As fans, we don’t just love going to the game. We like to think we make a positive impact on the outcome, which is why it’s always great when the crowd gets into it. But, just as a physical toll can occur to the athletes competing on the field of play, it can also happen to those of us participating in the stands.
Showing your team spirit shouldn’t come as a cost to your health. So, with that in mind, here are some things you should know when it comes to cheering, its effects, how to recover from them, and how to help prevent long-term damage.
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It’s Getting Loud in Here: How Noise Affects Your Hearing
To start, here are three baseline decibel (dB) levels regarding hearing health. They include:
- 60 dB – Normal conversation.
- 85 dB – Where exposure may cause hearing loss.
- 90 dB – Approximate noise level during a game at Heinz Field. (Equal to a motorcycle from 25 feet away and louder than a propeller plane flyover at 1,000 feet.)
While 90 dB is plenty loud, the loudest football crowd ever recorded at any stadium reached the level of 137.6 dB, which is nearly as loud as a jet engine at takeoff (140 dB). And when levels reach into the hundreds, it only takes between one and fifteen minutes for the sound to damage the ears.
If you’re a season ticket holder, you’re at even more risk due to repeated exposure. That’s because any damage is cumulative, which means it continues to add up over time. A clear indication that something is wrong is having a ringing sound in your ear.
Some things that can help you play solid defense against any damage include:
- Wearing earmuffs or foam earplugs. These can reduce noise levels by 20-30 dB.
- Stepping away from the crowd for a bit. Try getting food, browsing the gift shop, or just standing in the concourse.
- Using smartphone apps that can help measure background noise and detect when levels become dangerous.
If you do experience an ear ringing that doesn’t go away after three days, make an appointment with your primary care physician, who may then refer you to a hearing specialist.
Cheer Smart to Keep Your Voice
It isn’t just your ears that can feel the effects of a raucous atmosphere. So can your voice, with the cheering that you do.
You see, your vocal cords are two small muscle bands that form a “V” in the back of your throat and vibrate to make sound. When you let the teams hear you by yelling and screaming, those cords become strained. Like any other muscle in your body, overworking them – like repeated use of them over several hours of a football game – can cause inflammation, which can result in soreness and pain.
Repeated strain of your vocal cords isn’t the only thing that can lead to major discomfort. Other factors that could put your voice on IR include:
- Temperature – The colder the weather, the more likely of it worsening the situation.
- Alcohol – Consuming it can lead to dehydration, and vocal cords need to stay moist to prevent voice hoarseness.
- The Lombard Effect – This is the involuntary tendency to increase your volume in a noisy environment.
Some things you can do to keep your voice in the game would be:
- Staying hydrated – If the lining of your vocal cords dries out, friction increases, which can lead to swelling and soreness.
- Not smoking – Smoking irritates vocal cords, increasing the likelihood of hoarseness.
- Warming up – Starting slow and working your way louder helps your vocal cords ease into it. Think of it as a pre-game stretch.
- Resting your voice – Stop cheering if you hear your voice straining, becoming hoarse, squeaking, or cutting out entirely.
If you do overdo it and your voice is scratchy the next day, rehab by:
- Staying quiet – Most hoarseness should ease in 24 hours or so.
- Not whispering – That actually puts a strain on your voice. Instead, simply speak in a low volume.
- Seeing a doctor if symptoms continue after a few days – Sometimes, small blood vessels in the vocal cords can burst and form tiny blood blisters, or polyps, which can take longer to heal and may need therapy to return to normal.
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The experts in the UPMC Department of Otolaryngology treat a variety of ear, nose, and throat (ENT) conditions in both children and adults. Our team includes board-certified physicians and highly skilled speech-language pathologists and audiologists. We provide both surgical and nonsurgical treatment options. Our research and clinical trials help to advance care for our patients. Find an ENT expert near you.