I was excited to watch the Canada vs Belgium World Cup men’s soccer match in Qatar. I had no doubt our team would do Canada proud. But this isn’t about a well-played game by the Canadian team (despite the loss). It’s about people ignoring the hearing health risks of stadium noise exposures. Being amazing fans in the stands doesn’t make harmful exposures hearing-safe.

Watching the game, I couldn’t spot anyone wearing earplugs or any other hearing protection. I was most upset when the cameras scanned to a man holding a baby who wasn’t wearing any earmuffs. Babies to teens are considered more vulnerable to noise than adults, e.g. greater impact on hearing and brain health.

Adults can choose unprotected harmfully loud exposures. The baby didn’t choose early damaging noise doses.

Stadium Noise = Amplified Sound Energy

World Cup soccer matches are among the loudest sporting events globally. Sports fans also put their hearing health at risk when attending football (North American), hockey, baseball, and basketball games. The bigger the stadium or arena, the higher the hearing health risk. In Qatar, World Cup stadium sizes range from 40,000 to 80,000 seats.

Stadium noise at sports events mainly comes from amplified sound energy:

  • Natural sound energy multiplied by the sheer number of people cheering, singing, yelling, stamping, clapping, or having fun at the stadium.
  • Music or audio amplified through sound systems.
  • Manufactured noise makers, e.g. air horns, cheer stix, cowbells, vuvuzelas.

Stadiums could turn down stereo system volumes, have policies banning noisemakers, and post signs to alert the public about the risk, e.g. NOISE WARNING: HEARING PROTECTION RECOMMENDED.  Because hearing protection would still be needed based on crowd noise alone.

It’s a hard sell when the players aren’t protecting their hearing either. Something like high fidelity custom-molded type earplugs would make it easier to understand their teammates and hear field level action despite high crowd noise.

Protecting Hearing Health

I wonder how many fans leave sports events at stadiums with “temporary” hearing health changes that are actually signs of early noise damage. This includes distorted or muffled hearing, tinnitus or ringing in the ears, and hyperacusis or decreased sound tolerance. Most don’t know that permanent hearing problems can happen from the first noise dose or the next.

How many will protect their hearing better the next time and every time they’re at a stadium sports event?

How many will protect their child’s hearing at stadium sports events? And set a good example by wearing hearing protection themself?

I doubt very many. If ears bled from leisure and entertainment noise, people would likely care more. But that’s not the case in 2022.