He drops back … has time … throws toward the end zone … caught for a TOUCHDOWN.

And the crowd goes wild!

It’s fall in Arizona and with it comes plenty of outdoor activities. And if you’re a football fan, there are plenty of great options including professional, college and high school games. Here in Ahwatukee, students are returning to Desert Vista and Mountain Pointe high schools and the players are suiting up to take the field.

Players on the field wear plenty of protective gear to prevent injuries. But what if you’re in the crowd? Did you know you may be at risk as well? Cheering fans, loud whistles, marching band music, all of these noises can combine to potentially damage your hearing.

It is estimated that more than 700,000 people in Arizona have a hearing loss. By first grade, less than 1 percent of all children have hearing loss but by the time they are teenagers 20 percent have some sort of hearing loss. Hearing experts say that the noise from various sporting events may be partially to blame.

In general, a person can safely listen to 85 decibels (dB) for eight hours straight, without any hearing damage. While most sporting events don’t last eight hours, their level of noise typically exceeds the minimum recommended level.

How do you know if you are damaging your hearing?

After exposure to loud noise you may experience one or more of the following:

• Ringing or buzzing in the ears.

• Slight muffling of sounds.

• Difficulty in understanding speech. You can hear all the words, but you can’t understand them.

• Difficulty in hearing conversation in groups of people when there is background noise, or in rooms with poor acoustics.

At any given time football stadiums are typically louder than 85 decibels and it is important to keep in mind that this kind of long-term noise exposure can cause permanent hearing damage.

So what’s a sports fan to do?

You don’t have to stop showing your loyalty to the Mountain Pointe Lions or the Desert Vista Thunder; just take some extra preventative measures to make sure you keep your ears safe.

• Use ear plugs. Carrying a pair of ear plugs to use at sporting events is a great way to ensure the safety of your hearing. The plugs create a barrier between your eardrum and the noise, while allowing you to enjoy your event at a safe noise level.

• Hearing protectors are also a great option. Unlike ear plugs, hearing protectors can be made to custom fit your ears so they fit comfortably.

• Take regular breaks from loud noise — at least a 10-minute break every hour.

• Don’t sit near the band, air horns, or loud speakers.

Go Pride! Go Thunder! And remember to protect your hearing. Your ears, and the teams, will thank you for your support.

• Michele Michaels is the hard of hearing specialist with Arizona Commission for the Deaf and the Hard of Hearing.

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