There has been a lot of attention lately to firearms. Without getting politial, we feel that it is our responsibility to help people to understand that, if they choose to shoot guns, they need to use proper hearing protection.
We have know for years that exposure to noise above 100 dB can cause damage to your hearing. Did you know that almost all guns come in at over 140dB? A small .22-caliber rifle can produce noise around 140 dB, while big-bore rifles and pistols can produce sound over 175 dB. Many people like to practice shooting at indoor shooting ranges, however, firing guns in a place where sounds can bounce off walls and other structures can make noises louder and increase the risk of hearing loss. People who do not wear hearing protection while shooting can suffer a severe hearing loss with as little as one shot, if the conditions are right. Audiologists see this often, especially during hunting season when hunters and bystanders may be exposed to rapid fire from big-bore rifles, shotguns, or pistols.
Hearing Loss and Tinnitus in Unprotected Shooters
Studies show that People who shoot guns are more likely to develop hearing loss than those who do not. This type of hearing loss tends to be permanent and high frequency, which means that they may have trouble hearing speech sounds like “s,” “th,” or “v” and other high-pitched sounds. The loss is often worse in the ear that is closer to the rifle or shotgun. One comment we often hear from shooters is “I hear people speak, but I don’t always understand what they are saying!” They may often also say that people around them seem to mumble. This type of hearing loss is often associated with tinnitus, or ringing in the ears. They may not get their hearing tested because they don’t think they have a problem. The ringing, like the hearing loss, can be permanent.
Protecting Your Hearing From Firearm Noise
Part of being responsible gun owner includes taking proper precautions for your hearing. This includes wearing earmuffs or earplugs when shooting, although studies show that only about half of shooters wear hearing protection when target shooting. Hunters often decline to wear hearing protection because they can’t hear approaching game or other noises. However, there are great solutions available for hunters which allow them to hear softer sounds while dampening loud sounds such as gun shots. These come in different styles such as earmuffs, custom molded (in the ear), one-size-fits-all, and behind-the-ear devices. These devices range in cost from less than $100 for earmuffs to over $1,000 for high-technology custom-made devices. Insert plug-type nonlinear HPDs cost around $10–$20, while custom-made nonlinear devices cost around $100–$150 per pair. An audiologist is your best source of information about hearing protection for your specific needs.
Tips for Protecting Your Hearing While Shooting
(from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association)
- Always use some type of hearing protection any time you fire a gun.
- Always have disposable ear plugs handy—make them part of your gear.
- Double-protect your ears, like putting muffs over plugs, when shooting big-bore firearms.
- Choose smaller caliber firearms for target practice and hunting.
- Choose single-shot firearms instead of lever action, pump, or semi-automatic guns.
- Avoid shooting in groups or in reverberant environments.
- Use electronic or nonlinear hearing protection devices for hunting.
If you have questions or concerns or would like to make sure that you haven’t suffered a hearing loss, call our office at 801-70-0801.