If you don’t use hearing protection while hunting and shooting, you may lose the ability to hear other meaningful sounds in nature, as well as the sounds of family, friends, music and more. Noise from gunshots can cause long-term hearing damage and that damage accumulates over time, which is especially troublesome to younger shooters.
A gunshot ranges from 140 decibels to 190 decibels, which is enough to cause significant, immediate and permanent noise-induced hearing loss (NHL). Often times, hunters do not wear ear plugs while hunting because they do not want to miss the quiet sounds of twigs snapping, elk bugling or of their dog running in the cornfield. It’s important, however, to look at the whole picture of how hearing loss takes place and why hearing protection is so vital.
The finely-tuned and delicate auditory system is designed to enhance the very soft sounds in nature by enhancing/amplifying these sounds. When a loud impulse-acoustic sound enters the auditory system, it damages the part of the inner-ear called the ‘outer hair-cells.’ These fine-delicate sensory cells can ‘explode,’ become dislodged and absorbed by the inner-ear, causing permanent hearing loss, which is called Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL). This cannot be repaired.
A number of factors play into hunting-related NIHL. Hunters may notice, for example, that their hearing loss is worse in one ear than in the other. That is due to a phenomenon called the ‘Acoustic-Shadow Effect.’ A right-handed shooter will shoulder the gun on their right side, protecting the right ear into the shoulder and having the left ear closer to the gun-barrel, which is the source of the damaging acoustical concussion. This results in a more severe hearing loss in the left ear.
Other factors come into play, such as barrel length, bullet speed, cartridge intensity and, possibly, the muzzle brake. Equipment notwithstanding, hearing protection while hunting is an absolute necessity but that doesn’t mean one needs to miss out on the important sounds, either.
Electronic Shooter’s Protection (ESP, Trademark and various other custom-made companies) are available to bring the necessary protection to the auditory system to slow down or prevent damage, but also to enhance the environmental sounds, allowing the wearer to hear important cue-sounds while hunting.
There is no doubt that part of the excitement within the hunting experience is spending time outdoors, hearing the sounds of nature, of hunting partners (including the happy sounds of the hard-working hunting dogs) and of friends. The benefits of Electronic Shooting Protection allow hunters to enjoy those sounds for years to come.
Brought to you by the Hearing Healthcare Experts at Wyoming Otolaryngology. Call 307-577-4240 for a consultation to decide the best ways to protect your hearing and be sure to mention this article for a free hearing screening.