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What's The Connection Between Hunting & Hearing Loss?
Noise levels at 85 decibels and higher can damage your hearing — permanently, in some cases. With the ability of even small-caliber firearms to reach well past that threshold to levels including 140 decibels, it’s no wonder that having your ears unprotected during shooting can lead to hearing loss.
According to a report at the American-Speech-Language-Hearing Association’s (ASHA) website, other factors can further contribute to dangerous noise levels during firearm use. For example:
- Discharging the gun where the sound can reverberate or echo
- Modifying the firearm with mechanisms such as muzzle brakes
What’s more, excess noise exposure and hearing loss are both linked to tinnitus— that annoying humming, buzzing, or other head noise that no one but you can hear. Tinnitus affects millions of people around the world and — like hearing loss — can get in the way of everyday life.
People who operate firearms are more likely to have hearing loss, per the ASHA report, making it important to safeguard your ears before firing a single shot.
What are the Effects of Hearing Loss?
It’s not uncommon to think of hearing loss as simply a communication issue. There’s so much more at stake, however. In fact, hearing impairment is also tied to:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Cognitive decline
- Risk of balance issues, including falls
- Reduced household income
- Social withdrawal and isolation
- Many other challenges
As you can imagine, hearing loss may also affect the way you hunt. Healthy hearing supports situational awareness, which plays an important role in the field. Protecting your hearing helps ensure such awareness is there when you need it most.
How Can I Protect My Ears When Hunting or Shooting?
It’s important to know the difference between hearing enhancement and hearing protection. If you want to amplify hearing, get a hearing enhancer that also reduces gunshot noise. If you instead seek only to amplify, you’ll be amplifying the problem.
Let’s take a look at earmuffs and earplugs, two categories of options to protect your hearing when on a hunt:
Earmuffs are designed to fit close against the head and reduce outside noise using acoustic foam. They can be worn alone or with earplugs, which can help reduce harmful noise even further.
Earplugs for use during shooting come in a variety of types, making it best to consult a professional for the right solution. Types include:
Custom: This is ideal for the professional shooter or hunter who needs high-quality, secure, comfortable protection. Customized plugs comprise an actual mold of your ear canal taken by a hearing professional.
Electronic shooter earplugs: Digital sound technology works to compress noise above a harmful decibel level and enhance quieter levels. This hearing protection is smaller, making it more appealing than earmuffs for most firearm users. Some have advanced background noise reduction to reduce ambient white noise for enhanced clarity.
Reusable shooter earplugs: These plugs come in either the most commonly known foam material, moldable putty-like material, or a more structured silicone.