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Fans Cheering Their Ears Out?

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Originally posted on February 4, 2015.

Friday my focus was hearing research and care—at the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, where I sit on the Advisory Council (assessing federal support for hearing research and hearing health).  Days later, I was cheering on my ill-fated hometown Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl.

Alas, there is some dissonance between those two worlds, especially for fans of the team that prides itself on having the loudest outdoor sports stadium, thanks to its “12th Man” crowd noise—which has hit a record 137.6 decibels . . . much louder than a jackhammer, notes hearing blogger, Katherine Bouton.

With three hours of game sound rising near that intensity, many fans surely experience temporary tinnitus—ringing in the ears—afterwards...which is nature’s warning us that we have been baaad to our ears.  Hair cells have been likened to carpet fibers. Leave furniture on them for a long time and they may never rebound. A rule of thumb: if we cannot talk over a prolonged noise, it is potentially harmful.

With repeated exposure to toxic sound, people are at increased risk for cochlear hair cell damage and hearing loss, and for constant tinnitus and hyperacusis (extreme sensitivity to loud noise).

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Men are especially vulnerable to hearing loss, perhaps partly due to greater noise exposure from power tools, loud music, gunfire, and sporting events (some researchers have implicated noise is men’s greater hearing loss).  But some men know the risks, as 2010 Super Bowl-winning quarterback Drew Brees illustrated, when lifting his son Baylen, with ear muffs during the post-game celebration.

For more on sports and noise, visit here.

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About the Author
David Myers has spent his entire teaching career at Hope College, Michigan, where he has been voted “outstanding professor” and has been selected by students to deliver the commencement address. His award-winning research and writings have appeared in over three dozen scientific periodicals and numerous publications for the general public. He also has authored five general audience books, including The Pursuit of Happiness and Intuition: Its Powers and Perils. David Myers has chaired his city's Human Relations Commission, helped found a thriving assistance center for families in poverty, and spoken to hundreds of college and community groups. Drawing on his experience, he also has written articles and a book (A Quiet World) about hearing loss, and he is advocating a transformation in American assistive listening technology (see www.hearingloop.org).