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Wichita State audiologist Ray Hull says the intensity level at some basketball games can permanently damage hearing.

Noise at basketball games may harm your hearing

Monday, December 03, 2012

This WSU Newsline Podcast is available at http://www.wichita.edu/newslinepodcast. See the transcript below:

You’re listening to the podcast edition of the Wichita State University audio newsline. Learn more about WSU on the Web at wichita.edu.

At college and professional basketball games across the nation, noise has become part of the show. Even at middle school and high school games, gymnasiums are like echo chambers, reverberating with sounds from the pep band and shrieking fans. All of this noise concerns Wichita State University audiologist Ray Hull.

Hull: “Basketball games from grade school, middle school, high school, college and on into professional levels are fun, they’re exciting, but they’re also very loud. And therefore, without realizing it, our hearing can become affected.”

Some NBA teams have turned a game into producing an event. Mammoth speakers hanging above the court thunder music and clamorous sound effects louder than a jumbo jet engine. But even much smaller high school gymnasiums can turn into echo chambers, as Hull explains.

Hull: “From small gymnasiums to large arenas, almost inadvertently they are designed to amplify sound. They are reverberation chambers. Therefore they amplify sound more than they might have otherwise.”

Hull says the problem is that the intensity level at some basketball games can permanently damage hearing.

Hull: “When you combine all the noise that we listen to during a basketball game, the intensity of that noise -- from the pep band to the crowd, the PA system -- can reach levels that are damaging to our hearing up to around 115 decibels. At that intensity level, we can stand that noise without permanent damage to our hearing for approximately seven and a half minutes.”

According to Hull, some fans are more likely to experience hearing loss than others.

Hull: “Those who are most susceptible to damage to their hearing are those who are sitting, for example, near the pep band or, of course, for those in the pep band, because intensity levels can reach 125 to 130 decibels. At that intensity level, you are susceptible to permanent damage to your hearing after about a minute and a half of exposure.”

Hull isn’t against crowd noise and enthusiasm at a basketball game, but he says fans should consider taking steps to protect their hearing.

Hull: “My recommendation is that to enjoy the game, but also protect our hearing, we should be wearing hearing protectors, and by that I’m talking about ear plugs, the noise reducing plugs that can be bought at the grocery store or any sporting goods store.”

Hull explains why many people don’t wear hearing protection at basketball games.

Hull: “I think the reason why people don’t wear hearing protectors as much as they should is because either they’re not aware of the potential damage to their hearing, or perhaps they don’t care, or perhaps they don’t want to look like a wimp by wearing hearing protection during a basketball game.”

Thanks for listening. Until next time, this is Joe Kleinsasser for Wichita State University.

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Created on Monday, December 03, 2012; Last modified on Monday, December 03, 2012