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  • HEALTH ALERT: Loud stadiums can cause irreversible hearing damage

    by Sepehr Oliaei, MD, Otolaryngologist

    Last Sunday, the Seattle Seahawks football fans were recognized by Guinness World Records as the loudest in the world, measuring in at a staggering 136.6 decibels (dBs).

    Although the strong support from the “12th man” may have helped the Seahawks overcome a tough San Francisco team, this level of noise can be dangerous to spectators.

    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.

    To put this into perspective, 136 dBs 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.

    Most football fans and other sports fans, and concert and dance club-goers do not use such protection, despite having exposure to similarly dangerous sound levels.

    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.

    So 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

    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 Sep 20, 2013 in In the News, Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT)