If you are an avid gun shooter, whether you love to hunt or just enjoy visiting the shooting range, you should be using proper ear protection. Each gunshot creates a large amount of noise and begin around this noise over time can cause serious hearing loss and damage. Each firearm can create noise that is over the 140-dB level with larger rifles and pistols producing over 175dB. This can become even more detrimental if you shoot in a closed in area that allows the noise to bounce off of walls and other structures.
Another issue that many do not realize, is that when they add muzzle brakes or other various modifications, it can actually increase the sound produced by the firearm. It can take as little as one shot to affect your hearing and lead to hearing loss. This is why you should always protect your ears with some form of protection. If you are a regular shooter, then having this protection customized to fit you can be crucial to avoiding unwanted loss of hearing.
Many hunters do not see the importance of wearing protection while on a hunt. However, each hunting season, more and more audiologists find themselves helping hunters who are experiencing hearing loss. Since it only takes one shot to begin hearing loss, it can literally be your first-time hunting and you can experience hearing issues. Even bystanders can be subject to hearing issues due to the noise from big-bore rifles, shotguns, and pistols.
Often, many who handle firearms regularly may not even realize the effect they are having on their hearing until it is too late. For example, many users tend to have high-frequency permanent hearing loss from shooting regularly. This means you will begin having trouble hearing certain sounds, such as; “s, th, and or v.” Many higher pitched sounds or noises will become difficult to hear and understand.
For most right-handed shooters, the left ear will start to show signs of damage and suffer more damage than the right ear. This will be vice versa for left-handed shooters. This is because when you shoot, the left side is directly in line with the muzzle of the firearm. The right ear will be partially protected due to head shadow and its distance from the gun itself.
Some signs that you should look for if you believe you may be suffering from hearing loss associated with guns, are if you can hear that someone is speaking but what they are saying is not completely clear. You may feel like others seem to be mumbling, when they actually are not. Also, gunshots can lead to ringing in the ear that may only last temporarily or may end up being permanent. If any of these symptoms arise, it is best to seek proper testing immediately.
If you are already suffering from some early signs of hearing damage, or want to ensure that you do not deal with these issues in the future, your best option is to use some form of hearing protection every time you shoot. This can be something as simple as a basic pair of ear plugs, or can be higher tech muffs. Many avoid using this protection because it limits what can be heard, which is a huge negative when you are hunting. However, newer forms of plugs can allow you to continue to hear your surroundings while protecting you from the higher decibel sounds that can cause damage.
Overall, hearing loss is completely preventable with the right methods and precautions. If you are a hunter or just love to shoot guns for leisure or your career, having proper hearing protection is key to avoiding irreversible damage. Protecting your ears every time you shoot is the smartest way to avoid living a lifetime with limited hearing.