Why So LOUD at Hockey and Baseball Games?

“Make some noise!” screams the flashing banner around the Barclay Center. Recorded electronic drums pound into our chests and the din is deafening. I can’t hear or speak with the people right next to me.

But as soon as the amplified drums and flashing lights stop, the arena is quiet. Once again, I hear the sounds I enjoy at a hockey game:
– Skates on ice
– The click of the sticks hitting the puck
– Bodies crashing into the boards
– The little stepwise organ figures (my husband used to play organ occasionally for the  New Haven Nighthawks, a farm team connected with the North Stars, Rangers, Islanders, and LA Kings).

When did it all start getting so LOUD?

I don’t actually know the answer historically. (Maybe some of you readers can help me out on this.)

But the same thing is happening at baseball games.

It’s fun to welcome batters to home plate with their favorite songs, but not when it feels like an assault.  Why are sports promoters and teams resorting to such artificial forms of “excitement”? They don’t trust that what happens naturally will be enough.  They pump up the volume the same way inexperienced rock bands do when they don’t yet play well, but can at least play loud.

We are all being conditioned to expect an over-the-top volume level as a substitute for real excitement.  Instead of a real feeling of a unified fan experience, we get this sonic artificial flavoring which doesn’t really satisfy.

This past season, we attended baseball games at both Citi Field and Citizens Bank Park.  Gotta hand it to the Phillies on this one, even though I’m a Mets fan.  The Philly fan engagement worked better and the volume levels were much more comfortable than at Citi Field. Result: more fun.

In many areas of sensory perception, there is a bell-shaped curve that describes how enjoyable a sensation is.  As the sensation becomes stronger, it is more pleasurable up to a point, after which it becomes less and less enjoyable. The black line shows how overall enjoyment changes as the volume grows louder.


Bell Curve 1

The overall volume at many games is probably also an Occupational Safety and Health Administration violation for people who work in those settings because of the potential for lasting damage to hearing.

From the  OSHA website:
Exposure to loud noise kills the nerve endings in the inner ear. More exposure will result in more dead nerve endings. The result is permanent hearing loss that cannot be corrected by surgery or medicine.

This is not a trivial matter. Hearing loss is socially isolating and is a risk factor for dementia in later life. (Hearing loss linked to dementia)

A lifetime spent in overly noisy social environments can set us up for very quiet senior moments (or tinnitus, which is the worst of both worlds, a ringing in the ears combined with poor hearing of sounds we’d want to hear).

I’d love to see owners, venues, the National Hockey League, and Major League Baseball,  take protection of hearing seriously. (If this is already happening to some extent, please write in and let me know. Let’s happily give credit where it’s due!)

More reasonable volume levels mean that you can talk with the person next to you and joke with fans in front or behind you. When we can’t do that, I’ll be far less interested in attending the games.

Part of what is fun about sports is the experience of being a fan with other fans.  Overly loud volume levels work against the sense of connection with players, teams, and other fans, that builds loyalty.

What’s your experience with this? Do loud volume levels at public events bother you or do they add to your sense of excitement?

4 thoughts on “Why So LOUD at Hockey and Baseball Games?

  1. So you got this out already? Interesting topic I’ve never really thought about because I avoid overly loud places. Big problem with restaurants too. Used to be upscale places were quiet but now everywhere is so loud (and dim) that you can’t enjoy your dinner. Seems to me it’s a way of keeping older people out. But why younger people enjoy having their hearing compromised is beyond me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. In both lighting and sound levels, I think an assumption is being made that customers will feel better if more anonymous and not expected to talk as much. Certainly not what I am looking for when I go out, but may accurately reflect the preferences of younger people (or at least expectations they’ve been conditioned to have).

      Another way in which conditions for having fun have changed and not necessarily in the healthiest direction!

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. A great post about an important topic. Every time a see someone (usually a man) running a leaf-blower or cement mixer or chain saw or some other VERY LOUD fossil-fuel-driven piece of machinery while not wearing adequate hearing protection, I feel very sad for their future (for all the reasons you listed). I rarely go to public games or concerts or performances, but I do remember being shocked by how loud the music was at a Broadway show several years ago. However, I usually have a set of foam earplugs in my pocket which I can roll up and stuff into my ears as needed (such as when I ride on extremely loud subways). In restaurants/bars, I have been told that the loud music discourages talking and encourages drinking (which is a significant way that those establishments make money). I hope sports venue owners find and read your blog post, Ginny! ps: great to re-connect with you via WordPress!!!


    1. Yes, driving the customers to drink is always an objective in those settings. When our band used to play clubs, I remember a club owner saying, “have her sing a lot. they drink more when she sings.”
      Like you, I carry earplugs in my purse and pocket and sadly, now have to use them at the gym where my decibel meter on my phone registers dangerous volume levels in the spin classes.
      Having spent so much of my adult life in front of amplifiers, I already have some hearing loss and am trying to avoid having any more.
      Good to re-connect with you via our blogs, @willedare !


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