09 Mar 2017



March Madness is a time of hype, but with all the hype comes a hidden danger.

The noise level in an arena during a typical NCAA basketball game is 109 decibels. As if this average wasn’t high enough, noise levels tend to spike during the March Madness tournament. The decibel level at a typical NCAA tournament basketball game is 115 decibels, which is the same as a chainsaw at close range. To provide some perspective, the National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) states that exposure to 110 decibels or above can cause permanent hearing loss after only one minute of exposure. And when most NCAA basketball games last at least two hours, the danger in this situation is obvious.

If you’re a die-hard college basketball fan, chances are you’ve had these next few weeks marked on your calendar for quite some time. Whether you’re a sold-out fan or just tune-in for the entertainment, be sure to pick-up hearing protection while you’re out restocking your favorite team jersey. If you haven’t given hearing protection a prior thought, consider the following ways more noise isn’t necessarily always better during college basketball’s March Madness:

  • The Sixth Man. Perceived as a badge of honor, this term is given to the loudest-of-the-loud fans. We’ve all seen them. You know, the fans whose faces’ get blood red when they yell and each time they do, your body tenses up in preparation for a possible 100Db+  incoming. If you’re lucky enough to be seated around a Sixth Man, you’ll be glad you brought along hearing protection. However, if you find yourself on the flip-side without protection, you can guarantee the fourth quarter buzzer will dismiss you into a few days of temporary hearing loss.
  • “Get Loud” Marquee Messages. A recent article published by the New York Times reviewed athletic events and average sound levels as measured within the stadium or arena. Possibly the most alarming finding published was the noise level measured at a recent Mets baseball game. Following a “make some noise” message that was flashed across a digital marquee, the noise level within the stadium rose to an alarming 120 decibels. Reminder: Exposure to a noise level of 110 decibels for more than just one minute can cause permanent, irreversible hearing loss.
  • Pep Bands. Although sitting next to a Sixth Man fan could be damaging to your hearing, studies show that the most susceptible to hearing damage during athletic events are those whose seats are near the pep band. According to Ray Hull, an audiologist at Wichita State University, intensity levels can reach 125 to 130 decibels in these areas. He goes on to say that at these intensity levels, you are susceptible to permanent damage to your hearing after about a minute and a half of exposure.

Hearing protection is crucial, but especially for children. Fortunately, local convenient stores have made hearing protection acquisition easy as most carry pairs of foam or polyurethane earplugs. As you’re sifting through your different purchase options, be sure to keep an eye out for the Noise Reduction Rating (NRR). This score is included on the outside of the packaging for all ear protection, so you can find a pair that best meets your hearing protection needs. If you’re unsure, you can always contact your local hearing health professional for recommendations or custom ear-mold options.