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  • Doctor's advice: When Seahawks fans bring noise, bring earplugs

    Protect your hearing and leave the ear pain for the opposing team

    by Sepehr Oliaei, MD, Otolaryngologist

    The Seattle Seahawks set a Guinness World Record this season as the planet’s loudest sports fans. If you’re going to a Seahawks game, don’t forget to protect your ears to avoid irreversible damage and permanent hearing loss. (Yes, it really does get that loud.) Here’s what you need to know.

    Pain begins at 130 decibels

    Seattle fans set a record for stadium fan noise at a staggering 137.6 decibels. The threshold at which humans report pain in the ears due to sound volume is only 130 decibels. These noise levels can literally hurt your ears.

    Jackhammers and jet engines

    To put this into perspective, 136 decibels is louder than sound of a jackhammer or a jet engine taking off. The key difference is that jackhammer operators and airline ground crews are usually required to wear hearing protection when exposed to this level of noise.

    Despite having exposure to similarly dangerous sound levels, most people who attend sporting events, concerts and dance clubs do not use such protection.

    Protective devices are traditionally used in industries in which workers are routinely exposed to loud noises such as manufacturing, construction, music industry and at shooting ranges.

    With the shattering of new noise records every other week, we may have to add the sports industry to the list soon.

    Cover your ear holes

    Hearing protection devices are available in various shapes and sizes. From ear plugs to industrial ear muffs, there is a hearing protection device to fit every need.

    Be sure to look at the rating of the device. A rating of 25 decibels means that this device, when used appropriately can subtract 25 decibels from environmental noise. For instance, if stadium noise reaches 150 decibels on Monday, a person wearing a 25-decibel set of ear plugs will hear that at about 125 decibels, which is a bit safer for the ears, yet still loud enough to get you off your seat.

    Irreversible damage and permanent hearing loss

    Exposure to loud can cause irreversible damage to the microscopic inner-ear cells that sense sound. When these “hair cells” die, new ones do not replace them and over time this leads to permanent hearing loss. The louder the sound and the longer the exposure elevate the severity of the damage.

    The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has set specific guidelines to limit duration of exposure to different decibel levels of sound during a work day. Unfortunately, the harmful levels of noise that we are exposed to during daily recreational activities are not as well recognized and addressed.

    What can you do to protect yourself and your family?

    Be aware. First and foremost is recognition. You must anticipate and recognize loud environments to protect yourself.

    Protect your ears. Wearing hearing protection is very important, but know that ear plugs and noise-blocking headsets reduce, but do not eliminate noise.

    Watch for symptoms of damage. Seek help immediately if you develop any of the following symptoms:

     A sudden onset of ringing noise in the ears (tinnitus).
     Plugged or dampened hearing.

    Ears are ringing: What to do if you suspect ear damage

    Initial evaluations at MultiCare ENT Specialists – Tacoma involve a complete audiologic evaluation by a highly trained audiologist followed by examination and treatment by an ear, nose and throat specialist.

    In specific instances of sudden onset hearing loss, we are able to reverse some of the damage done using anti-inflammatory medications.

    With adequate protection, you can enjoy the games and other events without long-term damage to your ears. And that’s music to my ears. Go Seahawks!

    Sepehr Oliaei, MD, is an otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat specialist) at MultiCare ENT Specialists - Tacoma. To schedule an appointment or evaluation, call 253-403-0065.


    Posted on Nov 29, 2013 in Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT)