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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.

When plays are varied at the moment, they are called an audible. Without these play calls or audibles, players are not on the same page and will not succeed as a unified team.

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What makes these plays even trickier is 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 were recently at the center of their own scandal. This scandal involved hearing aids and the late 1990s football seasons.

Former Colts offensive tackle Tarik Glen reported that in Peyton Manning’s rookie season, the quarterback did not have strong vocals. This led to mishaps on the field.

When Manning called a play, Glen didn’t hear him. He would end up in the wrong position for the pass. To help, the offensive line coordinator came up with a hearing aid capable of drowning out sounds. The hearing aids masked the sounds of the crowd and muffled extraneous noises. This allowed 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. This is also why Glen’s admission brings up sour feelings and controversy.

In the past, Michael Marino from the Southwest Hearing Centers created a noise eliminator which 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 its ban because it did not transmit sounds and did not interfere with the electronic signals of broadcasting.

 

Future of 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 the design, they were not easily replicated and were 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 of earplugs to prevent hearing loss in their players.

 

By: Diana Michel