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With the breeze freshening and the leaves falling, its that time again time to remind those who enjoy shooting sports to cover your ears, whether hunting upland game in Maryland or big game in Alaska. This especially includes persons who have an existing hearing loss and wear hearing aids protect what you have left.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation Recommends Ear Protection
The hearing health community recognizes the dangers shooting sports can present to those involved, as do many in the shooting industry. The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), a recreational advocacy group, located in Newtown, Connecticut, publishes a guide to hunting safety.
Of particular interest to Healthy Hearing readers is Rule #7: ALWAYS WEAR EYE AND EAR PROTECTION WHEN SHOOTING.
The NSSF takes a pro-active stance toward hearing protection for all of those who participate in recreational shooting sports hunting, skeet and trap shooting, target shooting all of these activities can cause serious, permanent hearing loss in a very short time if hearing isnt protected with various sound blocking devices.
And once that hearing is gone, its gone for good.
Recreational Noise Exposure
We recognize the dangers to hearing created in noisy workplaces factories, primarily. And, for the most part, workers and their employers take steps to protect hearing in the work environment.
Problem is these cautious, prudent workers who protect their ears from loud noise at work then spend the weekend hunting, using a circular saw, cruising on a hog or some other LOUD activity. Why the discrepancyr
Well first of all, many companies with excessive industrial noise are monitored by the government to ensure they are protecting their employees hearing. Second, we dont tend to think of fun as dangerous. Work, yes can be very dangerous, but fun stuff is just that all in fun. So, the idea of wearing hearing protection while engaged in recreational shooting sports sometimes gets lost on some participants who dont realize that loud fun is also dangerous fun that requires specific protection.
Effects of Firearm Noise on Hearing
According to Michael Stewart, Ph.D., professor of Audiology at Central Michigan University and Chair of the National Hearing Conservations Prevention of Noise Induced Hearing Loss from Firearm Exposure Committee, the loudness of firearm noise ranges from 140 to over170 dB SPL and is dependent upon the type of gun being shot, length of barrel, size of bore, muzzle break, acoustic environment and amount of gun powder.
No matter the guns specs, firearm noise is dangerously loud and it only takes one exposure to an unprotected ear to do some damage. The following are effects firearm noise can have on hearing:
No matter how many times hunters are exposed during an outing, they are putting their hearing at risk by not wearing ear protection.
Persons with Hearing Loss and Hunting
Many shooting sports enthusiasts already have hearing impairment, which can pose safety concerns while hunting if they are unable to hear their surroundings. However, many of these shooters also want to utilize every advantage, which includes improved hearing with the use of their hearing aids. So for hearing aid users the question is often safety for me or safety for my hearingr Well perhaps there doesnt need to be a choice.
Hearing aids and safety
As previously discussed, firearm noise is extremely dangerous for our hearing and all hunters should wear ear protection. The concept of protection is even more important for persons with hearing loss to protect the hearing they have left and to prevent further damage.
So how does one with hearing loss accomplish both safety and protection while huntingr It is a simple answer wear your hearing aids. But wait, hearing aids amplify sound so how would they protect against extremely loud gunfirer Wouldnt hearing aids make the gunfire even louderr
Great question. As Dr. Stewart explains sound levels from firearms ranges from 140 to over 170 dB SPL and are so excessively loud that they exceed the output capabilities of most hearing aids. The average hearing aid is capable of producing sound outputs around 120 dB SPL, thus firearm noise exceeds the limits a hearing aid can amplify. In fact most hearing aids are programmed by the hearing care professional to reduce the amplification of loud sounds above 100 dB SPL to provide comfort as well as to protect the wearer from further hearing damage.
Although this sounds so simple it is important to note this solution is not going to work for every hearing aid wearer. For example persons wearing open fitting behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids will not be protected because their ear canal is not sealed by an earmold.
The effectiveness of a hearing aid to provide protection from firearm noise damage is heavily dependent upon the fit of the hearing aid. It is important the hearing aid has a snug fit to reduce the likelihood of sound entering the ear. If the hearing aid or earmold has any sort of vent, Dr. Stewart recommends for further protection to temporarily plug this vent while hunting. Discuss this with your hearing care professional, they will be able to assist you with this.
Not only is Dr. Stewart heavily involved with researching the effects of firearm noise exposure on our hearing, he is also a shooting sports enthusiast himself who has witnessed first hand among his patients and friends how dangerous firearm noise can be. Although a person is protected at the minimal level with hearing aids, I recommend to my shooting sport hearing aid patients to consider purchasing an extra set of hearing aids for hunting and shooting sports. More specifically I recommend BTE hearing aids, with a tight fitting silicone mold with no vent. Not only will this type of fitting provide the amplification they need for their hearing loss, it will provide the maximum protection to prevent further hearing loss due to noise exposure.
Because everyday hearing aids are already an investment, Dr. Stewart recommends purchasing basic or lower cost digital hearing aids for this purchase. Most hearing aid manufacturers have a value BTE line which still provides adequate amplification, but simply without all the fancy bells and whistles.
Bottom Liner Protect What You Got.
Why hunters, or anyone for that matter, would risk further damage to their sensitive hearing mechanisms remains a mystery. The fact is, it only takes one round with unprotected ears to do permanent damage.
