Blue 42, set, hike! These words may mean nothing to the average person, but the funny string of words signifies a particular football play. In fact, the number of plays a typical offensive player memorizes creeps over 500. Plays can also be varied in the moment with what is called an audible. Without these play calls or audibles, players are not on the same page and will not succeed as a unified team. What makes these plays even trickier is the fact that there are a plethora of sounds masking the quarterback who is in charge of yelling out the play name. Because of this, some teams have invested in pseudo hearing aids for their players.

 

Colts Hearing Aid Scandal

Deflategate may have rocked the football world with Tom Brady and the underinflated footballs used in the New England Patriots playoff game against the Indianapolis Colts. However, the Colts recently found themselves in the center of their own scandal involving hearing aids and their late 1990’s football seasons. Former Colts offensive tackle Tarik Glen reported that in Peyton Manning’s rookie season, the quarterback did not have strong vocals, leading to mishaps on the field. When Manning would call a play, Glen did not always hear him and would end up in the wrong position for the pass. To help, the offensive line coordinator came up with a sort of hearing aid that drowned out the sounds of the crowd and muffled extraneous sounds to allow the players to hear the plays.

 

Hearing Aids in the Football Season

According to the National Football League rules, communication devices that are not previously authorized by the league are illegal for use on the field. This gives one team a certain advantage over the other team, which is why Glen’s admission brings up sour feelings and controversy. In the past, Michael Marino from the Southwest Hearing Centers created a sort of noise eliminator that he brought to the St. Louis Rams in 1999. Because of the uproar from the opposing team, the noise eliminators were banned from that football game and the entire football season. However, the NFL then reversed their ban because they did not transmit sounds and did not interfere with the electronic signals of broadcasting.

 

Future for Hearing Aids in Football

Marino worked with many more teams to create individualized earpieces that molded to the players’ unique ears. Due to the specificity of design, they were not easily replicated and hard to detect when the player wore a helmet. Like a hearing aid, they went into the ear canal and had little obstruction outside the ear. Unfortunately, as much as players loved the earpieces, managers and coaches opposed the devices because of their lack of regulation. As for the future of hearing aids in football? They are likely to be seen as unfair alterations giving certain players an advantage. However, due to the loud sounds of a football game, the NFL may want to consider some sort earplugs to prevent hearing loss in their players.

 

By: Diana Michel

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