Can Blackhawks games hurt your ears?

The more (noise) exposure, the more outer hair cells get killed, the greater the loss.

Credit to: Julie’s Health Club Blog | Julie Deardorff | May 29, 2010

United Center hockey fans, listen up: That “Star Spangled Banner” before Stanley Cup Finals games will be a deafening experience. Literally.

When the jacked-up crowd claps and screams over the national anthem — a Blackhawks tradition since 1985 — the sound level will reach at least 110 decibels, high enough to create hearing loss in less than a minute, said Wheaton audiologist Sheri Billing.

A typical conversation occurs at 60 dB. That’s harmless. But listening to music on headphones at the standard volume — 100 dB — can cause permanent damage after just 15 minutes per day. Hannah Montana concerts, which feature shrieking teenagers, are on par with Blackhawks games and reach 110 dB, Billing said.

Everyone is born with 35,000 to 40,000 outer hair cells in the ear, Billing said. When the microscopic, hair-shaped cells are damaged by loud noise, age, over the counter or prescription medications, it hampers our ability to hear.

“The more (noise) exposure, the more outer hair cells get killed, the greater the loss,” said Billing.

Billing is a big fan of ear plugs — she once passed them out at an ear-splitting Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus — but realizes hockey players aren’t likely to wear them. For fans, however, the small protectors might be a wise move. Once the cacophonous din peaks, it’s impossible to hear the person next to you anyway.