On October 14, 2013 a new record was added to the Guinness Book. The Kansas City Chiefs fans broke the world record for an outdoor sports stadium in their 24-7 win over Oakland that Sunday when they reached 137.5 decibels in the closing minutes. The decibel level to beat was 136.6 set by Seahawks fans just a few months earlier. The latest trend in sporting events is to break this Guinness World Record, and this football season many teams’ fans are attempting to take that decibel level even higher. Who wouldn’t want their team to have the most victories, the best uniforms, the most intense plays, and the loudest, most excited fans? What started out as a just-for-kicks competition between teams, is turning quite dangerous for these fans and their hearing.
Just to put that decibel level in perspective:
That puts the crowd noise somewhere between a loud rock concert, and prolonged exposure to gunshots. This amounts to much more than just game-day fun, if your ears are not appropriately protected. While the average game has peaks and valleys of noise levels, even a prolonged exposure to a decibel level of 90 can be doing permanent damage to your ears. While the tinnitus (or ringing in your ears), or muffling may seem to clear up after you leave the game, there is a lasting effect on both the tiny sensory cells in your chochlea, and the nerve fibers that connect the ears to the brain.
Over time this damage can lead to serious hearing loss, as well as lasting effects of tinnitus or hyperacusis. Hyperacusis is a sensitivity to sound, often with ear pain that can make it difficult to have even a normal level conversation. Tinnitus can decrease your quality of life significantly as well, causing feelings of pulsating and whirling, while causing chirping, hissing, beeping or even shrieking sounds that seems to come from either inside, or right outside of your ears. These effects, as well as hearing loss, are excellent reasons to protect yourself in situations like these.
If you consider the sensory cells in your ears to be grass blades, protecting your ears from incoming noise: each episode of exposure is like a lawn mower shortening and damaging those grass blades, which is never actually regenerate or grow back. Each sporting event, concert, other noisy activity attended without the use of earplugs only causes hearing to worsen, and never to improve. It is, however, hard to recognize that you are losing hearing slowly.
Here are some warning signs that you could be damaging your hearing: