The Link Between Playing Contact Sports and Hearing Loss

A rise in a variety of pickup activities like basketball, flag football, and street hockey, as well as more discussions about concussions in contact sports. The link between playing contact sports and hearing loss is concussion symptoms that don’t receive much attention when playing contact sports, including martial arts leading to cerebral contusions and CTE1.

Soccer is coming to an end. Basketball and hockey are picking up speed. NFL 2and college football are both in full swing. We guess this means summer is behind us.

1. Concussions And Hearing Aids

young football player helmet field
Photo by Ben Hershey on Unsplash

The design of your hearing system leaves it prone to injury after a concussion, particularly in contact sports. Your brain’s processing center for sound is situated at the ear level on the side of your head. Any tiny bones in your middle or inner ear could be damaged or broken by the type of force needed for a concussion to affect you or a close loved one.

1.1. Concussion

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Additionally, doctors agree that, compared to your other senses, your ear and brain are connected by the most nerves. A dense net is between your ear, brainstem, midbrain, and cortex3. When your head is struck, the force jostles your brain, stretching, shearing, or perhaps killing your nerve fibers. These nerves take quite a beating.

1.2. Contact Sports And Hearing Loss

frustrated man covering ears noise stress
Photo by Usman Yousaf on Unsplash

Imagine getting hit in the head by a baseball or tackled during rugby or lacrosse and suddenly being unable to hear or speak properly. In these situations, an injury may damage the nerves that carry sound signals from the inner ear to the brain – affecting one’s hearing health. Similar to the cochlea, which serves as a sound transmitter, a blow might injure it, which is why you must have a doctor diagnose the person immediately. That way, an individual won’t suffer further complications, including meningitis4.

1.3. Contact Sports And Hearing Loss: Conditions

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Image by Simona Robová from Pixabay

Your nervous system has a lot of work to do when processing sound. Additionally, everything moves very quickly—in microseconds. Your hearing can be harmed by a concussion if it damages your nerve fibers or leads to swelling and bruising.

Another common condition, usually associated with boxing and wrestling, is cauliflower ear, a cosmetic issue caused by repeated damage to the head and ear that has not been properly treated in a reasonable timeframe.

There is also the issue of moisture and the swimmer’s ear when discussing water sports like swimming or diving. This condition needs instant medical attention to avoid further complications. Barotrauma 5also affects divers whose bodies don’t equalize with ocean depth.

2. How Head Injuries Affect Hearing

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Sports-related concussion patients typically have no trouble hearing background noises but struggle to interpret speech in settings with loud noises, such as a restaurant or a sporting event.

Other Potential Issues Include

  • Tinnitus (ringing in the ears or constant clicking sound)
  • Moderate hearing loss
  • Permanent hearing loss
  • Sound sensitivity
  • A need to pop your ears but being unable to do so
  • Problems understanding speech despite passing a hearing test.

3. Concussion Symptoms

Concussion symptoms may emerge immediately following a head injury or may take hours or days to develop. You will often feel better after a few weeks. They typically become better with time.

elderly woman hand on face portrait
Photo by Jan Krivec on Unsplash

Each person’s symptoms are unique and might change as they improve. As an example, your initial symptoms might be primarily physical, changing to more emotional ones a week or two after your accident.

Common symptoms include

  • Sensitivity to noise or light
  • Balance issues
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Facial paralysis
  • Hearing impairment
  • Brain trauma
  • Trouble with thinking or memory
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Sadness
  • Mood swings.

4. Effects Of Contact Sports And Hearing Loss

Hearing loss can affect a sportsman in a variety of ways. Some of them consist of;

4.1. Contact Sports And Hearing Loss: Depression and Anxiety

Managing hearing loss can be difficult. Due to their hearing aid use, inability to communicate with friends, and decreased athletic performance, athletes may experience stress.

4.2. Contact Sports And Hearing Loss: Reduced Alertness

Life is significantly affected by hearing. Hearing enables us to recognize noises that support judgment. Due to this, hearing loss or a hearing aid can raise the danger to a person’s safety.

4.3. Contact Sports And Hearing Loss: Decreased Athletic Performance

american football tackle action
Image by Keith Johnston from Pixabay

When participating in a game, communication is crucial. When hearing loss is diagnosed, the affected athlete may find it challenging to communicate with teammates.

