Protect your hearing during summer sporting activities

Summer safety measures like wearing a life vest or lathering on sunscreen, are well-known. What’s less known, and certainly less reported on, is the risk of hearing loss from summer activities.

Surprisingly, golf, usually considered a quiet summertime sport, has been the cause of hearing loss, as reported in the British Medical Journal in 2008. The culprit? High impulse pings measured at 128 decibels, when a thin titanium driver hits the ball.

Or consider motorcycling, it’s not only engine noise that puts hearing at risk, it’s also what’s known as the “silent killer” aka wind noise,  the amount of noise turbulence produced around the head, when a driver is in motion. Permanent hearing damage is possible depending on the noise frequency and duration of noise exposure.

With the joys of summer comes the necessary precautions to limit risk. Boats are equipped with life vests to protect against drowning, beachgoers lather on sunscreen to fend off the sun’s radiation, and amusement parks add all kinds of safety measures to avoid injuries to their guests. What about our ears though?

“We take all the necessary precautions when it comes to so many activities that involve risk of injury, but somehow our society continues to overlook the need to be stringent with our hearing health,” says MJ DeSousa, Director of Professional Practice at Connect Hearing, Canada’s largest network of hearing-health clinics. “If you’re going to the beach this summer, you should instinctively carry earplugs, just like you do sunscreen, UV-protected sunglasses and water.”

DeSousa has chosen five summer activities that have the potential to damage human ears and come up with ways to prevent hearing loss while participating in them.

Five Summer Sports That Can Hurt Your Hearing

• Boating – One of the loudest activities in summer is boating, where normal noise levels are 80 decibels. If you’re boating this summer, wear earplugs at all times, be aware of your distance from the motor and urge your driver to avoid travelling at high-speed. When on shore, Connect Hearing suggests staying at least 50 feet from the boats to limit the impact of the noise on your ears.

• Jet Ski – At idle, jet skis emit noise that can reach above 85 decibels, according to Bluewater Network, a San Francisco organization concerned with environmental matters. At full throttle, jet skis will assault your ears at 105 decibels and up. If you do jet ski, be sure to wear top-quality ear protection to give as much muffling of the noise as possible.

• Motorcycling – Since 1985, motorcycle manufacturers have had to limit the maximum exhaust noise output of their products to 85 decibels or less in most jurisdictions. The rumble of motorcycle conventions and riding tours is unmistakable in city streets during summer, though. When a crowd of these hogs enters your space, the best thing is to reach for your earplugs. Also, if you spot them parked in a row outside a restaurant, realize that they’re going to start-up again en-masse and you may not want to be around when they do. If you’re a biker, ensure your helmet will protect you from the potential danger of wind noise.

• Hunting – Possibly the loudest activity you can take part in is hunting. A 12-gauge shotgun will reach up to 140 decibels when fired. Safety is a must for hunters’ ears. In-ear hunting hearing aids and passive shooting ear muffs are a must. For those who bring their dogs with them, there are even “mutt muffs” to protect pets from the excessive levels of gunfire.

• Golfing – It may come as a surprise, but golf can potentially cause serious damage to human hearing. The reason is in part due to the popular new titanium drivers that doctors have found can emit a ping when they connect with the ball loud enough to cause permanent hearing loss. The answer is to wear ear plugs.

“Take all the right precautions for your hearing health and you’ll stay connected with the activities and people you love for a lifetime,” DeSousa recommends.

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