Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Hearing Safety by John O' Conner

This is a guest article from John O' Conner:

Hi my name is John O' Conner, I am a father, outdoorsman and passionate about living a healthy lifestyle. Over the past few years I have become more and more interested in hearing loss. MY father and grandfathers, who are and were all hunters, are affected by hearing loss. I feel that is a gerneral lack of understanding around the issue it is our job to spread awareness where we can.Chekc out my new blog at bloggingwjohno.blogspot.com

Hunting and Hearing Safety

People don’t always make the connection between recreational sports like hunting and hearing loss. Although hunters spend billions of dollars on equipment each year, not all of them know to properly protecting their ears against noise injury. Hearing is often a neglected sense. Taking proactive steps to protect the delicate components of the ear will increase safety while out on a hunt.

My father and I have been hunting for many years.  When I was a young boy I remember helping him pack up all of his gear but don’t remember there ever being hearing protection with it all.  Looking back this wasn’t a good choice because now many years later, my father is affected severely by hearing loss.  He loves to still get out and shoot but because of his hearing loss he has to wear hearing aids to help him hear well.  Along with his hearing aids he always makes sure to have his hearing protection on as well. 

Let’s Talk About Noise Trauma

The hearing risk associated with gunfire and hunting comes down to one thing – noise. Sound pressure is an indicator of intensity or loudness. The higher the sound pressure, the louder the noise. Firearms produce an impact sound because of the high sound pressure. This key factor figures into the potential hearing loss for hunters.

Initially, there will be a temporary loss where hearing shifts back to normal within a few days. Longer, more pronounced exposure, leads to an increase in symptoms until the loss is permanent.

Hearing Safety Measures

For hunters, safety is not a new concept. They can take precautionary measures to insure ear health to make the sport even safer.

Know the SPL rating of the firearm. This refers to the sound pressure from the gun or rifle. As a general rule, the longer the barrel, the lower SPL decibel is for that weapon. For example, a shotgun with an 18-inch barrel has an SPL of 156.30 while a 9mm handgun registers at 159.8. Accessories like a muzzle brake increase the noise level. Even a small difference in SPL matters. A 10 dB doubles the loudness of the firearm.

Wear ear protection when you hunt. Hearing protection devices have a rating system to gauge effectiveness. Hunters should use protection with a noise reduction level of at least 29 dB.


Earmuffs provide an acoustic seal that reduces noise.  Hunters should select muffs with a rounded or tapered edge. A common failing of earmuffs is the point of contact between the protection device and the cheek. The weapon stock presses against the muff, raising it up and reducing the effectiveness on one side. Muffs must fit snuggly without coming in contact with the weapon. Earmuffs offer warmth during fall and winter hunting excursions too.


The right earplugs may be a better option for hunters. Foam plugs are comfortable to wear, fit snuggly and do not interfere with the hunt. The foam means the plugs are lightweight and easy to transport while moving through the field. Earmuffs and custom fitted plugs are expensive, and may have short shelf lives. The cost of foam products makes them a practical option.

Electronic Protection

Electronic protection devices come in both plugs and muffs. The design allows the hunter to hear the environmental background noises without suffering the effects of sound pressure from the gunfire. Electronic protection pieces contain a filter that eliminates any sound over 85 dB. This means wind, voices and the sounds of wildlife are still within hearing range.

Hearing is a sense that is often times neglected and not taken seriously.  In following some of the tips above and making smarter choices when out in the range, one can ensure healthy hearing for the future.  

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