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How Watching Sports Impacts Your Hearing

Autumn is a great time for professional sports fans. We’re in the midst of football season, the NHL and NBA seasons have just begun, and the World Series is right around the corner. But whether you go to a stadium, catch a game at a sports bar, or watch from your own home, you could potentially damage your hearing if you’re not careful.

The volume of sports

Exposure to sounds of 85 decibels (dB) or more for extended periods can lead to noise-induced hearing loss, and sports viewing can easily enter into that unsafe area. The sound level of a typical NFL game averages between 80 and 90 dB – and that doesn’t even include the regular spikes in noise (e.g., after a touchdown). It doesn’t help that fans even compete to be the loudest to show their team pride. For instance, in 2014, fans of the Kansas City Chiefs proudly broke the record for the loudest outdoor stadium by creating a whopping 142.2 dB of noise.

Unfortunately, you’re not much safer if you opt to watch the big game at a sports bar or restaurant. These establishments typically feature decibel levels in the 80-90 dB range as well. When full of excited sports fans cheering on their favorite teams, they can easily exceed safe noise levels. Given that the typical game will last at least a couple of hours, this prolonged exposure can do lasting damage to your ears.

Even if you decide to watch the game at home, you’re still not in the clear. It’s easy to raise the volume to unsafe sound levels, especially if you have a whole crowd watching with you.

Safe game watching in any situation

Despite the high volumes you will likely encounter at the stadium, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go at all. Feel free to cheer on your favorite team in person, but you might want to bring along earplugs to protect yourself from all that noise. If you attend games often, it’s a good idea to get custom hearing protection to safeguard your hearing throughout the season.

Hearing protection is also smart if you’re watching at a noisy sports bar. However, if you prefer to have the game in the background while enjoying the company of your family and friends, there are a few things you can do to ensure a safe listening experience. For one, select a restaurant with a lower ceiling, carpeting, and wall coverings, as these features can help minimize the amplification of sounds. You can also try to sit at a table against a wall or in a corner, or ask the manager to turn down the TV volume if it’s too loud.

Keeping the TV volume down is also helpful when watching sports at home. Some TVs allow you to set a limit for maximum volume, while most have closed captioning to further reduce the need to raise the volume. And if you wear hearing aids that allow you to stream audio directly, you’ll easily be able to hear while keeping the volume at a reasonable level for everyone.

With games from the four major sports leagues taking place at the same time, sports fans have almost unlimited options in what they watch. But no matter how you choose to experience them, remember to keep your hearing health in mind as you cheer on your favorite team.