It apparently is known as the ‘referee’s ear’. I never heard of it before (…) but ever since I have this ringing noise in my head, I started to connect the dots.
The whistle I’ve been using over the years (Tornado 2000) is high pitched and carrying a long way. So much even that players sometimes complained about the noise. And I even started to cover one ear while blowing the whistle sometimes to protect my (left) ear.
Digging around, I found this study: “Sports Officials’ Hearing Status: Whistle Use as a Factor Contributing to Hearing Trouble,” published in 2013 in The Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene. Major conclusion: with whistle volume measuring from 104 to 116 decibels at the ear, the safe daily noise dose is exceeded in just 5 to 90 seconds (seconds, not minutes ref!). The most commonly used whistle, the Fox 40 Classic, measured 106 decibels, allowing for just 48 seconds before damaging exposure, or 96 whistle blows of half a second each.
So what can referees do to protect their hearing? Dr. Hughes suggested using “vented” ear molds. “They are custom-fitted to the ear canal and reduce sound by up to 25 decibels,” he said. “That reduction will let referees perform their duty while protecting their ears all day.”
Another, much better solution is to compare whistles on decibel levels and choose a different, healthier one. In this Whistle Decibel Comparison Chart it is obvious that most are too strong for your own hearing, including my Tornado 2000 (126dB) ! Protect yourself from getting that same irritating noise I’m experiencing for a while now and tone it down ref!