Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close: Fans Risk Hearing Loss
February 01, 2014
The crowd noise at NFL games currently averages between 80 and 90 decibels, according to Jack Wrightson of the acoustical consulting firm Wrightson, Johnson, Haddon & Williams, Inc. in Dallas. That, according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, is already hovering around the “loud” and “extremely loud” range.
The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, or NIOSH, warns that without proper protection, exposure to 85 decibels for more than eight hours could lead to permanent hearing loss.
cheering fans can push levels well into the hundreds. At these levels, it only takes between 1 and 15 minutes for the sound to damage your ears. The average football game lasts nearly three hours, with noise levels inching toward “painful” as the excitement increases.
“There are so many shots at 106, 107, 108,” Alarcon says about a Seahawks game last December, when fans broke the Guinness World Record for loudest crowd noise in history, clocking in at a whopping 137.6 decibels. (They even induced a mini-earthquake.)
By NIOSH’s noise meter, 137.6 decibels is almost equivalent to the sound level jet engines make during takeoff.
But unlike airport employees, most Seahawks fans don’t wear ear protection.
Each person responds differently to noise.
For some, it can take as little as one game to start experiencing the effects of hearing damage, Alarcon says.
Regular attendees are even more at risk as they repeatedly put strain on their ears, because the damage is cumulative.
But all this can be prevented for just a couple of dollars without taking away from the excitement.
A $10 pair of ear protection earmuffs or more subtle foam earplugs will reduce noise levels by 20 to 30 decibels.