Formula 1 Hearing Safety Advice

f1Damaging levels of noise are invisible as is the hearing loss it causes. There is no associated external visual damage to the ear, such as bleeding, because the damage is internal due to damage to the hair cells of the cochlea, resulting in high frequency hearing loss and tinnitus (ringing of the ears). Unfortunately, this damage is cumulative and lasts a life time.

However, hearing loss from noise exposure is preventable, and with the Formula 1 races taking place in Austin this weekend, it is especially important for those taking part in the event to pay close attention to protecting their ears. Margaret Gillihan, PhD, from the Scott & White Specialty Clinic in Marble Falls, offers some information on noise exposure and some helpful tips on how to best protect your, and your family’s ears, while at the F1 races:

Facts on Loud Noise Exposure

  • The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends that exposure time to sounds of 85 dBA SPL be limited to 8 hours in order to prevent hearing loss and for every 3 dB increase in the level of noise (doubling of sound), the exposure time should be cut in half.  Said another way, “Double the noise, half the exposure time.”

Noise Level    Exposure Time

85 dB SPL      8 hours

88 dB SPL      4 hours

91 dB SPL      2 hours


94 dB SPL      1 hour

97 dB SPL      30 minutes

100 dB SPL    15 minutes

103 dB SPL    7.5 minutes

106 dB SPL    3.75 minutes

109 dB SPL    <2 minutes

  • Noise level measured from Formula 1 race car as it zooms by has been measured at 110 to 120 dB SPL.

How to Protect Your Ears

  • Wear earplugs or earmuffs.
    • Adults: Wear earplugs and/or earmuffs with a noise reduction ratio (NRR) of 25 or greater.
    • Children: Earplugs may pose a choking hazard for infants and young children, so earmuffs are recommended with a noise reduction ratio (NRR) of 25 or greater.
  • Cost of earplugs range from a few dollars to about $12 and the price of earmuffs typically start at $30.
    • The cost of a good hearing aid needed to replace the hearing you may lose due to noise exposure starts at around $1500.00/per aid.

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Formula 1 Hearing Safety Advice