Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Departmental Honors




The Dee Glen Smith spectrum at Utah State University has a reputation of having one of the loudest student sections in the nation. For years, students have taken pride in creating a home court advantage by creating an extremely rowdy and loud atmosphere. Many would agree that this is what makes USU basketball so special.

Elevated noise levels, however, have the potential of creating a health hazard to both employees and spectators. Elevated noise levels can cause negative acute effects such as headache, dizziness, nausea, and tinnitus (ringing in the ears). The most likely acute affects that students, employees, and patrons may experience are tinnitus and headache. Chronic exposures to elevated noise levels cause sensory nerve damage to auditory hair cells, resulting in Noise Induced Hearing Loss. In order to understand the seriousness of these noise exposures within the spectrum, measurements were taken at home games for the 2011/2012 and 2012/2013 USU basketball seasons. Small personal meters (known as noise dosimeters) were worn by an employee and a student at each game which determined the degree of their personal exposure to noise levels.

It was found that students and employees were consistently exposed to very high noise levels. OHSA has developed a standard which states that an employee shall not receive a noise dose > 100%. This dose is calculated by setting up a personal dosimeter with the proper parameters (A-weighted, 5 dB exchange rate, and slow response rate). By OSHA standards, those in the student section are being exposed to unacceptable levels at the majority of games. When assessing personal noise doses using parameters provided by the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists, which is a more accurate representation of noise exposures to the human ear, noise exposures to employees and spectators were even higher. ACGIH bases their exposure values on a 3 dB exchange rate which more closely represents the human ear's reaction to noise intensity. For example, a 3 dB increase represents a 200% increase in noise intensity. While most employee exposures have been within OSHA compliance standards, the prevalence of exposures exceeding an 85 decibel TWA (time weighted average) warrant the use of hearing protection at USU basketball games.

Utah State University' s hearing conservation program states that employees must wear hearing protection if they are exposed to noise levels exceeding an 85 dBA TWA. Noise measurement data is used to support my recommendation that USU athletics provide employees hearing protection (ear plugs) as required by OSHA CFR 1910.95 (explained in OSHA 3074), and that students and spectators have hearing protection made available to them at the games.

The two main goals of the study were the following:

  • Determine whether a correlation between employee/spectator noise dose and spectator attendance exists.
  • Assess the noise doses received by employees and spectators in order to implement effective and feasible controls.

Included in

Biology Commons



Faculty Mentor

John Flores

Departmental Honors Advisor

Kimberly Sullivan

Capstone Committee Member

David O. Wallace

Co-Faculty Mentor

Scott Bernhardt