We said, “MARCH 3RD IS WORLD HEARING DAY!”
If you’ve ever tried to get the attention of a seasoned hunter or shooter, you’re likely to be met with “Huh?”, “Speak up!”, “Can you repeat that?”, or a quizzical look with an index finger pointed towards their ear. It’s also not uncommon to see plenty of hearing aids embedded in the ear canals of long-term firearm enthusiasts. As much as we can all agree that shooting is a fun and exciting activity (as well as a $28 billion industry), it’s no surprise that it can also pose a significant risk to your hearing.
While many of us don’t think twice about heading to the range without a trusty pair of earmuffs, there are situations, namely hunting, where shooters forgo ear protection in favor of hearing wild game sounds or simply not having enough time to throw on their earmuffs while staring down a trophy buck. I myself can attest to sustaining hearing damage after a few hunts where this was the case.
Decibels & Hearing Damage
The sound of a gunshot is incredibly loud, with some firearms producing sounds exceeding 160 decibels. To put this in perspective, a jet engine is measured at 100-140 decibels, whereas a normal conversation is typically around 55-60 decibels. According to the CDC, sounds above 70 decibels can cause hearing damage. When a gun is fired, the sound produced is so loud that it can cause immediate and permanent damage to your hearing if you’re not adequately protected.
The damage caused by exposure to loud noises is cumulative, which means that the more you’re exposed to loud sounds without protection, the more significant the damage will be over time. Hearing loss caused by exposure to loud noises is often irreversible, and once it occurs, it cannot be repaired. This type of hearing loss is known as noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). NIHL is a type of hearing loss that occurs gradually over time, and it can be difficult to notice at first. Symptoms of NIHL can include difficulty hearing high-pitched sounds, a constant ringing in the ears (known as tinnitus), and difficulty understanding speech, especially in noisy environments.
Hearing damage can take many forms, including hearing loss, tinnitus, and hyperacusis. Hearing loss can be partial or total and can affect one or both ears. Tinnitus is the ringing, buzzing, or whistling sound that occurs in the ears, and hyperacusis is an increased sensitivity to sound, which can cause discomfort or pain.
Hearing Protection Options
There are several types of hearing protection available, including earmuffs, earbuds, and earplugs. When choosing hearing protection, it’s important to select a type that provides adequate protection. Look for products that offer a noise reduction rating (NRR) of at least 25 or higher. This means that the product will reduce the sound level by at least 25 decibels. The higher the NRR, the better the hearing protection.
Walker’s ATACS Sport Earbuds are a perfect example of hearing protection that can be worn all day long. The earbuds use Sound Activated Compression (SAC) to cut out harmful noise levels.
Earmuffs for shooting, be they electronic or standard, provide comprehensive protection against noise.
Plain foam ear plugs provide a quick and compact solution to hearing protection.
Hearing protection technology has come a long way in recent years. so much so that it can accommodate just about anyone. From hunters who want to stay alert of their surroundings without damaging their eardrums after firing off a shot to shooters who don’t want to spend hours wearing a pair of bulky earmuffs. Whatever method of protection you choose, know that if you’re not preventing hearing loss, you’re perpetuating it. As far as we’re concerned, every day should be World Hearing Day—you only have one pair of ears, so take care of them!