Purdue audiology program turns up the volume on World Hearing Day with free screenings

Purdue Pete puts in ear plugs in the M.D. Audiology Clinic.

Purdue Pete puts in ear plugs at the M.D. Audiology Clinic located in Lyles-Porter Hall, which will host free hearing screenings on Friday, March 3, to celebrate World Hearing Day.Tim Brouk

Written by: Tim Brouk, tbrouk@purdue.edu

Mackey Arena is one of the loudest venues in the NCAA, according to Bleacher Report. The volume levels shoot through the roof after a Zach Edey slam dunk or a Mason Gillis 3-pointer.

And it’s no hyperbole. With decibel levels recently measured this season at 123.2, the noise levels can be dangerous to hearing when the Boilermakers are rolling. Mackey Arena is louder than listening to a chainsaw or motorcycle rev.

Safe hearing occurs at 85 decibels or lower. Experts in the Purdue University Doctor of Audiology program within the Department of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences (SLHS) recommend ear plugs when the Boilers are playing, especially during a thrilling season like this one.

“I love Purdue basketball. It’s one of the reasons I came here,” said Liz Jensen, a Purdue audiology graduate student. “Mackey’s awesome; it’s exhilarating. But the decibel ranges Mackey can get to can definitely cause permanent hearing damage that we want to try to avoid so you can grow old and still hear.”

To commemorate a fine basketball season and World Hearing Day, audiology students and faculty will be holding free hearing screenings Friday, March 3, in the M.D. Steer Audiology Clinic in Lyles-Porter Hall. Screenings are free, available to adults 18 and older, and open to the community. To schedule an appointment, call 765-494-4229. 

Jensen and the rest of the experts in the Purdue audiology program recommend any kind of ear plug when you attend your next game at Mackey Arena. From foam plugs available at a local pharmacy or big box store to custom hearing protection molded to your ear, there are many to choose from, and most are designed to not sacrifice sound. You’ll still be able to hear the ref’s whistle, an announced substitution and, most importantly, the roar of your fellow Boilermaker fans. It just won’t be as loud.

“You’re still able to hear the sounds and music and conversations around you without skewing the sound quality when using musician’s earplugs,” said Jenn Vance, an audiology graduate student. “Once you damage your hearing, you can’t get it back. That’s why we really encourage you to wear hearing protection.”

Of course, you don’t have to wait for World Hearing Day or the next Purdue home basketball game to do something about preserving your hearing. Numerous ear safety products, such as earplugs and headphones, are available in outlets like Walgreens, Amazon or retailers specializing in hearing safety.

Rylee Ogle checks Purdue Pete's hearing.

Audiology graduate student Rylee Ogle checks Purdue Pete’s hearing with some custom-made headphones.Tim Brouk

Hearing safety is a quiet health epidemic today, both domestically and around the world. Anne Sommer, clinical assistant professor in SLHS, shared some sobering statistics:

  • By 2050, nearly 2.5 billion people are projected to have some degree of hearing loss globally.
  • More than 1 billion young adults are at risk of permanent, avoidable hearing loss due to unsafe hearing practices.
  • About 37 million American adults report some degree of hearing trouble.
  • Roughly 22 million Americans are exposed to hazardous noise levels at their workplace.
  • Hearing loss is the third most prevalent chronic health condition facing older adults in the United States.
  • About 28 million U.S. adults could benefit from the use of hearing aids.

Even when you’re watching the Boilers dunk on Big Ten Conference opponents on television in a bar, your hearing is still at risk. Fellow Purdue fans roaring after a clutch bucket in an intimate setting like a bar can cause damage or that barfly talking loudly in your ear about that time he supposedly beat Glenn Robinson in a game of HORSE is another danger. Even cranking your AirPods to unsafe loudness levels to listen to “Hail Purdue!” repeatedly can be problematic.

“Listening to music at high volumes for a long time actually damages your hearing,” Vance explained. “The higher (sound level) you listen to your music at, the less time you can listen to it safely.”

And like the Boilermakers’ Big Ten championship legacy, hearing damage is permanent, which makes World Hearing Day’s message extra important to listen to.

“Our primary objective is to share information regarding the importance of hearing and education of healthy behaviors to prevent hearing loss,” Sommer said. “Regular, routine hearing screenings for all ages are vital to identify hearing loss early and seek appropriate treatment.”

Purdue Pete stands with members of the Purdue audiology program.

Purdue Pete had a great time getting his hearing checked at the M.D. Steer Audiology Clinic. You will too.Tim Brouk