A new friend of mine recently asked me for advice about attending a NASCAR race.

Claire Burch was going to her first race at the Atlanta Motor Speedway with her family last weekend and wasn't sure what to bring.

One of the first things that came to mind for me was ear plugs.

Claire wanted to know if she would need ear protection at Atlanta Motor Speedway because the seats are up high and the speedway is so big.

Absolutely, you do.

Several years ago, I was on pit road at Dover International Speedway for a NASCAR race and didn't use ear protection.

It took three days to get my hearing completely back.

Trust me, you only make that mistake once.

That got me thinking about how bad the noise level at race tracks can be. After some research on the Internet, this is what I found:

It's not just the drivers who are at risk, but the pit crew members and the fans are, too.

A study conducted by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health found race car drivers are subjected to 50-900 times higher decibels than the federal government allows.

On an average work day, most people are subjected to 85 decibels. So the Occupational Safety and Health Administration set that level as the national maximum legal noise.

The study also showed fans in the grandstands are surrounded by 96 decibels of noise. Some tracks can be higher.

The decibels are around 114 for drivers and can exceed 130 for pit crew members.

During a race, when drivers are doing approximately 200 miles per hour, for 500 miles, with 750 horsepower, the decibels get as high as 140.

The study also found the tracks sitting in a bowl-like shape, like Dover and Bristol, are the loudest.

So race fans, please take my advice, use ear protection when at the race track.

No matter how large or small the track may be, it can affect you hearing.

And by the way, Claire had a blast at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

The Sprint Cup guys are at Richmond Saturday night.

Stafford Motor Speedway was rained out.

Lebanon Valley: Sportsman -- Kyle Armstrong (3rd).