Formula 1 and Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

Whether you love Formula 1 or NASCAR, you already know that nothing beats an afternoon at the racetrack. But is watching live motorsports safe for your hearing?

If you’ve paid attention to coverage of competitive events over the last few years, you know that Formula 1 continues to grow in popularity throughout the United States. An afternoon at the racetrack is an undeniably thrilling and adrenaline-fueled spectacle.
But is it safe for your hearing?
We’ve consulted with our hearing care experts to find out whether you should be worried about damage to your hearing while watching your favorite driver chase the checked flag.

How loud is Formula 1 racing?

According to experts, a safe decibel level – meaning one that’s unlikely to cause permanent hearing damage – hovers around 75 decibels (dB). Here’s the sound level of some everyday activities:
  • Normal conversation – 60 dB
  • Motorcycle – 95 dB
  • Front row at a rock concert – 120 dB
Meanwhile, a Formula 1 race at full throttle produces 147 decibels (dB) of sound.
So, yes, a Formula 1 race produces sounds that are well above what experts would consider “safe.” Prolonged exposure to such sound levels presents a very serious risk of noise-induced hearing loss.

What is noise-induced hearing loss?

Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is caused by overexposure to loud sounds. This could be exposure to a single instance of intense sound, like an explosion or a gunshot, or extended exposure to continuous loud noise, such as loud music on headphones or power tools in the workplace. In the latter case, damage to the inner ear causes the loss of high frequency hearing sensitivity over time.
Here are some additional facts about NIHL:
  • In some cases, NIHL is a temporary condition and a normal hearing range will return over time.
  • NIHL usually occurs in both ears but may not occur at equal severity, depending on the details of how the NIHL occurred and which ear was closer to an unsafe sound level.
  • NIHL sometimes produces the symptoms of tinnitus, which usually presents itself as a buzzing, ringing, or hissing in the ear.

How to prevent noise-induced hearing loss:

Prevention is the only real way to eliminate the risk of NIHL. If you plan to attend a Formula 1 race or participate in some other activity that produces sudden or consistent loud noise, there are measures you can take to protect your ears and your hearing:
  • Wear hearing protection such as earplugs or earmuffs and make sure they’re properly fitted to your ears.
  • Whenever possible, put distance between yourself and the noise source to lower the decibel level.
  • After exposure to extreme sound levels, take time away from loud noises to yourself to allow your ears to stop ringing and recover.

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