The Strength of Our Olympians

By Vicky Chan

The competitors in this year’s Winter Olympics are full of drive and determination. Olympians throughout history have overcome various challenges for a chance to win the gold, including hearing loss. Hearing loss has played a big role in the lives of some Olympians. In spite of their disability, or, perhaps, because of it, hard-of-hearing Olympians have thrived as athletes. Rather than viewing their hearing loss as a limitation, these Olympians—our very own Gold Medalists—have claimed that compromised hearing has shaped their work ethics and contributed to their success.

Adam Rippon

American Figure skater Adam Rippon. Credit:    Jim Gensheimer/Bay Area News Group.

American Figure skater Adam Rippon. Credit: Jim Gensheimer/Bay Area News Group.

Adam Rippon is a figure skater participating in the 2018 Olympics. He was born with an eye infection and 80% hearing loss. Before his first birthday, he had major surgeries to correct both issues. At age 5, he survived a bursted appendix and severe respiratory condition. Despite his early health difficulties, he won a gold medal at the Four Continent Championship and the national title in 2016.

Tamika Catchings

Tamika Catchings is a retired American WNBA star who was born with hearing loss. She participated in more than 15 WNBA seasons and won four Olympic Gold Medals. Catchings has attributed her success to her hearing loss—compared to her typical-hearing opponents, she is more observant on court which allows her to react faster than they can. Catchings said, “As a young child, I remember being teased big, clunky hearing aids, and the speech problems...Every day was a challenge for me...I outworked [the kids who made fun of me], plain and simple.”

Frank Bartolillo

Frank Bartolillo is an Australian fencer who competed in the 2004 Olympics. He was born with hearing loss, but Bartolillo states that his hearing loss has actually helped him improve his fencing skills by allowing him to fully focus on his opponent.

Carlo Orlandi

Carlo Orlandi was an Italian boxer. At age 18, Orlandi became the first deaf athlete to compete and win a Gold Medal in the 1928 Olympics. Later, he became a professional boxer with a career that spanned 15 years and won nearly 100 matches.

David Smith

David Smith is an American volleyball player who was born with severe hearing loss. At age three, he was fitted for hearing aids in both ears. As an athlete, he relies heavily on hand signals and lip reading to communicate with his teammates. On the court, Smith can’t wear his hearing aid, so his coach, John Speraw, uses the “David Smith Rule.” This rule mandates that “when David wants it, David takes it,'" says Speraw. "Because in the middle of a play, you can't call him off...He's mitigated any issues he has by being a great all-around volleyball player."

Chris Colwill

Chris Colwill is an American diver who was born with hearing loss. Although his hearing aid allows him to hear at an 85-90% level, he can not use it while diving and relies on the scoreboard for his cue to dive. But Colwill stated that this is an advantage for him—noise from the crowd doesn’t distract his concentration on diving.

Katherine Merry

Katherine Merry is a former English sprinter who won a Bronze Medal in the 2000 Olympics. At age 30, she developed tinnitus when a nurse made a mistake during a routine ear cleaning procedure. Ever since, she has lived with a constant high-pitch buzzing sound in her ears. It becomes worse when she is tired, overworked or on a flight. Today, Merry works as a BBC Sports Presenter.

These Olympians prove that those affected by hearing loss can pursue successful careers in sports. Refusing to let anything hold them back, they turned their disabilities into advantages in their respective competitions. Hearing loss allows them to block out distractions and focus on the sport. Their disability has shaped their determination, forcing them to become stronger and better athletes.

Print Friendly and PDF

Preparing Deaf & HoH Athletes: Assistive Technology & Your Rights

Lexi, a nine-year-old athlete with hearing loss, prepares to bat. Her helmet hides the processors she wears over her ears. Photo by Gina Bailey.

Lexi, a nine-year-old athlete with hearing loss, prepares to bat. Her helmet hides the processors she wears over her ears. Photo by Gina Bailey.

By Jaime Vernon

I knew it would come: the day my daughter, Lexi, faced discrimination in sports related to her hearing loss. A helicopter parent questioned Lexi’s use of a device that allows her to hear on the field—a mask for her real outrage over her child’s strikeout. Awful sounding, right? But it happened to Lexi.

