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Whistle Blowing Refs at Risk for Hearing Loss

A recent report from CBC news highlights a study that links whistle use and hearing loss in referees. The study, "Sports Officials Hearing Status: Whistle Use as a Factor Contributing to Hearing Trouble," has been published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene and it has caused quite a stir.

It was found that a single whistle blow can range between 104 to 116 decibels which is considered an unsafe level of exposure and through a number of interviews it was found that many referees reported symptoms of tinnitus right after the game. In most cases a whistle blow of 6 to 90 seconds in length could reach 100% of what would be considered safe for human hearing.

Whistle manufacturers are quick to disagree with the report stating that it would take a whistle blow of 48 seconds directly in ear to cause any damage. In a typical hockey game, whistles are mostly blown in .5 seconds increments, this would equate to 96 penalties in 48 seconds - something that is unheard of in any sport.  They argue that other sources of loud noise in the stadium or arena like music, buzzers and noise-makers would contribute more to hearing loss than the referee's equipment.

Regardless of who is right or wrong in the whistle debate, we think it is safe to say that referees should consider the extended amount of time they are exposed to loud noise during the games they are officiating and take the necessary precautions to protect their hearing.

If you or someone you know is dealing with hearing loss call us today at 1.800.563.4327 or book a complimentary appointment online at your closest Connect Hearing clinic.

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