You should never fire a gun without hearing protection. Why? Because repeated exposure to sounds of 85 decibels or more can, and probably will, cause hearing loss. A single gunshot ranges from about 140 decibels to 190 decibels. Yes, the gunshot sound is short but that doesn’t matter, it’s enough to cause immediate hearing damage.
What happens when your ears are exposed to loud noises?
Your inner ear has lots of tiny hair cells inside it which send sound information to your brain. Loud noises are too much for these sensitive hairs to deal with. When they’re exposed to loud sounds they get damaged. Unlike other hair on your body, when these hearing hairs get damaged they can’t regenerate. Each one damaged causes a little more irreversible hearing loss.
Some people will notice a difference in their hearing straight away after hearing loud noises in the form of muffled hearing or ringing ears (tinnitus). Others won’t notice their hearing slowly declining until it’s too late.
A recent University of Wisconsin study reports that as many as 95 percent of hunters don’t wear hearing protection. Seen as hearing protection is essential for hunters – those who’d like to spend the rest of their life being able to hear, what’s stopping them from using hearing protection?
What stops hunters wearing hearing protection?
Here at our Big Thicket Hearing Aids & Audiology center we usually hear two main reasons why hunters don’t wear hearing protection. Our practice is located in a heavily forested area of Texas. There’s plenty of hunting in our local forests, and surprise surprise, there’s a real issue with noise-induced hearing loss with our local hunters. They tell us that earmuffs or earplugs hide the noises they need to hear for hunting, the soft rustling leaves of a hiding deer or the whooshing of birds wings. They also tell us that big ear defenders get in the way when shooting.
So what’s the solution, should hunters wear regular earmuffs or earplugs?
Standard earmuffs and earplugs are not the solution. There are two types of hearing protection, passive protection and active protection. Passive protection includes earplugs and earmuffs which work by muffling all sounds around you. In order to protect your hearing with these whilst hunting, you’d need to wear both earmuffs and earplugs together. You won’t be able to hear much around you at all with this method.
What’s the solution to a hunter’s hearing protection needs?
As hunters only really want to mask loud gunshots, not the voices of their fellow hunters or nearby animals, what they need is active hearing protection. Active hearing protection only cuts out the sounds you don’t want to hear, i.e. the gunshots, and keeps the sounds of nature intact. In fact, not only can you still hear the sounds of rustling leaves nearby, active hearing protection actually enhances sounds below 85 decibels while cutting out harmful sounds above 85 decibels.
Want to protect your hearing?
If you’re a hunter in our area we can help you to enjoy hunting with better hearing for longer. Whether you’re experiencing problems with your hearing or not, contact us at the Big Thicket hearing and audiology center to see how we can help you today.
Dr. Joni Ruiz is the owner and Doctor of Audiology at Big Thicket Hearing Aids and Audiology. She earned her doctorate of audiology in 2009 from Lamar University in Beaumont, TX. Selected for a prestigious fourth-year externship at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., Dr. Ruiz has more than ten years’ experience as an Audiologist. She has a heart for patient-centered care. At her hearing care practice, she performs comprehensive diagnostic audiological evaluations, provides aural rehabilitation to her patients and their loved ones, dispenses state of the art hearing aids, and manages the care of said devices for their life. Dr. Ruiz is dedicated to patient education regarding hearing loss, hearing protection, and hearing aid selection.