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What you need to know about hearing protection for sports

hearing protection for sports

Every time you expose yourself to loud noise, you risk damaging your hearing. Therefore, whether you’re participating in your favourite sport or simply attending a live event, it’s important to wear proper ear protection. Here’s an overview of what you need to know.

What are decibels?

Sound is measured in units called decibels (dB). The higher the decibel, the louder the noise. For example, a whisper registers at about 30 dB, whereas a normal conversation comes in at about 60 dB. However, exposure to any noise above 85 dB over a prolonged period of time can damage your hearing. Furthermore, when decibel levels climb into the hundreds, it can only take between 15 minutes to just a few seconds for the sound to cause immediate harm to your ears.

Sports that require hearing protection

Here’s an overview of some sporting activities that could potentially damage your hearing if you don’t wear proper protection:

  • Shooting sports. Did you know that a single gunshot can be as loud as a jet engine at takeoff? In fact, the gunshot sound from most firearms averages between 140 and 165 dB. Consequently, hunters and shooting sports enthusiasts of all kinds are at risk. However, bird hunters and clay shooters are especially at risk because they shoot multiple rounds and are subject to the loud sounds from their own guns as well as those of their fellow hunters. Even the sound of sporting clays exploding can contribute to hearing loss if you don’t wear proper hearing protection.
  • Motorsports. A fully revved motorcycle engine can produce sounds of up to 165 dB, which can be extremely damaging to your ears. In fact, even the sound of wind rushing through your helmet comes in at around 85 dB, which in itself is enough to cause hearing damage. That’s why it’s important to always wear hearing protection. Reduced noise levels not only help protect your hearing but help improve your concentration on the road by preventing listening fatigue.
  • Live sporting events. Attending sports events can expose your ears to damaging levels of noise. Since the average game lasts close to three hours, the potential for hearing loss is extremely high. In fact, the sound measured at most sporting events averages between 80 and 90 dB. However, when the crowd cheers, sounds can reach up to 130 dB. Wearing the right hearing protection can make the experience safer and more enjoyable.  If you decide to take your young child or toddler with you to a sporting event, hearing protection should be a consideration. Their tolerance for noise is much lower than that of adults. Therefore, even moderately loud sounds can permanently damage their hearing.

Did you know that you can also damage your hearing by participating in certain watersports, such as surfing, as well as impact sports like hockey and football? Fortunately, Soundwave Hearing Care carries a variety of custom lifestyle molds that are suitable for a variety of activities.

Types of hearing protection for sports

Here’s an overview of the different hearing protection options that can be used for hunting, shooting, motorsports, tactical situations, impact sports and more:

  1. Earplugs are the most common form of hearing protection. They’re affordable, versatile and can be used for many different applications. You can choose between disposable, reusable and custom fit models. However, earplugs only protect the ear canal, which means that the sensitive bones of the ear are left largely unprotected. Therefore, they aren’t suitable for blocking out noises above 100 dB.
  2. Earmuffs are easy to use as they only need to be placed over the ear to be effective. Consequently, earmuffs are a great option for young children and individuals with limited dexterity that may find it difficult to fiddle with small earplugs. In addition, earmuffs protect the entire ear, not just the ear canal. They can also be combined with earplugs for increased protection. However, they tend to be bulky and may get in the way when being used for certain sports.
  3. Electronic earmuffs are much like traditional earmuffs. However, they offer one major advantage — they only block noises above 82 dB. This means that they still allow you to hear what’s going on around you and easily communicate with others. The biggest downside is that electric earmuffs can be quite pricey.

Symptoms of hearing loss

Hearing loss occurs when the tiny hair cells in your inner ear are damaged or destroyed due to exposure to loud noises. Since these cells cannot regrow themselves, once they become damaged or destroyed, your ears gradually lose the ability to perceive sound.

The following symptoms may be an indication that you have hearing loss:

  • Difficulty hearing others when they speak
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Hypersensitivity to certain sounds
  • Difficulty hearing high-pitched noises
  • Perceiving voices as muffled or distorted

If you’re experiencing any of the above signs of hearing loss, make sure to get tested at your nearest hearing care centre.

Hearing care solutions in Alberta

If you want to assess, protect or improve your hearing, look no further than Soundwave Hearing Care. Our team of audiologists and hearing aid practitioners provide auditory processing assessments, hearing tests and tinnitus evaluations for patients of all ages. We also carry a selection of innovative products, including hearing aids and assistive listening devices. For more information, contact us at one of our hearing clinics in Calgary, Grande Prairie, High River or Lethbridge.

All the blogs are reviewed and edited by our clinic's lead audiologist, Dr. Anne Wooliams. Dr. Woolliams is an experienced audiologist specialized in pediatric audiology, auditory processing, and tinnitus/sound sensitivity therapy. She is dedicated to providing top-notch hearing care and helping her clients improve their language and communication abilities. Dr. Woolliams' expertise in literature and linguistics, combined with her passion for helping people improve their language and communication, make her an incredibly valuable asset in the field of audiology. Learn more about Dr. Woolliams.