INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Thousands are gearing up for the sights and sounds of one of the greatest races in the country. However, one thing many people often forget is to protect their ears.
Outside the gates at Indianapolis Motor Speedway you can hear the engines roar. IMS President Doug Boles has listened to the sound for more than 30 years, but he’s beginning to feel a long term effect.
“I was actually seeing our Indycar team as they were going through my physical this spring, and they said, ‘You know what, you’re borderline where you could probably start getting hearing aids,’ which frightened me a little bit,” Boles said.
On Tuesday, Boles tweeted the following:
PSA: For many years working in racing & racing cars, I didn’t think about my hearing. I’ve recently been noticing a loss. This year I was told “I am nearly to hearing aid threshold.” I had these ear plugs made to help stop the loss. Even the foam plugs work! #ProtectYourEars pic.twitter.com/8iRDBlv8Cj
— J. Douglas Boles (@jdouglas4) May 14, 2019
Boles has never worn any protection but recently made the decision to get a custom set of earplugs from EarEverything Inc.
“I can tell you many times I got in a race car with no hearing protection. With that engine right there, you get out and your ears are ringing for two or three days, almost like going to a rock concert,” he says.
But it’s often something many people don’t think about until they’re seated at the track.
“Young, you don’t care, you let it go then working here for 10 years just walking up and down pit lane talking to folks. I’m too cool for earplugs and then finally it’s caught up with me,” Boles said.
Audiologist Dawn Flinn with EarEverything Inc. assisted Boles in choosing the most effective earplugs for long days at IMS. She says hearing loss is something that often goes unnoticed.
“It’s something that happens slow and progressively over a long period of time. It’s a result of overexposure. How loud does it sound? How long are you in those environments?” Flinn said.
The exposure can damage the sensory receptors of sound, which are the little hairs inside your ear. According to Flinn, the receptors are impossible to repair.
The sound can also have an impact on your body.
“It’s disorienting, it’s fatiguing, it’s irritating. It changes your heart rate so the physiological reaction to it. It changes your heart rate and it changes your respiration, how often are you breathing, it quickens your breathing,” Flinn says.
Many may think they can endure the sights and sounds of the Indianapolis 500 without an extra layer of protection. But Boles says what many don’t know is how they can enhance the experience on the track.
“It gives you the ability to listen to the in-car radio when the drivers are talking to the crew. Listen to the radio broadcasting, even the television broadcast, to get going on the race,” Boles says.
Flinn suggests earplugs for children and headsets for teenagers and adults. Boles says there are five stations located around IMS where spectators can purchase ear protection on race day.