12th Man Fans: Protect your voice and hearing!

September 13, 2013 K. Linnea Peterson

The infectious energy of Seahawks fans is part of what makes the team one of the most exciting to watch in the NFL.  This team spirit has caught the attention of Guinness world record officials who are verifying that the “12th Man” fans are the loudest in the NFL.  You can show your support and enjoy being a part of the “12th Man” while taking a few precautions to protect your hearing and voice during and after the game. 

Swedish Otolaryngology cheers on the Seahawks.

Here are a few tips:

  • Wear hearing protection during the game. 

High levels of noise can result in tinnitus in the hours and days following the game.  This ringing in the ears can be a sign of permanent damage from excessive noise exposure.  Anything from large headphones to simple foam plugs are adequate for hearing protection.  The roar of the crowd will still be audible, but the dampening will protect your ears and reduce the likelihood of permanent damage. Be sure to properly insert your hearing protection for maximum effectiveness.

  • Relax after the game

If you do find that you have ringing in your ears after celebrating at the game, avoid loud noises for the rest of the day.  Loud noises can further increase the volume of the tinnitus.  Research also shows that fatigue and stress can increase the level of the tinnitus, and the high stakes drama of the game can sometimes leave us feeling restless and energetic.  Try relaxing after the game by taking a walk or listening to calming music at a low volume.  And make sure that you get plenty of sleep the night after the game.  These steps may minimize the tinnitus.

  • Did we mention, wear hearing protection?

Most of us know that noise exposure can cause permanent hearing loss.  But when pondering loud activities that cause hearing loss, we often think of activities with loud engines or machinery, not football!   According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, exposure to 100 dB of noise for more than 15 minutes can cause permanent hearing loss.  Measurements taken at Qwest Field have recorded fans at levels up to 137 decibels!  So pack some earphones or protective headphones before heading out to the game.  If you have children, protect their ears too!! Your lasting memories of a live sporting event should be of the excitement of the game… not the long term hearing loss that may result. 

And, here are some tips to help you protect your voice while still making a BIG noise:

  • First and most importantly, use good breath support!  That is the power for your voice. We speak on exhaled air from the lungs, and more air means louder volume.
  • Secondly, engage the diaphragm and abdominal muscles to send that exhaled air out with more force.  To practice this, take in a large breath to raise the volume, but do so without raising the shoulders or tensing the neck.  Your belly should begin to expand out a bit.  Then tighten the abdominal muscles as you release the air.
  • Practice yelling properly before you are caught up in the excitement of the moment during the game.
  • Think of projecting your voice from the front of your face and not from down in your throat. You should not feel any tension in your neck or throat when raising your volume.
  • When raising the volume of your voice, try to open your mouth wide and lower your tongue. 
  • Consider augmenting your own voice with other noise makers such as horns or whistles…think New Year’s Eve!
  • Use a megaphone to amplify and direct the sound.
  • Warm up your voice prior to raising the volume by humming or gently talking.
  • Stay well hydrated and avoid alcohol.  Dehydration of the vocal folds makes them more prone to injury such as a hemorrhage.
  • Rest your voice after vigorous vocal activity. For the health of your vocal folds, post-game celebration in a noisy environment may not allow your voice to recover.

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