Being a 12th Man could be bad for your health

by: Monique Ming Laven Updated:

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SEATTLE —

Being a 12th Man could be bad for your health. That is, unless you spend 30 cents to protect yourself.

That was the message and the warning spread by the fan-based group Volume 12 health and care experts looking ahead to the Seahawks' huge Sunday matchup against the San Francisco 49ers.

To say that the game is big, huge, essential, mammoth to the 12th Man is to woefully understate the situation. The division rivalry, the huge expectations for both teams and the emergence of both young, superstar quarterbacks -- those are just a few drops of the fuel that turns this fiery rivalry into an inferno.

And, that is exactly why Sunday presents the opportunity for fans to put themselves in the record books ... and doctors' offices.

First, the record books.

Joe Tafoya is a former defensive end for the Seahawks. He retired five years ago, but he's still getting ready for Sunday's game. By yelling. "I feel like I'm going into the game," he said Wednesday afternoon. He will be at the game, but in the stands, with a decibel meter and an official from the Guiness Book of World Records. Joe is behind the effort launched by Volume 12 to break the record for the loudest crowd ever at a sporting event. It would be no small feat. The current record is held by a soccer crowd in Istanbul, Turkey. They measured more than 131 decibels -- which is louder than a 747 jet taking off next to your ear. To out do that crowd, Tafoya says, would make a huge statement to the sports world, "We are the loudest and best fans in the world."

But being the best and the loudest carries a risk, as explained by audiologist Carol Killingsworth. "I thought it was funny,' she said about the World Record attempt, " and then I thought, 'That's a bad idea.'"

She says the reasons is simple. If a person is exposed to a sound at 130 decibels, that cause permanent hearing damage in just one second, literally.

But the good news is that a solution is just as simple. "A pair of 29 cent earplugs would make the difference between safety and not safety," she said, opening a package of common yellow foam earplugs.

And Tafoya is trying to make noise about this warning as well. Volume 12 will be handing out about 30,000 pairs of earplugs Sunday, encouraging people to take the warning seriously. Another group called Health Innovations will also be out there, in conspicuous pink T-shirts, giving people earplugs also. Between the two, 40,000 fans would be protected, but that leaves more than 20,000 that would not.

Simple advice: Buy some before you get to the game. They'll even be easy to fit into those clear plastic bags you need for the games.