Whistles contribute to hearing loss in sports referees

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© Petr Ivanov - fotolia

Referees take note. An American study suggests that whistle blowing may be harmful to your hearing. A study published in The Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene reveals that a single whistle blow ranges between 104 and 116 decibels, far exceeding safe noise levels. "I did expect the numbers to be kind of high, but I didn’t expect them to be that high," says Greg Flamme, a Western Michigan University professor and co-author of the study. Flamme’s team asked sports officials how well they hear in general and if they ever had tinnitus in their ears after officiating games. “The rate of tinnitus that was reported was much higher than we might have expected based on national norms,” said Flamme. “The same subjects reported hearing issues at a much higher rate that the norm in most of the Midwestern U.S.” Researchers also measured the sound outputs of different whistles. They found just one whistle blow, anywhere between six and 90 seconds in length, could reach 100 per cent of what would be considered allowable for human hearing. “We know that whistles are potentially a factor, but we can’t rule in or out the factor from exposure to crowd noise or music or other factors that the person may be involved with,” said Flamme. “All we can say from this is that we can’t rule out the whistle as a potential contributor to hearing impairment … stadium and crowd noise is a whole other study.” Flamme recommends preventative measures, but he said most referees feel like they hurt performance.

Source: CBC News

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