I authored this piece as a blueprint for everyone with hearing loss and deafness. I believe everyone with hearing loss and their family members should know their rights and what to do when something like this happens. And, as always, I want to share the needs and rights of individuals who wear cochlear implants or hearing aids with typical-hearing people.

Lexi Vernon, my nine-year-old daughter, is truly a force to be reckoned with. I'm not saying she's perfect. She is tough to coach. She experiences mental fatigue that sometimes makes her appear "spaced out.” Many times, she can’t hear you during softball practice due to distance or loud noises. She is headstrong and stubborn. However, Lexi is a raw, talented athlete and a fierce competitor. She's strong, tall, and determined. She is a talented basketball player and, more pertinent to her story, a fast pitch softball player.

The coolest part about Lexi's story is that she is 100% deaf. Lexi is a bilateral cochlear implant recipient. She had a surgery in both of her ears in which they implanted a cochlear implant into her cochlea which is located in her inner ear. That implant is also attached to her hearing nerve which sends signals to her brain. Lexi wears processors on the outside of her head (just over her ears) which are the microphones and small computers that send the sound (signals) into the implant. See how a cochlear implant works here.

During athletic games, Lexi needs a small device called a "mini-mic" which is an amplifier for the coach's voice. When she is wearing additional equipment, which can cover her microphones on her processors, or when distance is an issue; this mini-mic allows Lexi to hear her coach better. It’s still not perfect, but it really helps. Learn about a mini-mic device.

This weekend, I had to witness some awful behavior by parents of young athletes. I also had to witness umpires handling it all wrong.

Our team, the Tennessee Bash, of which I’m one of the coaches, was playing in a World Series in Tennessee. We were one of the “teams to beat.” Lexi is a pitcher on the team. During the final game to determine or placement in the Winner’s Bracket, not only did our opponent question Lexi’s assistive technology, but so did the umpires.

I have no problem if anyone asks about her equipment—and I usually disclose it. This tournament, however, only allowed one coach out at pregame, so I didn’t have an opportunity to do so.

The fans started yelling and acting foolishly, thinking I was feeding Lexi information into some mic when they noticed her device. To be honest, I don't even call the pitches. That coach does not wear the mini-mic. She takes the sign from her catcher like everyone else. Then our first base coach uses it when she's up to bat.

The umpire soon raised the questions to our first base coach. Their conversation went like this:

Umpire: “So, is she hearing impaired?”

Coach: “Yes. She is deaf. She was implanted with cochlear implants in both her ears and this mic helps her hear me with all the equipment.”

At that point, it should have been done. Finished. End of conversation.

But no. The umpire wasn’t satisfied. “Can’t she use signs?” she insisted.

Stop. Wait a minute. That is more offensive to us than anything. We fight every day to mainstream Lexi in a spoken language world. Lexi went through five years of intense speech therapy, a special “oral deaf rehab” school and speech tutoring at home three nights a week. She worked hard to be able to hear and speak.

The opposing fans went on about it. Then, an umpire not officiating the game, sitting under a tent, started questioning it. And we’re in the middle of the game! Our coach was trying to coach! Lexi wasn’t even up to bat; she was in the dugout!

Thankfully, Lexi couldn’t hear any of what was going on and Coach Charles took the mini-mic away from his mouth. How would Lexi have felt if she knew half of the people at that game were going on and on about how she shouldn’t be able to use equipment to help her hear?

So, after all the hullabaloo, I went out and spoke to the umpire directly. She seemed satisfied with my explanation. However, the fans didn’t let up. My co-coach handled it sublimely.

So here’s the truth. If our circumstances permit something that stretches our emotions or mind or will, we are supposed to use it. I’m going to use this situation as an example of how to be equipped for this in the future.

Let’s say someone was on the softball team with a prosthetic leg. Do you think anyone would ever be upset that they were playing with their leg on? No, because any human being would be touched by this person’s courage to participate in mainstream athletics!

Simply because you cannot see someone’s hearing loss or deafness doesn’t mean it isn’t something very real and very difficult to overcome. That’s Lexi—and hundreds of thousands just like her. They overcome deafness every single day due to amazing technology, but it isn’t human, natural hearing. They do, at times, require special needs.


Whatever you do, prepare yourself or your child for this possible scenario. Remind them that people can be ugly many times and to simply ignore it. Remind them that there are also incredible human beings in this world that fight for these laws to exist, so let’s focus on the fact that they can hear, use spoken language and play sports like every hearing person!

