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High levels of noise can cause temporary or permanent damage to our auditory system. This is commonly referred to as noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) which is a type of hearing loss that occurs in the inner ear. There is evidence that attending or working at a single sporting event, including professional hockey, may contribute to the risk of noise-induced hearing loss. The risk of over-exposure to sound can be expressed in terms of various damage risk criteria (DRC) and risk of noise-induced hearing loss can be measured using four noise dosimetry protocols: the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA, 1983) action level (AL) and permissible exposure level (PEL), the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH, 1998) recommended exposure level, and the World Health Organization (WHO) global noise exposure guidelines (Berglund et al., 1999). The purpose of this study was to describe the recreational noise exposures incurred by an individual attending a home season of minor league hockey. Personal noise dosimetry was collected on a single spectator attending a full regular season of home games (n = 34) played by a minor league hockey team. Additionally, six playoff home games were also attended. The regular season games, playoff games, and seasonal cumulative risk of NIHL will be contrasted using each of the damage risk criteria (DRCs). Factors that influenced the noise exposure risk are also explored. The spectator was overexposed to noise during each of the regular season and playoff games when assessed using the WHO (Berglund et al., 1999) and the NIOSH (1998) DRC. The spectator is categorized as “not at risk of NIHL” when referencing the OSHA AL and PEL DRC. The average seasonal exposure for a spectator attending regular minor season games is 16,184% and 6,216% for playoff games. This results in a cumulative seasonal noise dose of 22,400% for a spectator attending all home games during the regular season and six playoff games. This is equivalent to 224 days of WHO allowable noise exposure within a year. It is vital that season ticket holders become aware of being overexposed to noise when attending minor league hockey games and be equipped with hearing protection that adequately attenuates the sound levels and should have their hearing monitored for early indication of NIHL. The owners and operators of minor league hockey events are encouraged to become partners in the prevention of NIHL by designing quieter stadiums, alerting patrons to risk of NIHL while attending games and encouraging the use of hearing protection by making earplugs and/or earmuffs available at their venues.

Available for download on Friday, May 02, 2025