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New research blows the whistle on noise hazards in sports venues

January 14, 2013
KEYWORDS exposure / hazards / hearing / noise
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whistleblowerTwo papers published in the January issue of Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene (JOEH) address noise hazards in a work environment not usually studied for noise hazards: sports venues.

Noise controls are often enforced only when workers have been exposed to noise levels beyond recognized standards, and only in workplaces and industries known for frequent noise exposure, such as manufacturing and construction. However, high noise levels in any workplace put employees at risk for noise-induced hearing loss, including nontraditional fields such as sports arenas and venues.

“Occupational and Recreational Noise Exposure from Indoor Arena Hockey Games,” studies noise exposures at arenas during collegiate and semi-professional hockey games. The research revealed that a significant number of workers and attendees within the arenas were exposed to harmful noise levels. The research may provide a foundation for noise control implementation in indoor sports arenas. The article is available at www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/15459624.2012.736341.

“Sports Officials’ Hearing Status: Whistle Use as a Factor Contributing to Hearing Trouble,” examines hearing loss among sports officials. Researchers conducted a survey regarding officials’ exposure to whistle noise and subsequent symptoms of hearing loss and tinnitus. Findings from the survey and related study suggest that whistle contributes to hearing loss among sports officials. The article is available at www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/15459624.2012.736340.

“These two papers describe a health hazard – high noise levels causing permanent hearing loss – that is prevalent but pretty much unappreciated in the world of sports,” said JOEH Editor in Chief Mark Nicas, PhD, CIH. “While severe traumatic injuries and degenerative brain disorders due to concussive blows are recognized as severe hazards among athletes, exposure to high noise likely affects far more individuals (spectators and referees), and the resulting permanent hearing loss decreases the quality of life of those affected. We hope these papers will alert the sports world to explore preventive measures.”

JOEH is published jointly by American Council of Government Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) and the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA).

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