In this Sunday’s NFL Conference Championship, the nation will watch Seattle’s fans try to produce the loudest crowd roar in history...a roar the equivalent of a magnitude 2 earthquake sending shock waves throughout the Pacific Northwest.
The fans will try to break their own Guinness World Record of a 137.6 db boom set Dec. 1. The record is the loudest crowd ever at an outdoor sporting event.
How loud is 137.6 db? Thunder is 120, a shotgun firing is 130, the maximum allowed by OSHA (for 15 seconds) is 135, and at 150 db the ear drums begin to rupture. Almost every fan at the game will feel some pain (that kicks in at 125db). The question is:”How many fans are risking permanent hearing loss?”
“Many of those fans,” says Dr. Ronna Fisher Au.D. “Research shows even a few seconds of exposure to that level of sound, say during a touchdown run, will definitely cause some permanent loss.” Dr. Fisher is founder of Hearing Health Center in Chicago, Highland Park, Oak Brook, and Naperville.
Seattle’s CenturyLink Field amplifies sound like no other stadium. The stadium’s parabolic “clamshell” roof redirects sound back to the field. The greatest exposure will be for the thousands of bleacher seat fans. Their metal bleacher seats are five times less efficient than padded seats at absorbing noise. The players on the field will experience at least 95db, a level proven to cause short-term confusion and disorientation.
“Ringing in the ears,” says Dr. Fisher “is the key symptom to watch for. That ringing tells you millions of tiny hair cells deep in your ear are dying. You’re losing some hearing...and those cells never return.”
The audiologist also has some other advice for fans to minimize their risk of a long-term hearing loss:
- Wear Ear Muffs Or Earplugs (even cheap ones are effective if inserted deeply)
- Don’t Take Aspirin Or Any NSAIDS Before The Game (while many fans will do that to ward off a headache, Dr. Fisher says these drugs make cochlear cells far more vulnerable to damage)
- If You Hear Ringing In Your Ears, Leave The Game Immediately (cell death has begun)
- Consider Taking Certain Vitamins Before The Game (in animal studies the antioxidants beta carotene, Vitamins C and E, and magnesium have been shown to reduce ear damage when taken just before exposure to loud noise. While the research is early, the vitamins are safe in suggested doses.)
Dr. Fisher says taking these steps before the game will protect Seahawks fans from their later insanity. “And I have one more piece of useful information,” she says. “My phone number.”
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