The Super Bowl and hearing loss
The Super Bowl is loud. If you’re not in the middle of the screaming fans at the stadium, then you’re listening to them at the bar, or through the walls of your apartment, or sitting next to you on your living room couch.
What is it about the Super Bowl that prompts us to test the strength of our vocal chords? There's something about football that brings out the noisy side of things, regardless what team you're rooting for!
While you may never understand the bizarre fury that football sends surging through your and everyone else’s veins during playoff season, you can at least prepare for it. A number of factors pose a potential threat to your hearing loss: there’s the noise, of course, but also the cold. If you’re so (un)fortunate to land a ticket to the big game when it’s played at an outdoor stadium, the freezing February weather can do a number on your delicate ears, or on the delicate mechanism that is your hearing aid.
Under those circumstances, bundle up tight. You’re more susceptible to hearing loss when you’re sick, because the fluid build-up that comes along with a cold is a ripe situation for infection. Don’t skimp on the scarf, hat or ear muffs. Whatever you take, make sure it’s something you can hide your face in when the wind picks up, to protect your nose and mouth as well. Weather conditions are not ideal for outdoor sports during the Super Bowl, unless you luck out and the game is somewhere down south (like Tampa).
Depending on your location and the acoustics of the stadium, ear plugs might also be a good idea. The Kansas City Chiefs nabbed the honor of having the loudest stadium in the world in September of 2014, a Guinness record they snatched from the Seattle Seahawks. During a Monday night game, fans clocked a 142.2 on the decibel reader, which Sports Illustrated reported would have been louder than a jet plane flying just a mere 100 feet overhead. In case you’re wondering, the generally accepted safe level of sound is 85 decibels. Anything above that has the potential to permanently damage your hearing.
The former title-holder of the world’s loudest stadium, the Seattle Seahawks, is also home to the NFL’s third deaf player and first deaf offensive lineman, Derrick Coleman. Coleman has been legally deaf since childhood due to a genetic disorder. He’s worn hearing aids his entire life, and continued wearing them when he started playing football.
But the hearing aids were giving him feedback. That’s when his mother had the brilliant idea of wrapping them in panty hose. Problem solved, Coleman went on to play at UCLA and now plays with the Seahawks.
Kenny Walker was the NFL’s second deaf player, as a defensive lineman for the Denver Broncos in the early 1990s. A spinal meningitis infection robbed him of his hearing as a toddler, but Walker went on to win the title of the NFL’s Most Inspirational player. The honor of the very first deaf player in the NFL goes to Bonnie Sloan, who played one season with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1973. In high school, his football coach didn’t even want to let him try out at first.
Since the iconic football huddle was developed by deaf football players, it’s ironic that most people don’t assume those who are hard of hearing or deaf have the capabilities to play. Paul Hubbard, a quarterback for Gallaudet University, the deaf institution in Washington, D.C., formed the huddle in the 1890s so that he and his teammates could communicate plays in American Sign Language without the other team reading their hand signals.
Hearing loss has foundations everywhere, and the Super Bowl is not an exception. Whether or not your team has made it to the championship, keeping an eye out for your ears isn’t a bad idea.