Jaime Vernon is the Founder and CEO of Songs for Sound, a nonprofit organization focused on hearing healthcare and inclusion opportunities for those with hearing loss. This story was republished with her permission. For more on her daughter Lexi Vernon’s cochlear implant story, visit Songs for Sound’s Mission & History page.

Print Friendly and PDF

Don’t Let Swimmer's Ear get in the Way of Your Summer Fun

By Lauren Conte

After a long day spent enjoying the public pool, your youngest child runs towards you clutching one of his ears. You calm him down, and after a few moments he tells you that his ear itches, hurts to the touch, and sounds are muffled.

Unsure of how to treat his pain, you book an appointment with your family's doctor. In the meantime, you try to stop your son from shoving his fingers into his ears as the burning pain worsens.   

At the appointment, the doctor sees the red inflammation in the ear canal and notes the clear, odorless discharge draining from your child's ears. "Yep," the doctor says, "its Swimmer's Ear."

Well, what exactly is Swimmer's Ear, and how does it occur? Swimmer's Ear (also known as acute otitis externa) is an ear infection caused by bacteria, and though instances are rare, sometimes can occur from viruses or fungi.

Long exposure to contaminated water, such as recreational pools or lakes makes individuals susceptible to infections. The water softens the skin inside the ear and allows bacteria to multiply and cause irritation. When people use their fingers, cotton swabs, or other objects to itch their ears, the softened skin is easily broken, spreading the infection further.  

To catch the infection early, some symptoms include:

  • Itchiness in the ear canal

  • Pain when pushing or pulling on the outer ear

  • Clear drainage

  • Swelling and redness of the ear

  • Sensation of fullness in the ear

  • Swollen lymph nodes around the ear, upper neck, and jaw

Treatment options vary, but often your doctor will prescribe an antibiotic or antifungal medication to kill the infection. Your doctor may prescribe a steroid to decrease the inflammation, or an acidic solution to restore the normal pH inside the ear. (When applying the drops, have someone else help you. Also, lie down with the affected ear facing upwards in order to fill the ear completely with medication.) To decrease the pain before and during treatment, over-the-counter pain relievers are effective at helping relieve some of the discomfort in the ears.

Okay, so now we know how it happens and how to treat the infection should it occur, but let's try to avoid getting to that point. Spoiler alert: you don't have to give up the pool, lake, or beach time!

While in the water, keep ears dry by using earplugs or a swim cap.

If that isn't your style, dry the outside of your ears with a towel, drop some drying-aid into each ear, and then tilt your head to the side to help the water drain out.

Pro-Tip: DIY Ear-drying Aid

  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar

  • 1 tablespoon rubbing alcohol

  • (Or however much solution you desire, but keep equal parts vinegar and rubbing alcohol)

  • Mix solution together and add drops into both ears.

The alcohol in the solution combines with the water and because alcohol evaporates at a lower temperature, pulls the water out with it. The acidity of the vinegar lowers the pH of the ear so bacteria cannot grow. Use this solution each time you leave the water, to ensure that infection does not occur.

Also, never use cotton swabs or fingers to try to remove water from ears. Your fingernails can cut up the inside of your ears, cotton swabs can puncture eardrums, and scrape the ear canal as well. Similarly, do not try to use cotton swabs to remove earwax, as the natural substance protects against infection and waterproofs your ears.

There you have it, the signs to look out for, and the ways to avoid putting a damper on your summer.

Lauren Conte is a Communications Intern for Eosera, a biotechnology consumer products company.

Print Friendly and PDF

Tamika Catchings: A Star Olympics Athlete With Hearing Loss

By Elizabeth Stump

At the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, this August, keep an eye out for Tamika Catchings, a star player with a hearing loss for Team USA Women’s National Basketball Team.

Catchings is a three-time Olympic gold medalist for the U.S. She is hoping to score another gold medal this summer.

Catchings has been a forward on the Indiana Fever Women’s NBA Basketball team for 14 years. Born in New Jersey in 1979, she was diagnosed with moderate to severe hearing loss in both ears when she was a toddler. As a child she struggled with hearing and speech impairments, wearing hearing aids, and bullying. The basketball court became a refuge for her.

