When you’re at a football game, feeling the energy in the stadium as you clap, stomp, shout and sing to cheer on your team is one of the greatest parts of the experience. But sports stadiums’ average noise levels are around 100 dB – loud enough to cause damage to your hearing in just 15 minutes – and can top out at 142.2 B – the volume of a jet at take-off.
It’s no wonder that professional athletes are prone to hearing loss.
Professional Athletes & Hearing Loss
Terry Hanratty, former NFL quarterback and two-time Super Bowl winner during his time with the Pittsburg Steelers, now lives with hearing loss that impacts his daily life.
“I thought I had perfect hearing,” Hanratty said in an interview. But the telltale sign of the too-high TV volume told the real story, according to his wife.
Hanratty suffers from sensorineural hearing loss, which is caused by permanent damage to the stereocilia of the inner ear – tiny hair cells responsible for converting soundwaves to electrical energy for the brain to interpret as sound.
His diagnosis came after his football career had ended. He had been experiencing symptoms of tinnitus for over a month when the NFL Retired Players’ Association invited him to get a comprehensive physical exam.
“It’s a really cool thing; this is one of those executive physicals where you get to see about eight different doctors,” Hanratty said. “Yet there was nothing in the physical about hearing.” Fortunately, there was a write-in option for other issues former players could request, and Hanratty took the opportunity to get his hearing checked.
After being diagnosed with hearing loss, Hanratty reported that the NFL has added hearing checks as part or routine physicals.
Football & Traumatic Head Injuries
According to Hanratty’s audiologist, Dr. Nancy Datino, his hearing loss “could be due to noise exposure over time … but also could also be a result of a combined degeneration from aging or perhaps nerve damage from the head trauma he experienced as a professional football player.”
A 2014 study by Loyola University showed that retired NFL players may be at risk of permanent hearing loss and tinnitus due to head trauma sustained during play. Other kinds of injuries are also common, including chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
For football players, whether the star of the NFL or the star of the high school team, it’s important to take measures to protect your hearing and your brain health. To schedule an appointment with an audiologist, call Arizona Hearing Specialists today!