I’m upset (actually I’m pissed but that’s not appropriate language for this blog). Firstly, I’m a die-hard Vancouver Canucks fan. I’ve been on this bandwagon for years and when we were finally in the finals coming down to the final game in the Stanley Cup I was overjoyed. As you read this the cup has been decided. Believe it not, this rant is not about whether the Canucks won or lost that’s gotten my knickers in a twist. It is the decibel meters shown at games inciting fans to cheer louder and louder. The problem with this behaviour is that at the decibel level they show on these meters, over 100 decibels, fans will start to loose their hearing in as little 15 minutes. 15 minutes of a 2 1.2 hour hockey game. Firstly, I know what 100 dB sounds like and I’m dubious that those levels shown on the meters are actually being reached. That aside, I don’t think it is responsible for a sport teams to insight their fans to go deaf. There was a study done by Bill Hodgetts from the University of Alberta in Edmonton documenting noise levels measured in Rexall Arena. Mr. Hodgetts measured levels over 120 dB and averaged 104 dB during a playoff game; considered toxic noise in a workplace. Exposure at these levels would results in a person reaching their daily noise dose in about 7 minutes.
I must sound like the curmudgeon of the decade suggesting folks don’t cheer for the home team. In fact, I think they should passionately, reverently, and unreservedly cheer for the home team. What I think sports franchises making their living from their fans have a duty not to expose their fans to danger. If a handrail came loose would they not fix it? If the lights in a stairwell burnt out would they not replace the bulbs to light the way so patrons don’t fall? This is the same thing. They not only willing and knowingly expose fans to toxic noise (and by the way their players) they encourage the behavior. All of us have seen parents who take their children to these games. Most of the younger ones, under 10, are wearing some form of hearing protection because their parents know how loud it is. Most but not all.
What would I like teams to do? Encourage the fans to yell and scream in support of the team BUT also remind them to wear protection from the noise. Don’t show decibel meters ensiling fans, real fans, to break the sound barrier. Be responsible about what dangers you expose your fans to. In South Africa the sounds made by the Vuvuzelas was documented at over 120 dB. At those levels everyone in that stadium suffered some hearing loss. Whether or not it proved to be temporary we will never know but we do know they are deafer for attending those matches. Until I became part of the hearing protection industry I never understood how serious this is. I hope, in some small way, I can motivate some of you to take precautions. I really hope I can.