In 2000, Catchings was honored with the Reynolds Society Achievement Award by Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary in Boston. The annual award is given to an individual who has overcome hearing, vision, or voice loss and has distinguished him/herself. In 2004, she launched the Catch the Stars Foundation, which empowers disadvantaged youth.

This past March Catchings published a memoir, “Catch a Star: Shining Through Adversity to Become a Champion,” chronicling her childhood struggles. She answers some questions about the book and life as an athlete with a hearing loss.

  • What part of the new book are you most proud of sharing?

I think all of it! Writing the book has been a three-year project, so to have a finalized copy is great. It’s about my journey growing up and getting bullied at a young age. A lot of people told me that I would never make it, or that I would never be anything. I think that overcoming that, being able to write the book, and being able to be successful in this realm is great.

  • What part of the book was the most difficult to revisit and write?

Writing about my dad. I always wanted my dad to be a dad, not my coach or a critic. I know he loves me, but it was tough to relive what we went through.

  • Do you wear hearing aids or other hearing devices while playing basketball?

I wear them more when I’m doing speaking engagements. As far as playing, it’s tough because I sweat a lot, so they get clogged.

  • How difficult has it been to play sports with a hearing loss—as a kid, then as a college student, then as a pro and in the Olympics?

Honestly, I have never really focused on it. I read lips [and am] very observant, so I’m always looking around to see if there’s anybody talking to me, or I look at the bench to see if the coach is calling a play. Basketball is a game of sign language. The point guard calls a lot of plays with whatever hand signal we use.

  • Has your hearing loss made any communication difficult for you as a student and then pro?

As a student, yes— I always sat in the front row, I always read chapters of the book before I went to class, and I always stayed after class to talk to the teachers to make sure that I understood. I loved school.

On the court, I think that having a hearing loss has actually made me a better player because it’s made me be more conscious of everything that’s going on around me.

  • How excited are you about the Olympics? Will you be doing anything differently for it, either before to get ready or during the game?

I’m super excited knowing that this is my final hurrah. I never thought I would have an opportunity to make the Olympics, and here I am going for my fourth time. It’s really a blessing and an honor.

I think the preparation for the actual games is always going to be the same. The only difference [is] in the past, I’ve been so focused on being ready for the game that I’d tell myself I needed to stay off my feet. This time I want to make sure that I really enjoy the festivities and Olympic experience.

  • What message do you want to send by writing your book?

It’s not a book on hearing loss or basketball. It’s really just a book about adversity. When people look at professional athletes, they think they’ve had a perfect life their entire life with little or no hardships. I wanted to dispel that notion and share my story to be role model to those who need one. I hope that I will provide inspiration.

Don’t forget to check out another incredibly talented hearing impaired Olympic athlete, David Smith (USA Men Volleyball), this August!

David was born with severe hearing loss in the range of 80% to 90%.  He has worn hearing aids in both ears since he was three years old, and primarily uses speechreading to understand the people on his team. David made his Olympic debut at the 2012 London Olympics.  

Print Friendly and PDF

Sports Life in Silence

Chase Ross and his wife, Amy

Chase Ross and his wife, Amy

The crowd is roaring, cheerleaders cheering, coaches are yelling and teammates are making play calls. As hearing impaired athletes, my sister and I did not necessarily hear all of this. Growing up in a small town atmosphere and loving sports, teammates and coaches found ways to communicate with us to ensure we were part of the team, part of the family, by making sure he/she was standing next to us when talking or giving us hand signals during play.

My sister and I were very fortunate to have a close, caring, understanding and loving family to help guide us through life. But they made sure we had to work for everything we earned and did not take anything else in life for granted, much less our hearing. My sister, who has cochlear implants, provided me with a great example of how not to let our hearing loss keep us from doing anything we dreamed. Growing up she was very active with sports. Even as she went on to college, she was a football cheerleader while earning her degree.

Growing up I had a strong passion for playing sports – football, basketball, baseball and track. Sometimes the sweat would get into my hearing aids causing them to not work correctly and I would still have to play parts of games without hearing – relying solely on reading lips and using hand signals that our team had put together for such cases. It was a challenge that my teammates had recognized. That is when you learn to connect with friends, family and teammates on a new level.

To help bridge that gap, last year I founded Sports for Sound, a non-profit entity designed to raise funds and help hearing impaired patients who need financial assistance with obtaining new hearing aids, molds, FM systems for the classrooms or whatever his/her needs may be. After making appointments with my audiologist and needing new hearing aids for the first time since I have been on my own, it hit me how costly they can be, even with insurance. This is what motivated me to want to help those who may need assistance.

