 80 dB, which is twice as loud as the passing car, can do lasting damage to hearing after prolonged exposure. The crowd noise in stadiums has now reached the loudness of the flight deck of an aircraft carrier! The notable difference is the crew on the flight deck is wearing hearing protection; fans, players and game officials most likely are not.

A study published in 2013 in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene, shows that referees are much more likely to report symptoms of ringing in the ears and trouble hearing than people of the same age in the general population.

Almost half of the sports officials surveyed in the study reported ringing in the ears, known as tinnitus, after officiating games. The ringing sensation often goes away, but with additional noise exposure, it can become permanent. Ringing is also a sign of possible hearing loss, which typically goes undetected.

The whistles commonly used by referees reach volumes of 104-116 db at the ear. Combined with loud crowd noise, not just in NFL stadiums, but even the local high school volleyball contest can lead to lasting hearing damage. Whether you are a game official or a dedicated fan, consider wearing hearing protection.

If you have spent time as an official or coach or experience a ringing sensation in your ears after attending a sporting event, set an appointment to have your hearing thoroughly evaluated by one of our audiologists.

Read the full study report here