In case you haven't noticed Canada's major league baseball team the Toronto Blue Jays are giving fans many reasons to cheer.
The Jays are leading their division and for many this is thrilling news – the last time the Jays have been this close to a playoff spot was 1993, the year they won the world series. All of a sudden, the Blue Jays are the hottest ticket in town and if you have children who love baseball, a trip to Toronto to see a game is probably in your future.
Sports is fun, and it's hard not to love baseball – especially when your team is playing well. It's not all fun and games though. There is a side to sports that parents need to be aware of. While playing your favourite game is a great way to get into shape and be part of a team, sports can have a negative impact on your hearing health and the hearing health of your child if you're not careful.
The impact of sports on hearing
In an article entitled “Protect Your Ears in Noisy Stadiums”, Connect Hearing Canada reported on a CBC report about crowd noise at sporting events. The report quoted University of Alberta associate professor and audiologist Bill Hodgetts, who studied National Hockey League crowd noise and found that going to a playoff game was like sitting next to a chainsaw. That noise comes in at about 120 decibels. And when the home team scores, the sound rockets up, equating to a noise similar to a jet taking off. Except that noise is contained inside an arena.
“It’s one of those things people never think about because they’re having a good time,” said Hodgetts.
How loud can a stadium get? According to the Guinness Book of World Records, very loud. The Kansas City Chiefs of the National Football League were able to achieve a roar of 142.2 dbA. How loud is that? Well, according to Purdue University, that's even louder than if you were standing on the deck of an aircraft carrier. How dangerous is that? People who work on aircraft carriers wear hearing protection.
Concussions and head injuries
Another way sports can impact hearing is concussions. In a recent press release on Connect Hearing entitled “Peewee Hockey Ruling Will Impact Kids' Hearing” it was reported that high-impact sports, including hockey and football, have long been known to diminish hearing health, leading to such problems as dizziness, vertigo and motion sickness.
"Body checking can result in a concussion, which is a type of traumatic brain injury caused by a sudden blow to the head. The impact can cause the brain to bump against the skull resulting in a temporary disruption of the normal electrical activity of the brain. This temporary disruption can become permanent with repeated concussions, which can lead to vertigo or ringing in the ears," said former Connect Hearing Director of Professional Practice MJ DeSousa.
DeSousa said even without hitting, hockey players will face the potential of hearing damage because of the physical and unpredictable nature of the sport.
"It isn't only through body checking where injuries can occur. Falls on the ice are routine in hockey, especially for those learning the sport. Players can accidentally bang their heads into the boards or goalposts or even each other. All of those impacts can cause cumulative damage to brain function," she said.
Make children aware of hearing health
The best thing you can do to promote hearing safety among young people is to make them aware that hearing is as important as anything else. This is a notion that should be driven home early. Jon Waterhouse, current Director of Professional Practice for Connect Hearing Canada, says hearing isn't something that you can protect with a shoulder or knee pad, so it is often ignored.
“We need to include hearing health in the same conversation as eye, head and neck protection. We need parents – and kids – to understand that our ears are as important as any other part of the body,” says Waterhouse. “Hearing injuries do happen. When a person gets a concussion, that affects hearing. If you are playing or watching a game in a loud arena, that affects hearing. The better job parents do helping children understand this, the better the odds that child will make a conscious effort to protect their hearing.”