The jet-engine-level decibels during Seahawks games is a hazard for anyone in attendance. It only takes one event to inflict lifelong hearing loss or a resulting complication.

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THIS Sunday, the football world will see how it’s done. How a home crowd — the 12s — can produce earsplitting noise at CenturyLink Field. Carolina quarterback Cam Newton and his undefeated Panthers are off to a strong start. Let’s hope that streak ends Sunday.

Seahawks fans take immense pride in being louder than the jets produced up the road at Boeing. Though we’ve traded Guinness records with the Kansas City Chiefs fans over who has the loudest stadium, suffice it to say whether it’s 142.2 decibels (the current record held by Kansas City) or 137.6 decibels (our record), serious damage is being done.

You hear that? Maybe you don’t, especially if you’ve attended these games. Serious damage is being done. Hearing damage, that is.

Before you ignore this column or protest that the nanny state is nipping at your heels, bear with me. I’m a 12 to the core. If my husband and I are out on the water on game days, I make sure we have radio access, from the pregame to the postgame highlights. Our clinic window at the University of Washington’s Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences is adorned with a big 12. I feel the passion. I live the passion.

Nancy Alarcon is principal lecturer and director of clinical education at the University of Washington’s Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences. A member of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, she also bleeds Seahawks green and blue.
Nancy Alarcon is principal lecturer and director of clinical education at the University of Washington’s Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences. A member of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, she also bleeds Seahawks green and blue.

But I also work in a place immersed in the science of hearing loss and know that an untold number of fans — many of them children — are sustaining irrevocable hearing damage during these games.

In fact, the auditory damage being inflicted at sporting events across the globe is one of many ways that people are chipping away at their ability to hear — and, thus, to communicate. The World Health Organization earlier this year reported that 1.1 billion young people and adults worldwide are at risk of hearing loss due to unsafe use of audio devices, as well as the loud atmosphere at nightclubs, bars and sporting events.

The jet-engine-level decibels during Seahawks games (or Huskies or Cougar games) is a hazard for anyone in attendance. Many of you may have left the stadium and noticed that things don’t sound right. “It’ll pass,” you might tell yourself, and perhaps it does. But it only takes one event to inflict lifelong hearing loss or a resulting complication, such as tinnitus, or a ringing in the ears.

The jet-engine-level decibels during Seahawks games (or Huskies or Cougar games) is a hazard for anyone in attendance.”

If loud sporting events were the only dangers lurking, that would be one thing, but we also live in the Ear Bud Era, and this should be equally concerning. Audiologists will tell you that if you can hear other people’s music when they have their buds in, they very well may be damaging their hearing. A survey this year by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association found that 72 percent of parents fear that such noise might be hurting their children.

In our granola, earthy and largely liberal-minded corner of the world, we pride ourselves on being concerned about the environment, cognizant of our surroundings and embracing a healthy lifestyle. We’re active and educated, engaged and forward thinking. We wouldn’t do something to damage our health if we knew better, right?

The solution, of course, is not to turn in our 12 gear and welcome opposing teams with gentle applause and meek cheering. No! Foam earplugs, though not perfect, offer a bit of protection. A better option: Custom-made earplugs (even in Seahawks colors), especially for season-ticket holders. Use them during those crucial third-and-long moments when we simply will not let the Panthers hear the snap count.

We can still be the NFL’s loudest fans, but we can also show the rest of the sports world that we don’t have to sacrifice our hearing to secure another trip to the Super Bowl.