Dangers of noise in NASCAR

Doctors hope dangers of race noise in NASCAR won't fall on deaf ears: Richard Petty loved nothing better than the piercing sound of a race engine. For 35 years the screaming sound helped propel him to a NASCAR record 200 victories and seven championships. But with each of his 307,836 career laps his ears were suffering irreversible damage. A man who used to race without goggles and gloves; a man who survived horrific, tumbling crashes; and, a man who, at 78, remains remarkably fit has one inescapable scar: He is deaf.

The roar of a 725-horsepower engine is exhilarating for many at the race track. But experts warn a good thing can be very bad for your ears. "Every time you're in that environment it kills more and more," said Dr. Carolyn Hall, Director of Audiology and North Florida Center for Hearing and Balance in St. Augustine, FL. "It makes the damage worse."

According to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, a decibel level of 85 sustained during an eight-hour period damages the ear. Since the levels can reach 130 on pit road and inside the car, NIOSH said that threshold of sound is broken "50 to 900" times a race. "Sensory neural hearing loss is when the damage is in the inner ear," Hall said.

"All of the conducting is going the way it should, but when it gets to the inner ear the nerve cells have been damaged. We don't get the nerve cells back. Noise-induced hearing loss is most definitely sensory neural hearing loss." The sound of 40 cars at full speed is louder – and more damaging – than a rock concert (115 decibels) or being 100 yards away from a jet on takeoff (125).

That's why Petty wears hearing aids in both ears to discern the simplest of conversation. " I'm from the old school, you know what I mean?," Petty said. "The noise is part of racing." More at Florida Times-Union

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