Are you an avid hunter? Do you spend your weekends hunting, and your spare time at the shooting range improving your skills? Hunting and shooting are favorite pastimes for many Americans, but if you’re not protecting your ears, your passion could potentially destroy your hearing.
Hearing Loss and Firearms
Of the 35 million Americans that shoot guns recreationally, only some realize the risk posed to their hearing. A 2017 study published in The Laryngoscope found that only 59% of gun users wear hearing protection regularly. Some wear ear protection only some of the time, and 20% of regular gun users have never even considered wearing hearing protection! If you shoot without hearing protection you’re jeopardizing your ability to hear, to communicate effectively with friends and loved ones, and even to continue being successful in your career.
Noise Induced Hearing Loss
The problem with fire arms is that they’re incredibly loud, and though it is not continuous, the short bursts are enough to cause potential damage. Using firearms without protection greatly increases your risk of developing noise induced hearing loss (NIHL). This is hearing loss caused by exposure to excessively loud noises. The more you are exposed to extremely loud sounds, and the louder those sounds are, the higher your risk of hearing loss.
When you’re hunting or shooting, that loud gunshot will damage or destroy the delicate structures and cells of the inner ear. Many sounds will cause noise induced hearing loss. You’ll experience damaging sounds at work, in heavy traffic, at the gym, at your favorite bar, the cinema, and even during leisure activities like rock concerts, sports events, when mowing your lawn, or sanding your deck. All this exposure to noise will take its toll, and leave you straining to hear.
Decibels and Hearing Loss
It’s really all in the decibels (dB). The higher the decibel level, the louder the sound, and the more damage you’ll be doing to your hearing. Any noise over 85 dB will cause hearing loss if you’re exposed to that noise for a while. To give you a reference point, a normal conversation is about 60 dB. City traffic can reach 90 dB, a chainsaw is 100 dB, rock concerts are around 120 dB, and a jet engine taking off is 140 dB.
But do you know how loud firearms are? A single gunshot next to your ear can be anywhere from 140 to 180 dB! At this level, hearing loss isn’t gradual, and doesn’t take several hours of exposure. All it takes is a single shot, and hair cells of the inner ear may be permanently destroyed, breaking down your hearing health, and even causing sudden hearing loss. While this can sometimes be temporary hearing loss, exposure to gunshots often causes permanent hearing loss. And if you’re firing hundreds of rounds without hearing protection, you’ll definitely be damaging your hearing.
Don’t Forget Your Earplugs
If you’re a hunter or enjoy shooting, the best thing you can do for your hearing health is to wear hearing protection! Once your hearing is gone you can never get it back, so make sure you’re not taking your hearing health for granted. Wearing ear protection can ensure that your hearing stays sharp for years to come. Most ear plugs will reduce the sound levels by 20 to 30 dB, and ear muffs will reduce sounds even more.
Maybe you don’t like having muffled hearing when you’re out hunting, so you opt to go without ear plugs. Passive ear plugs, like the foam ones you’re probably thinking of right now, block all sounds, regardless of how loud they are. You hate wearing these ear plugs, since they block all the rustling that helps you find the game you’re tracking. Active or electronic ear plugs, on the other hand, only mute dangerously loud noises, but allow all noises in a safe range to reach your ear without being dampened. You can track your game with ease, and still be protected when it’s time to pull the trigger.
If you have yet to treat a hearing loss, it’s time to make some changes. Visit us at the nearest My Hearing Centers location to ask about the hearing aid that’s right for you. Our team of hearing specialists will do a hearing assessment, and our knowledgeable staff will help you find the perfect device for your lifestyle. We’ll also help you pick out ear plugs that will keep your hearing safe this hunting season.