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New Head Health Challenge can positively impact hearing loss in athletes

Published: 09/25/2013

Last Updated: 01/06/2014

Recently, the NFL, Under Armour and GE launched Head Health Challenge II, an open-invitation challenge to find the best materials to protect the brain from traumatic injury and new tools for tracking head impacts in real time. The organizations will award up to $10 million for the best ideas.

The program is part of the Head Health Initiative, a collaboration to help speed the diagnosis of and improve the treatment for traumatic brain injury. 

While it isn’t directly acknowledged, the program’s findings could also have an impact on the hearing health of professional athletes. By developing improved head protection, athletes may be better protected from experiencing sudden hearing loss and tinnitus, or ringing in the ears.

While not widely understood, there is a connection between brain function/cognition and hearing loss.  For instance, a recent Johns Hopkins’ study found a correlation between hearing loss and dementia.

Brain trauma is currently top of mind, as a group of former players recently received a $765 million settlement from the NFL after the group sued the league, accusing it of not revealing the dangers of brain injury while profiting off the players’ performance. In the settlement, the league agreed to pay for medical exams, which may include hearing evaluations and additional testing.

Due to the physicality of football, as well as the regular exposure to roaring fans and loud whistles, many players and former players experience some degree of hearing loss.  In hopes of further analyzing the subject, the EarQ Hearing Education and Discount Program for the NFL Players Association was created to help educate former players about their hearing health, encourage them to have regular hearing evaluations and assist them in finding the best hearing device technology for them.

The findings of this program have yet to be published.

For more information on the challenge, as well as submission guidelines, click here.


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