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Do You Need to Wear Earplugs During Hunting or Shooting?

three sets of various orange and yellow earplugs

Ear protection matters in a great many situations in life, from protecting the ears during music concerts to ensuring that you are wearing it while operating power tools. Another situation you should be concerned with hearing protection includes hunting. The problem is that it's often ignored by hunters using firearms as they concentrate on their sport without regard for their hearing health.

Every single shot from a gun, however, is behind the erosion of the hair cells in the inner ears and when you are out hunting, hearing is an important tool to ensure that you pick up disturbances around you. Understanding the dangers of hunting without ear protection is important if you want to ensure that you are protected during your sport.

Why is hunting without hearing protection dangerous?

Firearms are held up close to the face when being shot during hunting season, and just one blast from a firearm can send your ears ringing. Shooting firearms will cause damage to the hearing when hunting, and even just when in the range and not personally firing a gun yourself. A gunshot or two may not sound like much, but it's never just a gunshot or two and when even one shot can damage your hearing.

A single blast of a shotgun reached up to 165 decibels and while we need to keep volume at or below 85 decibels for comfort, that's more than double the volume you should be hearing. This volume range is louder than a jet engine at 100 feet, which is only at 140dB. Even a loud rock concert is quieter than a shotgun, and the loudest recommended noise exposure is 140dB, but it will hurt your hearing from 125dB.

So, if that is the safe range for noise, a shotgun blast at 165dB is not acceptable for your inner ear. One gunshot at a time may not sound like much, but it can cause you permanent hearing damage even with the exposure being in the short term.

Bird hunters are most at risk of hearing loss while hunting compared to other hunter types. This is largely because they are shooting multiple rounds in a day and are usually socializing with other hunters, too. Hearing damage isn't unique to hunting, but they do have to deal with something called hunter's ear.

All about hunter's ear

In most hunting circles, this is known as the shooter's ear. It's a condition that is caused by the way the hunter is exposed to noise from a gunshot and it causes asymmetrical hearing loss as a result. The ear that is facing the blast from the muzzle takes the hit from the noise, and as this level is so high, hearing loss is often the outcome.

It can be instant loss to hearing when this occurs, and over time it gets worse. Over the non-dominant ear, there is an ear shadow, where the head is the buffer and there is still an impact for hearing in that ear but not as much as the dominant ear. As the hair cells are affected by sound, they begin to bend and this causes the pores at the end of the hairs to open up.

This creates the electrical signals carried to the brain and this is converted to sound. When there is noise-induced hearing loss present, the hair cells are destroyed and they don't grow back. Once they're damaged, that's it.

Every time you are exposed to loud noises at this level, there is a chance of losing your hearing. Most of the time, hearing loss is gradual, but the louder intermittent sounds that occur as a result of gunshots can cause as much damage as rupturing the eardrum when it is loud enough.

Symptoms of hearing loss

The symptoms of hearing loss occur over time when the loss is gradual, but in some cases, loss is instant and tinnitus is one symptom to look for. This loud ringing in the ears is a good sign your hearing is damaged, but other effects include:

  • Sound distortion
  • Inability to hear people when they talk
  • Tinnitus
  • Temporary full hearing loss. This can take up to 48 hours to come back.

How to protect your hearing

When you seek out professional help at Beck Hearing Aid Center, you will learn the best types of hearing protection from your audiologist. Call us today at 519-438-0492 for more information on the right hearing protection and you will be given expert advice that will help you to keep your hearing intact while you are on the range. The benefit of hearing protection is obvious, so take advantage today!


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