Part of being a sports fan is screaming your lungs out with others, urging your team to victory along with cheerleaders and the band.
Unfortunately, when you're among tens of thousands of other people, all that noise can lead to tinnitus or hearing loss.
On average, the sound levels at football stadiums range between 80 and 90 decibels. For reference, Dangerous Decibels, a public health campaign created to address noise-induced hearing loss and tinnitus, cautioned that over eight hours of exposure to 85-decibel noise levels causes hearing loss. For every 3-decibel increase, the safe exposure time is cut in half.
Now, consider the fact that the average NFL game is slightly longer than three hours, according to the Associated Press. While the game time itself is limited, the event can start hours before the players hit the field and end long after the game is over. If the noise level reaches 90 decibels, staying the length of the game would keep you there for an hour longer than recommended.
"A 2013 Seahawks game reached 137.6 decibels."
While 80 to 90 decibels is the average, professional games can get much louder. According to Seattle PI, one 2013 Seahawks game reached 137.6 decibels, breaking the previous Guinness world record
. In 2014, fans of the Kansas City Chiefs
got even louder, hitting 142.2 decibels, according to Sports Illustrated. Keep in mind that most noise level charts, including that of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, end at 115 decibels.
The situation isn't getting any better. According to ABC News, the operators of the U.S. Bank Stadium, which opened July 2016 and is the home of the Minnesota Vikings, claimed its ethylene-tetrafluoroethylene roof would make the stadium even louder
. ABC News also noted many who attended a Metallica concert in the stadium complained about the noise levels.
Protecting your hearing at football games
The best way to protect your hearing is to minimize you exposure to loud noises. This isn't exactly feasible at a football game - not only would you have to navigate several blocks away from the stadium to escape the noise, but you don't want to miss out on an exciting play.
Instead, bring hearing protection like earplugs or earmuffs. When choosing brands, look for the noise reduction rating on the package. A stronger rating correlates to better protection, but although the NRR is measured in decibels, your hearing protection won't reduce the noise level by that number. In short, if you're surrounded by 95-decibels of sound and you wear earplugs with a 30 NRR, the sound won't be reduced to 65 decibels. To figure out the exact protection you receive, Cooper Safety advised subtracting 7 from the NRR
, then dividing the result by 2. This means, in the scenario above, the noise level is reduced to 80 decibels - safe enough for you to enjoy the entire game.
If you want to learn more about how your hearing works, hearing loss and hearing aids
, how hearing aids work or why it is a good idea to see an audiologist
or hearing health care professional, click here to view and download your own copy of AccuQuest's Journey to Better Hearing