And continued exposure say a couple of rounds of skeet each week will simply add wear and tear to a system thats already malfunctioning.
So, the key is simple. Protect the natural hearing you already have. If youve experienced hearing loss from shooting sports, workplace noise, disease or trauma thats all the more reason to protect yourself. If you wear hearing aids, discuss with your hearing care professional if your hearing aids will provide adequate protection. The price of a second pair of hunting hearing aids is priceless when compared to the price of losing more of your hearing.
If you are a shooter that does not wear hearing aids, the best recommendation is to have your hearing tested. Obtain a baseline measurement and discuss hearing protection options with your hearing care professional.
The ability to hear is a quality of life issue and for those who enjoy shooting sports, so is the ability to engage in their favorite pastime. However, each shooter must take responsibility for protecting his or her hearing especially in cases where hearing loss is already present.
So enjoy your hobby. Dont let your hearing be part of the one that got away story after a long weekend of hunting.
© Copyright 2014. HealthyHearing.com does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
How can loud noise damage hearing?
Understanding how we hear will help you to understand how loud noise can hurt your hearing.
One of the most common bad effects of loud noise on hearing is a permanent hearing loss. This happens in the following way:
How else can loud noise be harmful?
Loud noise can increase fatigue and cause irritability.
Noise can reduce the ability to pay attention to tasks. This is a concern at the workplace when it comes to workers’ safety: The ability to detect faulty equipment operation or warning signals can be reduced. Noise can also reduce productivity.
Noisy classrooms can make it harder for children to learn. To read more about the harmful impact of noise in schools, view the Noisy Classrooms page.
Noisy backgrounds can make understanding conversation harder. The noise can mask or cover up some of the sounds of speech, making a word like “time” sound like “dime.” More concentration and energy are needed not only to listen and hear over the noise but also to speak louder. As a result, voices can be strained, and laryngitis can develop.
Another common effect of loud sound on hearing is tinnitus. Tinnitus is ringing, buzzing, or other sounds in the ear.
Loud noise can also cause other physical problems, such as:
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
Exposure to noise greater than 140 dB can permanently damage hearing. Almost all firearms create noise that is over the 140-dB level. A small .22-caliber rifle can produce noise around 140 dB, while big-bore rifles and pistols can produce sound over 175 dB. Firing guns in a place where sounds can reverberate, or bounce off walls and other structures, can make noises louder and increase the risk of hearing loss. Also, adding muzzle brakes or other modifications can make the firearm louder. People who do not wear hearing protection while shooting can suffer a severe hearing loss with as little as one shot, if the conditions are right. Audiologists see this often, especially during hunting season when hunters and bystanders may be exposed to rapid fire from big-bore rifles, shotguns, or pistols.
To read more about:
Hearing Loss Due To Firearm Noise
Protecting Your Hearing From Firearm Noise &
Tips To Protect Your Hearing
click on the following link
The key words are education and prevention!
Dealing with noise and its effects on your hearing is a personal responsibility. The obvious first rule is to avoid loud noise whenever possible. A good rule of thumb is to remember that if you must shout to be heard, then you should avoid the situation.
In typical day-to-day activities, you and your children can be exposed to damaging noise from many sources, such as:
In addition, recreational activities can be sources of damaging noise:
Here are some things you can do:
Wear hearing protection. Cotton in the ears will not work. Hearing protection, such as earmuffs or earplugs, can be purchased at drugstores, hardware stores, or sports stores. Custom earmolds can be made to fit your ears by an audiologist. Learn how to correctly insert the earplugs and earmolds for the best noise reduction.
Earplugs are placed into the ear canal so that they totally block the canal. They come in different shapes and sizes, or they can be custom-made by taking an impression of the ear. Earplugs can reduce noise by 15 to 30 decibels (dB) depending on how they are made and fit.
Earmuffs fit completely over both ears. They must fit tightly so that sound is blocked from entering the ears. Like earplugs, muffs can reduce noise 15 to 30 dB depending on how they are made and fit.
Earplugs and earmuffs can be used together to achieve even greater sound reduction. Use of earplugs and earmuffs is recommended when noise exposure is particularly high.
Do not listen to loud sounds for too long. If you don’t have hearing protection, move away from the loud sound. Give your ears a break from the sound. Plug your ears with your fingers as emergency vehicles pass on the road.
Lower the loudness of the sound. Keep personal listening devices set to no more than half volume. Don’t be afraid to ask others to turn down the sounds from speakers. Speak to the movie theater projectionist if the movie sound track is too loud.
Be a good consumer. Look for noise ratings on appliances, sporting equipment, power tools, and hair dryers. Purchase quieter products. This is especially important when purchasing toys for children.
Be a local advocate. Some movie theaters, health clubs, dance clubs, bars, and amusement centers are very noisy. Speak to managers and those in charge about the loud noise and the potential damages to hearing. Ask to have the noise source lowered.
Can my ears get used to noise?
Don’t be fooled by thinking your ears are “tough” or that you have the ability to “tune it out”! Noise-induced hearing loss is usually gradual and painless but, unfortunately, permanent. Once destroyed, the hearing nerve and its sensory nerve cells do not repair.
If you think you have “gotten used to” the noise you routinely encounter, you may already have some hearing damage.
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
501-778-3868 or 501-922-0053