Athletes and Hearing Loss

Athletes and Hearing Loss

Think back to the last time you were at a large sporting event. What was your experience upon leaving? If your team won, surely you left with a feeling of elation and cheer. If your team lost, you might remember walking out feeling disappointed and eager for a rematch. 

However, one more sensation is common upon leaving a professional sporting event: temporary hearing loss and tinnitus. Once you walk out of that loud environment, you might have found your hearing was muted, muffled, or mellow. You might have even had ringing in your ears that only became apparent when you were in the relative quiet of the parking lot or when you were falling asleep after the game. 

Although fans can experience a noticeable shift in hearing ability after a game, this result tends to be temporary and most fans are not so lucky as to attend more than a game or two in a year. However, what if you were an athlete in the game or someone working in the many support positions associated with athletics. Night after night, your ears would be subjected to that loud sound of the crowd cheering and roaring with excitement, and that sound can have a number of effects, including hearing loss. 

The Causes of Athletic Hearing Loss

The din of cheering voices during major sporting events can be enough to cause hearing loss over time. Particularly for professional athletes in packed stadiums, the decibel level can be as loud as 145 decibels—like that of a jet taking off. 

Just as you have witnessed air traffic workers wearing noise-cancelling earmuffs on the runway, this volume level is damaging to a person’s hearing when encountered for too long. However, another source of hearing loss is possible for some professional athletes. 

Particularly in high-impact sports like football, injuries to the head can cause nerve damage in the auditory pathway. Repeated impacts to the head can actually injure the tiny hair-like cells of the inner ear that are responsible for sensing subtle differences in sound frequencies. When the impact is repeated, as with American football players, the risk of hearing loss related to injury is even greater. Perhaps the combination of injury and noise exposure makes the role of the professional athlete particularly susceptible to hearing loss. 

Preventative Measures against Athletic Hearing Loss 

Professional athletes can take some steps to prevent hearing loss, even given the risks they encounter in the arena. Hearing protection is one approach, and simple foam earplugs can work wonders to block out damaging noise. By reducing the decibel level of the arena between 20 and 33 decibels, these devices can take the noise level from danger to safety in some circumstances. 

However, some athletes find that wearing earplugs during performance gets in the way of communication or their responsiveness to the environment. One possible approach is to wear hearing protection while in the arena but not on the court, field, or pitch. The sidelines can be damaging to hearing as well as the time at play. 

Another approach to hearing protection is to seek out custom-fitted ear molds that can reduce the damaging sounds in tailored ways. Some of these earplugs can limit damaging sounds while making it possible to continue your conversation with other players. At the macro level, it is important for sports organizations to consider their responsibility to all their employees working in loud stadiums, not only the players. Supplying hearing protection for vendors, coaches, and support staff can have a lifetime of benefit for these people who are crucial to the execution of a game. 

Treating Hearing Loss

For those who fear that their hearing ability might already be compromised, no time is better than the present to get a hearing test. The test itself is simple, easy, quick, and painless, and we will consult with you about your individualized needs, including the sports in which you participate. 

With the wide array of hearing aids available, you can be connected to a pair that suit your lifestyle while also giving you the assistance and features you need to thrive. Whether you are an athlete, someone who spends time working in a loud stadium, or even a season ticket-holder, hearing protection and treatment for hearing loss are essential for you. Contact us today to learn more!