The Connection Between Hearing Loss and Football

With football season in full swing, we’re taking a look at how hearing loss and football are connected in more ways than one.

The Team Huddle

An action that has become a significant part of football as well as other sports is the huddle, where teams gather together in a tight circle to strategize with and motivate each other. Before the huddle was created, teammates would discuss plays just far enough from the other team so they wouldn’t be heard. But in schools for the deaf where sign language was the primary means of communication, anyone who saw what the quarterback was signing knew what was being said.

Deaf quarterback Paul D. Hubbard, who played for Gallaudet University in 1890s, is credited with the invention of the huddle. Hubbard realized that players on the opposing team were able to read his hand signals. In order to prevent the other team from figuring out his strategies, he would gather his teammates in a circle to communicate plays and information. Thus, the huddle was born.

Today, every football team uses the huddle. During the game, you can see them being formed in between plays as the quarterback relays information.

Players Take Caution

Known contributors to hearing loss include age, noise, disease, and heredity factors. But it may also be linked to aggressive sports. According to a study published by Loyola University, retired professional football players could be at a higher risk for permanent hearing loss and tinnitus due to head traumas.

During their careers, many football athletes suffer one or more concussions, a brain injury resulting from a blow to the head or body that shakes the brain inside your skull. The study states that repeated blows to the head can damage hearing or cause tinnitus in one of two ways: by triggering forceful brain movement that damages the nerve connecting it to the inner ear or by causing a shock wave that injures the fragile auditory components of the inner ear (otherwise known as the cochlea).

Football players should follow all recommended precautions while playing to maintain their hearing health. This includes using proper equipment and being examined by a medical professional following a hard hit to determine if they’ve sustained a concussion or other serious head injury.

Fans at Risk

Not only are football players at risk of hearing damage, but so are the fans viewing the game in the stadium. The average crowd noise during an NFL football game is between 80 to 90 decibels (dB). And in 2014, fans who went to the Kansas City Chiefs game at Arrowhead Stadium set the world record for loudest crowd noise at 142.2 dB!

Without proper protection, exposure to noise levels at or above 85 dB for more than eight consecutive hours can lead to permanent hearing damage. The noise levels at some games can reach over 100 dB, at which level it can take less than an hour for hearing damage to occur. So, before you head down to the big game on Sunday, don’t forget to pack a pair of earplugs!

Hearing loss and football are linked in many ways. Whether you’re a player, former player, or fan, if you’re concerned your hearing might not be as good as it once was, make an appointment with your local hearing care professional today.