AFL Grand Final – Don’t Forget Your Earplugs
If you’re one of the lucky Hawthorn or Swans fans headed to Grand Final tomorrow, you’ve probably already got your Jersey washed and ironed, scarves and banners ready to go, and those precious tickets stashed safely in top your top drawer. But there’s one more item your match-day kit that might be missing, and that’s a comfortable pair of Class 5 earplugs!
Is Hazardous Noise at Stadiums Damaging Your Hearing?
If you have ever walked out of a footy game and experienced muffled sound or ringing in your ears, then it is quite likely that noise levels inside the stadium have damaged your hearing. Typical stadium noise registers around 117 decibels and can damage your hearing within just 20 seconds of exposure. Imagine what a 3 hour footy game can do. At Grand Final, these noise levels are escalated even further.
Combining 100,028 screaming fans, horns and sirens, with pre-game entertainment and post-game fireworks, stadium noise at Grand Final can surpass 120dB. An increase of just 3 decibels actually equates to a doubling of sound energy, and twice the auditory assault on fans’ hearing.
In the workplace, exposure to such noise levels is not permissible for any duration without the use of hearing protectors and violates the WHS Act. In public arenas however, spectators subject themselves to such noise hazards of their own volition, perhaps because they don’t fully understand the nature of the risk involved.
“But I go to footy games all the time and my hearing is fine”
If you’re like the majority of the population, you might think hearing damage is something that affects other people, not you. However, the problem with noise induced hearing damage is that it usually occurs very slowly, and it can take many years before the effects become evident. When they do, it is too late and the damage has been done. Noise induced hearing damage is irreversible.
The effects of hazardous noise are cumulative too. So if you go to footy games every week you are more likely to suffer hearing damage than somebody who goes, say, every once in a while. Similarly, if you are exposed to a lot of noise at work during the week and are attending footy games on weekends, you will be at higher risk of hearing damage than an office worker or shop assistant.
The Problem is a Lack of Awareness
In the workplace we have OHS officers and hearing protection toolboxes advising workers of the threats posed by hazardous noise and how to mitigate them. Manufacturers of noisy tools and machinery are required to provide information on noise emission values and the need to wear hearing protectors when using or working near their products.
If we applied these same rules to stadiums, event tickets should have noise level warnings printed on them, there should be a 40 foot dosemeter displaying noise level readings, and the big screen should play animated reminders to insert your earplugs throughout the game.
Noise Induced Hearing Damage is 100% Preventable
The good news is that noise induced hearing damage is completely preventable. A cheap and cheerful pair of Class 5 earplugs can protect your hearing while your cheer your team on (hopefully) to Grand Final Victory. Sure, you may feel a bit dorky at first, but this is not high school, are you really going to let peer pressure put you at risk of developing permanent hearing damage? It shouldn’t take the watchful eye of an OHS Officer to motivate us to look after our own health and safety.
Be the trend setter, and set a good example for your kids if you have them (and while you can still hear them).
Have you experienced tinnitus (ringing in the ears) or a threshold shift (muffling of sound) after attending a footy game?
Do you currently wear earplugs to sporting events?
Do you think if vendors sold team coloured earplugs alongside hats and scarves that it could create a culture shift?
Please share your experience/thoughts in the comments section below.
Code of Practice: Managing Noise and Preventing Hearing Loss at Work. Safe Work Australia.
Special thanks to Josh Cable at EHS Today, whose article The Corner Cubicle: The Golden Rule of Hearing Protection provided the inspiration for this post.