The Super Bowl and hearing loss
It's that time of year again, and we're not talking about powering through your lofty New Year's resolutions. We're talking about the Super Bowl. It should come as no surprise that football is loud. If you’re lucky enough to have scored tickets to the game, you'll enjoy it in the company of thousands of excited, screaming fans at the stadium. More likely, you'll be watching at a noisy, crowded bar or on your living room couch surrounded by enthusiastic friends.
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!
Plan ahead for the big game and save your hearing
While you may never understand the bizarre fury that football sends surging through sports fans' veins during playoff season, you can at least prepare for it. A number of factors can risk your hearing health: there’s the noise, of course, but also the cold weather that can do a number on your delicate ears or on your hearing aids. If you land a ticket to watch the Eagles and the Patriots at Super Bowl 52, the game will fortunately be played indoors at the U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.
Ear plugs should also be on your list of must-take items. 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 decibel (dB) reading on the sound level meter. That's 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 dB. Anything above that has the potential to permanently damage your hearing.
In the cold weather, bundle up. 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 that can shield your face when the wind picks up to protect your nose, mouth and ears. If you wear hearing aids, consider a hat that will help protect them from any precipitation during the game and keep them securely in your ears.
If you're watching the game on TV...
...you can still put your good hearing at risk in even the comfort of home. Big Super Bowl parties are a sports lover's tradition, albeit a noisy one. There's always that one friend who is convinced the players will hear his enthusiastic cheering and guidance if only shouted loudly enough!
If you're the host of such a gathering, control the volume of the television. If the TV speakers aren't blaring, your guests may have to hold down their voices just a bit in order to hear the game which in turn will keep the ambient room noise in check.
And, if you're a guest or are watching at a bar and you can't turn down the TV, just take a break from the noise every so often. Periods of low noise can ensure you don't wake up on Monday morning with tinnitus and temporary hearing loss. Getting out of the noise is also a great excuse to visit the snack table!
Another tip: if you do notice trouble hearing on Monday morning, skip the extra large coffee. Research shows too much caffeine after a noisy event can make it harder for your ears to recover.
Football and hearing loss history
You may not know the iconic football huddle was developed by deaf football players, so it’s ironic that most people don’t assume those who are hard of hearing or deaf have the capability 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.
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 then 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.
Wherever you'll be enjoying the big game this year, keep your hearing health top of mind. And, if you suspect you already have a hearing loss, visit a hearing healthcare professional near you. With improved hearing, you'll not only enjoy watching Super Bowl games even more, you'll enjoy every day in between much more too!