Hunting and target shooting are popular past-times in the U.S. However, if you’re not careful, these hobbies can be hazardous for your hearing. Below we review everything you need to know about the risks of shooting firearms when it comes to your ears, what the studies show and how you can protect your hearing.
How Loud Is Too Loud?
According to OSHA, any sound over 85 decibels (dB) can cause permanent hearing damage with enough exposure. Sounds at 85 dB cause damage after eight hours of exposure, while sounds above 120 dB can cause damage immediately. A small .22-caliber rifle produces sound around 140 dB, while a big-bore rifle or pistol can produce sounds as loud as 190 dB. If you fire in an indoor shooting range, the reverberation can magnify the sound even more.
Within the inner ears are tiny hair cells called stereocilia. The stereocilia convert soundwaves into electrical energy that the brain interprets as sound. When loud sounds pass through the ears, the cells are damaged or destroyed. Once damaged, these cells do not regenerate, and permanent sensorineural hearing loss is the result.
What the Studies Show
One study by the University of Wisconsin found that men between the ages of 48 and 92 who hunted regularly were more likely to experience high-frequency hearing loss. This risk increased 7% for every five years each participant had hunted.
High-frequency hearing loss tends to cause problems distinguishing between certain consonant sounds, like the “s,” “th” and “v” sounds. Many people with high-frequency hearing loss report being able to hear, but not understand, what people are saying.
What’s most alarming about this study is that of the 3,753 study participants, 38% of the target shooters and 95% of the hunters reported never wearing hearing protection while shooting during the previous year.
How You Can Protect Your Hearing While Hunting
Next time you set out to hunt at First Mine Run Game Farm, be sure to:
- Wear hearing protection at all times.
- Double-protect your ears (earmuffs over earplugs).
- Invest in hunter’s plugs, which block loud sounds while allowing safe sounds through clearly.
- Choose a smaller caliber firearm.
- Avoid shooting in groups or in reverberant environments.
For more information or to schedule an appointment, call Hearing Center Silver Spring today.