To help better educate the participants with hearing and show them why hearing is truly important, participants in the running events must wear ear plugs. This helps the participants better understand what hearing impaired people go through and how much we need to rely on our other senses.

Our first year (2014) was dubbed a success raising over $23,000 and providing assistance to 10 applicants. In 2015, 2015 we raised $18,000 & we were able to provide new hearing aids to 8 recipients. Sports for Sound is having its 3rd annual event on May 21st, 2016 at the Eastern Ohio Sports Complex in Sherrodsville, OH. The event is held in May to coincide with “Better Hearing & Speech Month.” This year our event will feature a 5K obstacle run, 10K road run and 5K cross country walk. The event will also have food, raffles, silent auction and a Chinese auction.

Chase Ross is the founder of Sports for Sound. His goal is to grow SFS to help assist hearing impaired patients beyond its established location, Tuscarawas County, OH., all while giving participants the experience of being hearing impaired while participating in SFS events.

Print Friendly and PDF

Visual Learning, Visual Teaching

By Caleb De Vries

My hearing loss is moderate; I hear highs and lows well but it is the middle of the spectrum where most human voices fall where I have trouble. Conversations can be very difficult, especially in noisy environments.

I first received hearing aids when I was 15 but was teased for wearing them; I felt different and somehow less than my peers. As a result I didn’t wear them for many years and struggled to find ways to cope without them.

Caleb De Vries

Caleb De Vries

This provided a challenge for me academically. I hid in the classroom, avoided answering questions, and as a defense mechanism I acted aloof. The gym was the one place where I really felt at home. I excelled in ice hockey, track, volleyball, and basketball. 

I spent hours by myself every day after school mastering ball handling and shooting skills for basketball, and stick handling, inline skating, and shooting skills for hockey. I was very passionate about learning new and creative ways to teach myself how to improve. This passion led me to coach a variety of sports and to pursue bachelor degrees in education and physical education.

I wore hearing aids during university classes but they did not help much, as they were not working well and were too old to fix. I couldn’t afford to buy new hearing aids because they are extremely expensive, but about two years ago my sister Nadine [who works for HHF] paid for my new hearing aids—and they have changed my life.  

Now when I teach and play sports it is very different; voices are much easier to hear and I do not have to spend as much energy trying to hear my teammates or students. When playing sports, I wear a headband to protect my hearing aids and to prevent them from falling out.

I am the program coordinator for Fit Kids Healthy Kids in Winnipeg, Canada. This is run by a nonprofit organization, Sport Manitoba, whose goal is to encourage as many kids to be active as we can. We aim to provide opportunities for children to develop the confidence and competence to participate in any activity and to ultimately become active for life.

Many of the families I work with are recent immigrants whose first language is not English. My hearing loss is beneficial in this situation because it has led me to be a very visual and physical teacher. As a child I had learned by watching my favorite athletes and studying their movements, not by hearing them explain how they execute a skill.

I do not know whether I excelled in sports because of—or despite—having a hearing loss. I had to try harder to hear my coaches and teammates but it also caused me to have a high level of attention to detail, helping me develop my teaching style. When teaching I take every opportunity to give visual cues and demonstrations. In some ways this type of instruction can level the playing field for those who have trouble understanding verbal communication, whether because of hearing loss or because it is a foreign language.

My perceived disability has given me the ability to become more empathetic toward the kids who struggle with poor self-esteem and a fear of failure. When I was young I believed that I wasn’t good at math or science. The truth is I never knew how good I could be at these subjects because I was too afraid to fail.

It is the same fear that I see in kids who believe they are not athletic. Most often they are just too afraid to try because trying presents the possibility of failure. Helping a child overcome this fear is the most rewarding part of my job; it is such an incredible sense of accomplishment to know that I play a small role in this crucial step toward their development.

Receive updates on life-changing hearing research and resources by subscribing to HHF's free quarterly magazine and e-newsletter.

Print Friendly and PDF

HHF Included in Media Planet Vision and Hearing News

By Tara Guastella

For the second year, HHF is excited to be included in Media Planet’s Vision and Hearing News campaign. This annual initiative aims to raise awareness about vision and hearing loss, discuss new technologies, and provide expert commentary on the latest from the field. The campaign is included as an insert in USA Today and shared digitally, reaching millions of viewers worldwide.

