No matter the country, sports are a huge part of people’s daily lives. The incredible popularity of various sports has made them a very big business, and the most elite teams and the most successful franchises have built incredibly large stadiums to hold the millions of adoring fans who loyally follow their favorite teams. These stadiums have become an essential component of major cities throughout the world. They have also become a source of local and national pride and feature some of the most innovative technology and advances in entertainment ever developed.
In the world of noise and noise exposure, it is well established that occupational noise exposure in the workplace is hazardous to hearing health workers hearing. In recent years, it has also become well known that many recreational activities also cause hearing problems. Events that involve race cars, motorcycles, shooting, and other noisy recreational activities have been shown to cause damage to the auditory mechanism. While most spectators at a NASCAR race would not be caught without hearing protection, it is unusual for fans to bring hearing protection to the stadium for a football (either soccer or gridiron) game. It seems that football is the greatest offender for stadium noise, but rock concerts can be extremely noisy as well. No matter the recreational activity, there are venues across the world where these sports can make a spectator beg, not only for a hot dog and a beer, but for hearing protection.
Throughout the world, there are football stadiums of all shapes and sizes that can accommodate from, 5000 to over 100,000 spectators. Europe, the world capital of football (soccer) has many different, intimidating stadiums. Many of these stadiums, some dating back to the 19th century, are truly intimidating places for the opposing teams and stimulating for the spectators. Many are also hazardous to the hearing health of those who jam into them.
For example, take Celtic Park in Glasgow, Scotland, one of the largest stadiums in Europe. It has been the home for Celtic football (soccer) since 1892. With a capacity of 62,832, it is a hard place for opposing Scottish Premier League teams to play and it has a reputation as one of the loudest stadiums in Europe (especially during major European competition).
Although there seem to be no readily available measured noise levels for these intimidating European “Fields of Dreams,” they are none the less noisy than stadiums in other parts of the world. While there are probably noise ordinances for European venues, the noise levels in these intimidating soccer stadiums are usually over 100 dB (A), loud enough to create a noise health hazard.
In Mumbai, India, the state environment department has even issued notices to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and the Indian Premier League not to violate noise pollution norms. One of the Indian cricket stadiums is in a residential area of Mumbai, where the noise measurements outside the stadium cannot be over 65 dB (A) in keeping with environmental noise ordinances and probably very safe for the participants and the spectators. In other countries,
including Australia, the noise limit is 100 dB(A). This limit is frequently exceeded in stadiums that host rock concerts and other noisy activities. One such violation was a U2 concert at Suncorp Stadium in a suburb of Brisbane, Queensland, Australia during one of their two 360 Degree World Tour concerts in 2011.
At the Brisbane performance, U2 reached 105 decibels, but was not fined for the breach. Earlier, the band received a the $50,000 penaltfrom their hometown of Dublin earlier in the tour. Tens of thousands of people who live around the stadium in some of Queensland’s most expensive suburbs, such as Paddington, Auchenflower, Red Hill and Milton, complained to authorities. Seems that the noise ordinances in some countries are rather strict and the fines can be expensive if the levels are exceeded.
Two years ago during the World Cup in South Africa, noise limits were drastically exceeded. However, these violations were addressed by banning fans from using vuvuzela horns at the football games. The vuvuzela plastic horns have been likened to the buzzing of millions of angry bees often drown out the voices of the announcers, making it hard to hear on the field. Vuvuzelas produce an average sound pressure of 113 dB(A) at 2 metres (6.6 ft) from the device opening. One study study finds that subjects should not be exposed to more than 15 minutes per day at an intensity of 100 dB(A). The study assumed that if a single vuvuzela emits a sound that is dangerously loud to subjects within a 2-meter radius, and numerous vuvuzelas are typically blown together for the duration of a match, it may put spectators at a significant risk of hearing loss. The vuvuzelas have the potential to cause noise-induced hearing loss. Professors James Hall III, Dr. Dirk Koekemoer, De Wet Swanepoel and colleagues at the University of Pretoria found that vuvuzelas can have a damaging effect when listeners are exposed to the instrument’s high-intensity sound.
While other countries have placed significant limits on how much noise can be emitted from a concert or a sporting event, US standards are significantly different. Recently, Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, MO, home to the Kansas City Chiefs professional football team, set a new record for stadium noise. At 137.6 dB(A) it is the nosiest stadium in the world. The record was set October 13 during a game against the Oakland Raiders. In the game’s closing moments, as Kansas City was approaching the end of a 24-7 win, the peak recording occurred after the Chiefs sacked Oakland quarterback Terrelle Pryor, with 42 seconds remaining in the 4th quarter.
This record was established this week and is now recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records. Just a few days earlier, on September 17, the old record had been set in Century Link Stadium in Seattle during a football game between the Seattle Seahawks and the San Francisco 49ers. The decibel reading taken during a sack of San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernickin the first quarter — following a one hour weather delay — was 131.9 decibels. The previous Guiness Record for “loudest crowd roar at a sports stadium” was 131.76 decibels, set in 2011 in Turkey at the Ali Sami Yen Sport Complex Turk Telekom Arena during a soccer match between Galatasaray SC and Fenerbahce.
Looks like the Kansas City Chiefs need to offer more than hot dogs and beer at their games….probably a set of earplugs with each ticket.