As a basketball referee in his spare time, Nathan Williams thought the whistles were unnecessarily loud.
At one all-day high school tournament, he wore a dosimeter that measured his noise exposure. The tournament “maxed out the device,” Williams said.
In conversation, his fellow officials joked about their hearing loss, sometimes known as referee’s ear. Williams, then a graduate student in audiology, did not see the humor.
A study recently done by Williams and his professor Gregory Flamme shows that referees were much more likely to report symptoms of ringing in the ears and trouble hearing than people of the same age in the general population.