She advised that while she had never been exposed to any loud noises at work, or in her hobbies, but she was a long time Gator fan and season ticket holder. She advised that she had often wondered if the noise in Florida Field, during the games had caused her hearing loss, as it caused her ears to ring for hours after each game.
Now, it’s well known that MDs are very well educated, and our local ENTs are really pretty sharp, including this one. But, what this patient was telling me, and what her doctor was telling her just didn’t jive, with what I’d been taught, as a Hearing Conservationist.
So I did a bit of research on both the sound levels present in ‘the Swamp’ during a Gator game, as well as the potential that such levels would pose a risk for long term hearing loss and not what was commonly believed to be a short term, or temporary threshold shift, or TTS, as they are known in hearing conservation jargon.
It turns out that noisy as it is, coming in at a measured 125dB SPL, ‘the Swamp’ isn’t even the noisiest, stadium in the country, but comes in third.
Second noisiest stadium coming in at 127.5 dB SPL is Autzen stadium, home of the Oregon ducks.
The number one noisiest stadium measured was Huskie stadium coming in at an ear damaging 132 dB SPL.
No one rates allowable exposure levels for recreational noise levels, but the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, aka OSHA has promulgated rules for exposure in the workplace that puts unprotected safe exposure to 115dB at .25 hours, or fifteen minutes.
OSHA’s allowable charts don’t even go to the levels measured in the three stadiums where actual noise level measurements were taken. The exposure charts stop, ten decibels below the lowest measured level of sound in these stadiums.
Remember, the decibel scale is a logarithmic, not a linear scale, the energy levels present at 125dB aren’t just ten units higher, but hundreds.
But, at the levels given, there simply is no safe exposure time to the sound levels being experienced.
Basically, based upon the best clinical evidence available, everyone participating in these four hour long plus, sporting events is permanently damaging their hearing.
The Attached link to a white paper written by Patricia A Niquette AUD and published by Etymotic Research, details the research work behind the findings that these exposure levels do cause permanent damage, and explains where within the ear the damage occurs, and how.
So, the message here for both my new patient, and her misinformed ENT, is that old Will Rogers was right, “It ain’t what a fella don’t know that hurts him (or her in this case) But, rather what a fella (or gal) Knows, that ain’t so that hurts them."
Clearly, this patient has been exposed to excessive noise levels in her hobby of attending all of the Gator home games. Unfortunately, her doctor is unaware of the data available that would indicate that this level of exposure does permanent damage to the inner ear. Damage that may not show up right away, but that nonetheless, has been done, and as importantly, is continuing to occur, any time these levels of exposure are experienced for the duration of a Gator football game.
My advice isn’t to stop enjoying the games, but rather to be advised of the dangers, damage and always wear appropriate, and effective ear protection. Not only when you’re in ‘the Swamp’ but anytime you are exposed to sounds in excess of 85 dB for any length of time whatsoever.
Or, you can ignore the evidence, and count on seeing us, or one of our colleagues sooner, rather than later.
Remember, this type of hearing loss is permanent. Protect the hearing you have!
Don't become a deaf old Gator!
Wear your Ear Protection!