Athletes and Hearing Loss

By: | Tags: | Comments: 0 | June 26th, 2020

Duane L. Smelser

Did you know that athletes have a high risk of developing hearing loss? Playing contact sports, such as football, can lead to head injuries and hearing loss. Noise can also play a role in hearing loss among athletes. Noisy stadiums can be extremely loud, and this noise can damage the hearing of athletes and fans. If you play sports on a local or school team, you may also be increasing your risk of hearing loss.

How Injuries Can Lead to Hearing Loss

Athletes give it their all when they’re on the field. Whether they’re diving for the ball, or skidding on wet grass, athletes are at risk of injuries. For example, football players experience frequent injuries, both on game day and during practice. Most professional football players have experienced at least one concussion during the course of their career.

Sports injuries can lead to hearing loss. If an athlete sustains a concussion, or other neck or head injury, they can damage their ears. The middle ear can be damaged by a blow to the head, and the cells in the inner ear can be damaged by the physical trauma of a head injury. A concussion can also affect the auditory regions in the brain, and lead to cell damage or death. This damage to the ear canal, middle ear, or inner ear may also lead to tinnitus, that ringing or buzzing sound in the ears. Sports injuries often cause permanent hearing loss.

How Noise Can Lead to Hearing Loss

Sports injuries aren’t the only cause of athletes’ hearing loss. Noisy stadiums are also to blame. Professional athletes play in packed stadiums, where the roar of the crowd can be deafening. With loud music, cheering fans, and stomping feet, the stadium can be extremely noisy. Your favorite part of a live game may be the energy of the crowd, but all the noise can damage your hearing, and lead to hearing loss for your favorite players.

Unlike an injury which can lead to sudden hearing loss, noise-induced hearing loss is often more gradual, and athletes may not notice the early signs of hearing loss. However, exposure to very loud sounds during every game will start to chip away at their hearing, and increases their risk of permanent hearing loss.

The Importance of Hearing Protection

Athletes who play contact sports wear helmets to protect their heads from injury. They also need to be mindful of noise levels, and wear hearing protection whenever they’re surrounded by loud noise. During drinks after a game, for example, the team should wear ear plugs and reduce the harmful background noise to protect their hearing health.

Hearing Protection for Sports Fans

Do you love going to a live sports game on the weekends? Next time you’re at a stadium, think about how loud it is in the stands. If you have to yell to talk to the person cheering next to you, it’s very loud, and you’re risking your hearing health. You can also tell if it’s too loud by paying attention to your ears when you leave the stadium. If you feel a ringing in your ears as you’re walking to your car, or feel like the sounds around you are very muffled, the game was extremely loud! You’re damaging your hearing and you need to protect your ears.

It’s important to wear hearing protection during sports games, and protect your ears from the full power of the cheering fans. You can wear foam or wax earplugs that reduce the volume by a few decibels, or wear earmuffs that reduce sounds even more. You can also find digital hearing protection. These devices will analyze the sounds around you, and only reduce the sounds that are harmful to your ears.

Hearing Testing for Athletes and Fans

The best way to monitor hearing health is through regular hearing tests. Athletes should have their hearing tested every year to make sure they’re hearing clearly.

When was the last time you had your hearing tested? If you’ve never had a hearing test, get a baseline hearing test to see what sounds are in your natural range. At your next hearing test, you’ll be able to see exactly how your hearing has changed.

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