WFTDA recommends Fox 40 whistles for referees. These are special whistles that don’t have any little balls in them so you get a crisp, clear note. This prevents referees and skaters from mistaking the warble in conventional whistles for the 4-short blasts ending the jam. The Fox whistles are also louder than conventional whistles, important at loud bouts. Fox now makes a Sonic model that’s even louder. (Hard to imagine, I know!)
Being able to hear whistles clearly during bouts is important. However, I often leave scrimmages with my ears ringing until the next morning. It’s bad enough that I avoid “echoing” end of jam signals, which is technically against official operating procedures. (Echoing is when the refs repeat the 4 whistle blasts that ended the jam to ensure all skaters heard it.) The ringing is especially bad on nights when I’m acting as a jam ref because I have to blow my own whistle a lot or when I’m the front inside pack ref because I stand next to the jam timer at the start of the jam. I’m pretty sure going home with ringing ears a couple times a week is not good for my hearing.
The simple answer is to wear ear plugs. I’ve tried this, and it does work. Unfortunately, it works too well. I can’t hear the NSO’s or my fellow refs talking to me. I’ve even tried special ear plugs that supposedly only cut out high frequencies. You probably don’t notice–and definitely can’t hear at a bout–that referees talk to each other a lot. For example, pack refs suggest minor penalties on jammers to the jam refs when their view is blocked, pack refs double check what they saw with each other before calling penalties, and there’s a constant dialog to capture penalties with the NSO’s. Jam refs have to talk to each other a lot to convey lap points and lead jammer status. I miss too much information to be effective as a ref when wearing ear plugs.
Have any other refs out there or people with loud hobbies where communication is still important found a solution to this problem? My ears will thank you!