Athletes aren’t the only ones with the risk of injury at sporting events, according to experts at Baylor College of Medicine fans are also at risk.  Vocal cord and hearing damage is possible at sports games, especially during high-emotion playoff games.

“One key component to vocal health is staying hydrated – and no, I don’t mean with alcohol,” said Felicia Carter, speech-language pathologist for the Institute for Voice and Swallowing at Baylor.

She recommended staying hydrated with water because caffeinated drinks and alcohol act as a diuretic and dry out the vocal folds. Staying hydrated will decrease the thick secretions that cause people to clear their throat. The more hydrated a person is, the more elastic their vocal folds are, which puts less strain on the voice when speaking. Although, Carter said fans should not drink more water in order to be able to cheer louder.

“I always remind my patients not to speak over loud noises, to avoid shouting and not to scream at the referee,” she said. “Pom-poms, foam fingers, doing the wave and clapping are other ways they can cheer on their favorite team.”

Properly using the voice will help people avoid throat pain, cough, hoarseness and risk of hemorrhage of the vocal folds.

Protecting your hearing at games is equally as important as protecting your voice, said Ross Tonini, audiologist in the department of otolaryngology – head and neck surgery at Baylor.

“Hearing is like a bank account; you can make withdrawals but you can’t make deposits,” he said. “Every time you listen to something excessively loud you make a withdrawal. At some point you run out of money in your ‘bank account’ and have nothing left to withdraw and are left with hearing loss”.

He still encourages everyone to support and cheer on their favorite Houston teams, but cautions them to be prepared.

“Don’t sit in front of the band, and wear foam noise protection in your ears,” Tonini said.

Foam noise protectors can be found at most grocery and drug stores.

To the fan wearing headphones while at the game, make sure the volume setting is not at a level that is too high, Tonini said. Studies have shown that high sound levels from headphones can lead to hearing loss. 

"If anyone else can hear what you are listening to on your headphones, it is too loud," he said.

These simple tips will allow sport spectators to enjoy the game without causing harm to their voice or hearing.

May is “Better Hearing and Speech” month. For more information or to make an appointment with a Baylor specialist, call 713-798-4327 (audiology) or 713-798-5900 (voice and swallowing).

Check with your insurance provider regarding hearing services. Some health plans offer support.