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The noise at an Indy Car race is intense. It can shake the ground. It can rattle your inner ears.
The sounds of the famous Indy 500 will echo around the city this May, and once again, hearing experts are warning spectators, race workers, and neighbors to protect their ears. Not that casual fans will pay much attention to the warnings. Year in and year out, thousands of fans attend the race without ear muffs, ear plugs, or another form of protection. Some have been going to the track for decades and say the noise is one of the primary attractions.
But just think about what you will encounter at the track. Start with race cars roaring around a track at speeds greater than 200 miles an hour. Multiply that by 33 cars. Throw in the bedlam from the pits: air guns, power generators, fuel pumps and tractors hauling cars and equipment. Add loudspeakers, live music, and hundreds of thousands of excited spectators. Are your ears ringing yet?
The sound of a single race car can reach 128 decibels, or the equivalent of a thunderclap or a chain saw. A race in full swing can reach about 140 decibels, roughly the same deafening level as the deck of an aircraft carrier or spending a day in a steel mill. "It's like an eight-hour work day in a factory, all packed into three hours," said Dawn Flinn, an audiologist who consults with race drivers and their crews at the IndyCar series. Hearing protection is needed at noises above 85 decibels. Even things like a food blender, a garbage disposal, or a milling machine can hurt your ears after 10 or 15 minutes. You should always use ear protection to avoid damage, according to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health.
"Anytime someone exposes their ears to intense sounds, like motorsports, it can be extremely dangerous," said Ross Roeser, founder and longtime executive director of the Callier Hearing and Speech Center at the University of Texas in Dallas. "If you do it enough, over time, your hearing is not going to come back.” Other hearing experts agree. “At 135 decibels, you are in essence standing 50 feet behind a Boeing 737 at full thrust at takeoff," said Raymond Hull, an audiologist at Wichita State University. “If you don't wear hearing protection, that kind of intense noise, over time, can not only damage your hearing, but cause you to become disoriented and impair your heart rate and nervous system,” he said.
Susan Rardin, M.A. F-AAA, provides professional and personalized hearing healthcare. Hear Here offers industry-leading hearing devices and custom solutions that meet even the most demanding hearing needs and communication challenges.
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