This issue’s cover story features Seattle Seahawks fullback Derrick Coleman in an interview about his experience with hearing loss and the methods he took to succeed in his career. The interview is inspirational and it’s great to see Coleman as a role model for people with hearing loss.

Our exciting work to cure hearing loss and tinnitus is included within the issue in an article titled “The Promise for a Cure”. While technologies like hearing aids and cochlear implants bring great benefit to people with hearing loss, the article highlights how the work of our Hearing Restoration Project (HRP) aims to deliver a genuine, biologic cure for hearing loss and tinnitus within the next decade. By studying chickens, fish, and other animals who have the ability to naturally regenerate their inner ear hair cells and reverse hearing loss, our team of HRP researchers aims to translate the ability to restore hearing to people. Our PSA is also featured at the bottom of the article.

"Our organization has been at the forefront of hearing research for over half a century. Now we’re funding a genuine, biologic cure for hearing loss and tinnitus within the next decade. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of continued research in the hearing field,” says Shari Eberts, the chairman of HHF’s board of directors, in the article.

HHF Medical Director David Haynes, M.D., FACS, answers common questions about cochlear implants (CIs) and the types of hearing loss that may be eligible for CIs. “While standard hearing aids amplify sound, the cochlear implant has the capacity to break down sound and deliver this signal to specific areas of the cochlea, improving understanding,” Haynes says.

Lastly, we contributed an article about preventing hearing loss and the best ways to keep your, and your loved ones, hearing safe and sound. You can watch our interactive “How Hearing Works” video and also learn about walk, block, and turn. Our three-step method to prevent hearing damage advises walking away from loud sounds, blocking them with earplugs or earmuffs, and turning down the volume when it is under your control.

Check out the full Media Planet campaign for other hearing and vision resources.

Print Friendly and PDF

Congratulations to the First Deaf NFL Player to Play in the Super Bowl: Derrick Coleman!

By Tara Guastella

Hearing loss is sometimes considered an invisible disability. You usually can’t see hearing loss but the impact it has can be life-altering. Many even try to hide their hearing loss for fear of embarrassment. Others embrace it and do everything in their power to not let it hamper them. Seattle Seahawks fullback Derrick Coleman—who played in the Super Bowl Sunday—embraces it.

I was so moved when I first watched the Duracell commercial (below) that featured Coleman. Over the years at HHF we’ve been in touch with so many actors, sports stars, politicians, and other celebrities that are afraid of “coming out” about their hearing loss. But Coleman freely and openly talks about his hearing loss in a positive way.

Coleman, at the age of 23, broke the mold and has had an enormous impact on each and every person that experiences or knows someone who experiences hearing loss. He has become a role model for those young and old alike. He told the New York Times, “If you really want something, you find a way to make it happen.”

Coleman made it happen during last night’s game. And over the past few weeks he has made it happen for some of his biggest fans: children and young adults with hearing loss. He personally responded to an inspirational letter sent to him via Twitter from Riley Kovalcik, a 9-year-old girl who wears two hearing aids. A couple of days later Coleman surprised Riley and her twin sister with tickets to last night’s big game. Adham Talaat of Bridgewater, N.J., who is training for May’s NFL draft, believes that Coleman will pave the way for other players who are deaf. The senior at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., says he never had a deaf role model until he learned of Coleman.

I am so proud of Coleman and the Seahawks for their victory against the Denver Broncos last night (and this is coming from a diehard NY Giants fan!).

Print Friendly and PDF

Do Your Super Bowl Sunday Plans Include Ear Plugs?

By Yishane Lee

Professional football games this season have put the spotlight on a disturbing trend: the purposely loud stadium, as a strategy to flummox the opposing team.

Leading the charge are the Seattle Seahawks, who made it to the Super Bowl XLVIII. Regardless of whether or not they beat the Denver Broncos this weekend, the Seahawks fans will already be remembered—for better or worse—as the noisiest in history. They broke the Guinness record twice this season, most recently with a rating of 137.6 decibels (dB) in December.

Seattle’s own Derrick Coleman, who doesn’t experience the din of the crowds, confronts his hearing loss head on in this Duracell commercial. Coleman has become an inspiration for all those with hearing loss.

