Monday, January 7, 2013

Guest Post by John O'Connor - Preventing Hearing Loss For Those Who Shoot Guns

Today's post comes from a fellow shooting sports blogger, John O'Connor. He is passionate about hearing loss in shooters and hunters, and his post addresses that very topic. Enjoy!

Preventing Hearing Loss For Those Who Shoot Guns

Searching for the right kind of hearing protection while you hunt can’t often times be a tough task.  Many people have different thoughts on what they feel the best kind of hearing protection is.  Hearing devices come in many different makes, models and sizes.  They also range in prices from very cheap to very expensive.  When choosing hearing protection, make sure that you select the device that is the most comfortable for you but also provides you with the most protection.  It is crazy to think that some people still refuse to wear hearing protection while they hunt especially after hearing that out of roughly 40 million Americans who suffer from hearing loss, close to 10 million cases can be attributed to Noise-Induced hearing loss or NIHL.  Hearing loss can be gradual over time but with NIHL one sudden exposure to a loud noise for example from a gunshot can cause permanent damage.  That is why it is vital to always have proper hearing protection on while hunting.

My father who has been a hunter for many years often chose to not pay much attention to his hearing protection while he was practicing at the shooting range or while he was out in the field trying to take down that prized buck.  Regardless of the situation he never chose to wear ear protection and he is now paying for it today.  Although hunting is not the only cause of his hearing loss, it did pay a very significant role in decreasing his hearing levels.  In order to be able to hear better, my father wears hearing aids.  His hearing aids help him not only while hunting, but also while watching television, driving or even something simple like conversing with others. Many hunters these days choose to wear hearing aids while they hunt under their hearing protection.  Behind the ear or inside the ear hearing aids can range anywhere from $40.00 to $700.00 depending on what different types of features you are looking to include.

Are Firearms Really Dangerous To Your Hearing?

The short answer to this question is yes. The longer answer requires some knowledge of noise levels. A shotgun can produce more than 160 decibels of sound. This is more than a college football stadium at its loudest point. In some cases, this can be too much for the ears to take. Elizabeth J. Rosen wrote an article for the University of Texas in which she notes the dangers associated with things this loud. That article, which can be read at, notes that long-term exposure to these loud sounds can leave a person with permanent hearing loss. The good news for hunters is that they can smartly protect their hearing if they will use some effective pieces of equipment and follow some simple rules.

Stay Away From Enclosed Ranges

You do not need to go shooting in an enclosed setting. With the proliferation of outdoor gun ranges today, people can take care of their practice without going inside. When on the inside, gun noises are amplified to dangerous levels. People who do a lot of shooting at indoor ranges dramatically increase the chances of long-term hearing loss.

Are Basic Earplugs Enough?

Some people combat the problem by putting in basic earplugs. These can usually be had for a few bucks down at the local store. Though these are better than nothing, they do not necessarily help with the problem. Earplugs have a tendency to change shape in your ears. They will often fail to do the job that you need. Many people opt for more advanced levels of protection instead.

Custom Molded Earplugs

Earplugs for shooting have been evolving in a rapid pace over the years.  Another option for hunters is a set of custom molded shooting earplugs.  These earplugs can be fit to your ear and can offer many great features.  This type of earplug is often equipped with acoustic filters that allow you to hear your surroundings better while also providing substantial protection.  This acoustic filter is designed to let you hear safe level sounds while providing protection against firearm blasts.  The price ranges for these can vary depending on what you are looking to get.  You could spend anywhere between $3.00 to $140.00 a pair.  Some places offer discounts for buying them in bulk.

Over The Head Earmuffs

People who take their hearing very seriously might opt for over the head earmuffs. These are often called "clamshell" earmuffs at the local store. They provide an extra level of noise cancellation. They are also quite stable and will generally not fall off without a significant disturbance. People who are shooting especially loud guns will want to go this far.

Electronic Earmuffs

Those who insist on shooting at an indoor range or wanting the maximum form of protection might go one step further. These people might opt for electronic earmuffs that are able to cancel out noise completely. Though expensive, these pieces of equipment will provide full protection. Electronic earmuffs allow in all sounds that are less than 80 dB.  Any sounds that exceed this noise level are immediately cancelled out.  This allows hunters to hear other group members and incoming animals while still protecting their hearing at the same time.

Your hearing is important. If you are going to do a lot of hunting or shooting, you need to take steps to ensure that your ears are protected. By following the tips listed above, you have a chance to do that.

Hi my name is John O'Connor, I am a father, outdoorsman and passionate about living a healthy lifestyle.  Over the past few years I have become more and more interested in hearing loss.  My father and grandfathers, who are and were all hunters, are affected by hearing loss.  I feel that there is a general lack of understanding around the issue and it is our job to spread awareness where we can.  Check out my new blog at!

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