Contact Sports and Hearing Loss

What are football players at risk of losing when playing to win?

August usually means a handful of things: It’s the last leg of summer, school is quickly approaching, and football is finally back. The return of football means many of us won’t leave our couches on Sundays (or Saturdays, depending on if you’re an NFL or college fan, or — well, let’s be honest, both!), but it also means more debate over just how dangerous the sport is.

According to ear surgeon John Leonetti, a Loyola University Medical Center doctor, retired NFL players may be at risk for more than just the effects of concussions, broken bones, and torn ligaments. According to Leonetti, they may also be at risk for permanent hearing loss and tinnitus due to repeated brain trauma.

Leonetti says there are two possible mechanisms by which repeated blows to the head could cause hearing damage: A heavy blow to the head can cause the brain to jiggle, potentially damaging the nerves that connect the brain to the inner ear; and a blow to the head can also create a shock wave powerful enough to damage the cochlea, which is responsible for sending hearing signals to the brain.

According to a study done by the U.S. National Library of Medicine on the management of temporal bone trauma, “the temporal bones are paired structures located on the lateral aspects of the skull and contribute to the skull base. Trauma is usually the result of blunt head injury and can result in damage to the brain and meninges, the middle and internal ear, and the facial nerve. Complications can include intracranial hemorrhage, cerebral contusion, CSF leak and meningitis, hearing loss, vertigo, and facial paralysis.”

The study points out crucial actions to help prevent complications. It states, “Diagnosis followed by appropriate medical and surgical management is critical. Diagnosis relies primarily on physical signs and symptoms as well as radiographic imaging. Emergent intervention is required in situations involving herniation of the brain into the middle-ear cavity or hemorrhage of the intratemporal carotid artery. Patients with declining facial nerve function are candidates for early surgical intervention. Conductive hearing loss can be corrected surgically as an elective procedure, while sensorineural hearing loss carries a poor prognosis, regardless of management approach. Children generally recover from temporal bone trauma with fewer complications than adults and experience a markedly lower incidence of facial nerve paralysis.”

Though there has been no published study involving football players and hearing loss, Leonetti says the anecdotal evidence alone should be sufficient to convince someone to conduct a study to determine if rates of hearing damage are indeed higher. Regardless, it is important to remember that hearing loss is usually the result of repeated instances of trauma, so protecting the ears from damage means fewer health risks down the road. And the right kind of protection is the kind that fits you comfortably, creating a seal that only custom-fit hearing protection can provide.

Luckily, you don’t have to go far to find that kind of custom protection — we provide it! Contact us today to learn more.

Protect Your Family’s Hearing This Independence Day

Protect Your Family’s Hearing This Independence Day

3,2,1 — done! With our three best practices for hearing protection this holiday, the only thing you’ll have to worry about is snagging the best viewing spot.

There are so many things to think about during the 4th of July. Those burgers aren’t going to grill themselves, you remembered to set your chairs out early for this year’s parade, and the kids all have matching red, white, and blue outfits. To help you out, we’re going to make this easy yet essential to-do for you: Protect your family’s hearing this holiday.

What You Need to Know About Fireworks and Your Hearing

The amount of damage that fireworks cause to your hearing depends on:

  1. The distance you are from them
  2. The intensity of their explosion
  3. How old you are

The bangs and booms from fireworks can cause serious hearing damage, with sounds reaching 150 decibels (dB) at 3 feet.

For adults, the recommendation from the World Health Organization is not to be exposed to more than 140 decibels (dB) of peak sound pressure (like a firearm or a jet engine); children shouldn’t be exposed to more than 120 dB (like a jet plane takeoff or a siren). Because of their sensitivity to noise, children under 12 months should not be exposed to fireworks.

Long or repeated exposure to sounds at or above 85 dB (like a snow blower or a bulldozer) can cause hearing loss. The bigger the boom, the less time it takes for damage to happen. Exposure to loud sounds such as fireworks can lead to temporary or permanent hearing loss and tinnitus. These ailments can affect all ages.

Easy Ways to Protect Your Hearing This Holiday

1. Red, White, and Move:

The farther away you get from the fireworks explosions, the further you get from hurting your hearing. When dealing with fireworks of 170 dB, adults need to be 50 to 65 feet away (at least the length of a school bus). Kids need to be 165 to 200 feet away (about half of an NFL football field) from the same fireworks.

2. Soften the Sound:

While at the store to grab things to grill, pick up some foam earplugs. This inexpensive hearing protection is portable, easy to use, and will make you pretty popular at your 4th of July party if you bring extras!

Pro Tip: For best use, roll the earplug between your fingers before placing it in your ear. This allows it to expand in your ear canal, giving you more sound protection.

3. Make a Statement:

Declare your dedication to hearing health by sporting earmuffs — no, not the fuzzy ones. We’re talking about those heavy-duty ones that are great for not only fireworks, but also monster-truck shows, arenas, and working with power tools. Look for soft, padded ear cups with a slim headband so the earmuffs will stay in place comfortably. Those soft ear cups will help air circulation over the ear to keep your head cool. You can even find foldable, easy-to-carry earmuffs, as well as ones in fun colors for the kids.

If you want more information about hearing protection or customized solutions for you and your family, contact us today — we’re here to help. Enjoy sporting your stars, stripes, and hearing protection, and have a happy 4th of July!