Crack, Pop, Smash: The Noisy World of Pickleball and Why Your Ears Matter

Jun 27, 2024

Article by Hearing Partners, contributed by Jennifer Lee, Senior Clinical Audiologist at Hearing Partners

Have you seen people playing a sport that looks like tennis on a badminton court? Known as pickleball, this sport combines elements of badminton, tennis and table tennis. Due to its easy learning curve and lower risk of injuries, pickleball has gained popularity in Singapore with over 2,000 active players of all ages, including seniors.

Pickleball’s distinct feature is the popping and cracking sound created by plastic balls being hit back and forth. While some find this sound satisfying, others have found it bothersome. This has led to noise complaints from residents near HDB outdoor badminton courts where pickleball can be played. As a result, certain town councils have requested residents to avoid playing pickleball in specific locations.

Pickleball notice from Town Council

In this article, we’ll delve into the reasons behind pickleball’s perceived noise and explore how your hearing plays a crucial role in sports and active ageing. Keep reading to learn more!

Why is Pickleball so Noisy?

Many people often compare the sound generated by pickleball to that of tennis, with a significant number assuming that pickleball is louder. But is this really the case?

The frequency of pickleball’s sound

Some sources state that pickleball sounds louder than tennis due to the high-frequency sound created by the material that the ball and racquet are made of. However, that may not be true.

Low-frequency sounds have the ability to travel greater distances than high-frequency sounds, blending into the environment to become ambient noise. With good low-frequency hearing, we become accustomed to this ambient noise and our brains automatically filter it out to allow us to focus on more important sounds such as speech or an oncoming vehicle.

As such, the high-frequency sound of pickleball stands out from the ambient noise, just like a white spot is easily noticeable in a sea of black dots. However, when isolated, the sound intensity level of the high-frequency pickleball sound and the low-frequency tennis ball sound may not be too different.

The sound level of pickleball

Various online sources and studies state that the noise level of pickleball is around 55 – 70dBSPL, peaking at 85dBSPL on rare occasions. These levels are safely within the healthy listening levels, similar to the sound of a moderate rainfall or an average vacuum cleaner.

Generally speaking, prolonged (>8 hours) and regular exposure to noises exceeding 85dBSPL can lead to noise induced hearing loss. Here is a chart illustrating the noise levels of common sounds:

Infographic of the noise levels of common sounds

Is Hearing Important in Pickleball?

Many pickleball players belong to the older age group, which is when hearing problems often become more prevalent. As with many team sports including pickleball, hearing clearly and communicating effectively is key to staying on top of the game.

For instance, during a pickleball match, it’s essential to communicate with your teammate regarding who should go for the ball at a particular moment. While gesturing can be a solution for those with hearing difficulties, it can cause a reaction lag time, affecting your game.

Not just during the game but after the game too, good hearing is necessary for an effective discussion of the game that you had. Imagine missing out on the exciting and fun details your friends are sharing about or mishearing the next pickleball game date because of poor hearing and clarity – that will be a bummer!

Active Ageing Includes Caring for Your Ears

The rise in awareness about active ageing has led to a surge in the popularity of pickleball among seniors as a means to remain healthy. Yet, active ageing encompasses not only physical well-being but also hearing health.

Neglecting your hearing health can significantly impact your overall quality of life. Hearing loss may result in disinterest in daily activities like watching TV and social gatherings, and even reluctance to engage in physical activities such as pickleball. These consequences can ultimately lead to social isolation, cognitive decline and potentially dementia.

To raise awareness for the importance of hearing health, Hearing Partners took on the role of sponsor for Pickle Slam, a pickleball tournament hosted by PickleGo in May 2024. We also spoke to some players about their thoughts on the sport, the noise, and their hearing health.

Take Charge of Your Hearing Health Today

Hearing Partners offers free basic hearing tests at 10 convenient locations across Singapore. Book your appointment and take control of your hearing health now!

Stay on Top of Your Game With Regular Hearing Assessments

If you haven’t had your annual hearing test or have been delaying getting the hearing aids* you need, you could be missing out on a lot of fun! Taking care of your hearing health, including using hearing aids when necessary, is essential for staying active, enjoying life and staying on top of your pickleball game.

*Hearing aids have adjustable maximum output limits, so wearing them during pickleball games shouldn’t result in discomfort or damage to your ears. In the rare event that discomfort occurs, you can provide feedback to your audiologist, who will then make the necessary adjustments to address the issue promptly.

Suspect you might have hearing loss?

Your ears play an important role in your daily life and should not be neglected.

Speak to our hearing care professionals regarding your concerns today.

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