How to be a Football Fan While Protecting Your Ears & Voice

How to be a Football Fan While Protecting Your Ears & Voice

Die-hard football fans are a special breed. Leaving the house before the sun rises for tailgating doesn’t faze them. Entering the stadium alongside thousands of other loyal fans is like being part of a select club. And, once inside, cheering, even yelling, and contributing to the overall stadium noise level causes fans to swell with pride. Since we want our football faithful to stay healthy all season long, Naomi Lever, AuD, and Ashley Laha, PA-C, UnityPoint Health, explain how football fans potentially cause hearing damage and actually lose their voices.

Stadium Noise Can Cause Hearing Damage

It’s no surprise loud noises can cause hearing damage. But, it turns out crowds at football stadiums can, too.

“It’s possible for crowd noise at football stadiums to cause hearing damage,” Dr. Lever says. “Noise over 85 decibels (dB) for extended periods of time can cause permanent hearing loss.”

Dr. Lever puts 85 dB into context:

  • Lawn mowers, concerts, power tools. Between 90-110 dB, over 30 minutes can cause permanent loss.
  • Jet planes. 120 dB, dangerous over 30 seconds.
  • Gun shots, jackhammers. 130 dB or higher, can cause instant hearing loss.

When comparing these sounds to noise levels at football stadiums, the Kansas City Chiefs’ fans once reached 142.2 dB for eight seconds.

Dr. Lever reminds fans anyone is susceptible to noise-induced hearing loss. She says both parents and young children should wear hearing protection, such as muffs or earplugs, in a loud environment.

“Signs noise levels are starting to affect your hearing include pain in your ears, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), trouble hearing and having to shout to talk to someone. A temporary threshold shift can happen, where your hearing is worse for a short period of time after the event, but see a doctor if symptoms continue after a week, as there could be permanent damage to your hearing,” Dr. Lever says.

Losing Your Voice from a Game

As a fan, cheering and yelling is an expectation. But, don’t be surprised if after a particularly passionate weekend, you lose your voice.

“Excessive voice use can lead to vocal cord strain and possibly even the development of nodules on the vocal cords, if the excessive use is extreme or ongoing,” Physician assistant, Ashley Laha says.

Laha says if your voice quality changes or it becomes difficult or painful to talk loudly, you may have stretched your voice too far. She recommends resting your voice to help symptoms improve.

“It could take days or weeks for someone’s voice to come back. If pain is present with voice use or if voice quality doesn’t return to normal in two to three weeks, it’s time to be seen by an ears, nose and throat (ENT) specialist,” Laha says.

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