5. How To Prevent Hearing Loss

Neurosurgeons advise athletes to practice the following safety precautions to reduce the likelihood of head injuries that could result in hearing loss:

  • Use of personal protective equipment that is approved by the American Society for Testing and Materials.
  • Use of fitting head gears.
  • During exercise, players should work on strengthening their neck and head muscles.

6. Hearing Loss Caused by Traumatic Brain Injury

A hearing aid is the most common aid for people with moderate hearing loss. Ears can be fitted with hearing aids either inside or outside. In addition to wearing hearing aids, Cochlear implants and brain stem implants are other options for managing hearing loss.

6.1. Early Therapy

Communication, distress, and isolation problems will all be reduced with early therapy. You will also need to reduce your exposure to loud noises in your environment after therapy and hearing aids. Finding a reputable audiology service provider might be difficult despite medical aid’s value.

7. If You Suspect A Head Injury

Unfortunately, head injuries and contact sports go hand in hand. Even head protection, such as a helmet or another kind, is limited.

7.1. Consult with Your Doctor

contact sports and hearing loss
Image by williamsje1 from Pixabay

Consult a physician as soon as possible if you suspect a concussion has occurred from a head injury or if something might be wrong with your hearing health. A neurological evaluation6 will be performed on you to determine how your vision, hearing, balance, and coordination are responding. Cognitive tests will also be given to you to ensure your thinking has not been impaired.

Furthermore, imaging tests such as cranial computer tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging may be performed on you (MRI). These reveal any internal bleeding or physical damage to your skull. Thereafter, more tests will be conducted if you need hearing aids.

Find a reliable audiologist that has a great patient satisfaction turnover for therapy and hearing aids, as well as modern current technology for the best results. We hope this information was helpful.

8. Conclusion

Engaging in contact sports has the potential to increase the risk of hearing loss due to several factors associated with these activities. While research on this specific topic might not be as extensive as other health concerns, there are some plausible mechanisms and risk factors that could contribute to a potential link between playing contact sports and hearing loss.

It’s important to note that not everyone who plays contact sports will experience hearing loss, and the extent of the risk can vary depending on factors such as the type of sport, the level of exposure to impacts or noise, and individual susceptibility. Additionally, the research in this area is ongoing, and while there is some evidence suggesting a potential link between contact sports and hearing loss, more comprehensive studies are needed to establish a clearer understanding of this relationship.

If you’re participating in contact sports or are concerned about your hearing health, it’s a good idea to take precautions such as wearing protective gear (including headgear with built-in ear protection), avoiding excessively noisy environments, and seeking medical attention if you experience any symptoms of hearing loss or head injury.


A. The potential for reversal depends on the extent of damage and the underlying causes. Some types of hearing loss might be reversible with appropriate medical intervention, while others might be irreversible.

A. Yes, ongoing research is being conducted to better understand the relationship between contact sports and hearing loss. New studies are needed to establish a clearer picture of the risks involved.

A. Athletes who suspect hearing loss should seek medical attention from an audiologist or medical professional experienced in treating sports-related hearing issues. Early detection and intervention are crucial in managing hearing health.

Read more

  1. Alosco, Michael L., et al. “Characterizing tau deposition in chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE): utility of the McKee CTE staging scheme.” Acta neuropathologica 140 (2020): 495-512. ↩︎
  2. Bäckström, David, et al. “NfL as a biomarker for neurodegeneration and survival in Parkinson disease.” Neurology 95.7 (2020): e827-e838. ↩︎
  3. Pizzagalli, Diego A., and Angela C. Roberts. “Prefrontal cortex and depression.” Neuropsychopharmacology 47.1 (2022): 225-246. ↩︎
  4. van de Beek, Diederik, et al. “Community-acquired bacterial meningitis.” The Lancet 398.10306 (2021): 1171-1183. ↩︎
  5. McGuinness, Georgeann, et al. “Increased incidence of barotrauma in patients with COVID-19 on invasive mechanical ventilation.” Radiology 297.2 (2020): E252-E262. ↩︎
  6. Hatcher-Martin, Jaime M., et al. “Telemedicine in neurology: telemedicine work group of the American Academy of Neurology update.” Neurology 94.1 (2020): 30-38. ↩︎

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