At 130 dB, the human ear is subject to immediate and permanent hearing loss. By comparison, a jackhammer is 110 dB, an ambulance siren is 120 dB, and a jet taking off is 140 dB.

My ears hurt just thinking about this insanity. People routinely bring their children to games, subjecting them to lasting hearing damage. All of this is in the name of not only team spirit but, perhaps more importantly, messing up communication for the opposing team and causing them to make mistakes. According to a January 17 article in the Wall Street Journal, “Seahawk opponents committed 174 false start penalties since [Seattle’s CenturyLink Field] opened in 2002, the most in the National Football League.” During the NFC Championship game on January 19, San Francisco 49ers players were even fitted with custom earplugs to drown out the noise and protect their ears.

Some of the organizers of these extremely loud crowd roars—the fan association leaders—seem completely unperturbed by the risk of permanent hearing loss. Earlier this season, the Seattle Seahawks were in a noise-off with the Kansas City Chiefs, whose fans are led by Ty Rowton. (Alarmingly, he says he brings his kids to games, and they do not use ear plugs.) “If we can help our team win, that's what matters most to us. We don't think about hearing loss,” Rowton told Soundcheck, a public radio program, in December.

The author of a front-page New York Times article last November about the phenomenon, Joyce Cohen (who has hyperacusis), was also interviewed for the show, and said, “I think truly, ignorance rules the day. People have no idea, there's been no education about this.” While a Seattle hearing healthcare center donated 30,000 earplugs to fans, they were too big to fit children. A sixth-grader told Cohen that he endured a steady roar “so loud that the insides of you rattle.”

The noise from Seahawks fans is loud enough to trigger a seismograph, used to measure earthquakes. In 2011 the fans’ jumping, stomping, and screaming created enough sound energy equal to a magnitude 1 or 2 earthquake, according to the Seattle Times.

If you’re lucky enough to score tickets to this Sunday’s big game, please don’t forget a pair of earplugs. I’m all for rooting for your team, but not at the expense of your hearing. Frankly, this makes the painted, shirtless fans braving subzero temps seem like geniuses by comparison.

Print Friendly and PDF

Yes, the Holidays Are Right Around the Corner - But No Need to Panic

By Yishane Lee

Every year at about this time I start to make lists of gifts to give various members of my family. Not only are the holidays right around the corner but everyone but me (and the cat) has a fall birthday! It can be a challenge.

It can be even more of a challenge if you’re shopping for a loved one who has a hearing loss. You want to be sure to get a gift that shows you care and that you’re aware of the obstacles they may face. In our annual Holiday Gift Guide—available in the Fall issue of Hearing Health, in your mailboxes soon and now online—we’ve compiled a list of our favorite items for gift-giving.

These range from an astonishing memoir by a successful lawyer who only discovered he had a hearing loss is his 30s. Gerald Shea, author of “Song Without Words,” recounts the ways he subconsciously coped through school and work while exploring such issues as the nature and significance of language.

You may also want to consider two types of headgear—the AfterShokz Sportz Headphones and the Max Virtual Cynaps Cap—that conduct sound through the bones in your skull directly to your inner ear through vibration. Sports enthusiasts and those with hearing loss alike can benefit from these innovative products.

We also have a great list of vibrating watches, earplugs, phones and phone signalers, clocks, and cochlea-inspired jewelry, along with suggestions from our staff writers who have hearing loss—including the best stocking stuffer ever. Aren’t you wondering what it is? Browse through our gift guide, “Gifts From the Heart,” and find the perfect gift today.

For people who are considering getting a hearing aid, or updating their current one, we have two stories for you. “What to Expect When You’re Expecting… Hearing Aids” by staff writer Courtney M. Campbell, Au.D., manages expectations when it comes to getting hearing aids. Here’s a hint: It’s not like getting glasses—it’s not a one-step process.

And if you’re thinking of upgrading or updating your hearing aids, here’s another hint: Rapid advances in technology mean a new, low-priced aid is likely to be better than even a premium aid from a year ago. Read “8 Signs You May Need a New Hearing Aid” by Barbara Jenkins, Au.D., BCABA.

Look for the Fall issue in your mailboxes soon and online now. If you’re not already a subscriber to our award-winning and free quarterly publication, make sure to subscribe here.

Print Friendly and PDF