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Ear Protection for Shooters

Man Holding Earmuffs

Anyone who doesn’t use ear protection when shooting a firearm may suffer from tinnitus or hearing loss with as little as a single shot. Most firearms create noise that is greater than 140 dB, with some rifles and pistols capable of noise as great as 175 dB.

Typically, shooting will result in high-frequency hearing loss. Due to many speech sounds being high-frequency in nature, individuals who have hearing loss that results from firearm use will complain of having the ability to hear, yet not understand speech. The hearing loss and/or ringing in the ear, unfortunately, is usually permanent. Consistent protection for hearing is critical to preventing hearing loss that results from firearm shooting.

How can you protect yourself?

Different kinds of ear protection are out there to prevent hearing loss when shooting. Here are a few popular solutions:

Standard earplugs plus earmuffs provide double protection that might be needed, depending upon the caliber of gun. If properly placed, they provide great protection, yet might be uncomfortable inside the ear canal which is curved or narrow.

Customized passive earmolds provide a more tailored fit and prevent slight leaks that might permit sound through if the standard earplug isn’t properly inserted or deep enough.

Electronic muffs permit a shooter to hear conversation as they block firearm sounds. Some people find them uncomfortable and heavy, or more susceptible to causing perspiration after using for a long period of time.

Customized electronic shooter protection permits soft sounds through, as they immediately cut off loud sounds higher than 90 dB. It will allow a shooter to hear the flutter of a bird, movement of animals inside the brush, as well as carry on a decent conversation, while practicing or out in the field. Because they’re custom-fitted to a user's ear and lightweight, they’re comfortable to wear for several hours. A 10-15 minute quick appointment is needed to take an exact ear impression so the end product provides the best fit and hearing protection.

How can noise-induced hearing loss be diagnosed?

Usually, hearing loss develops over a span of several years. As it’s gradual and painless, you may not notice it. What you may notice is a ringing or additional sound inside the ear (tinnitus), which might be the result of long-range exposure to noise which damaged hearing. Or, you might experience problems understanding what others are saying; they might seem to be mumbling, particularly as you’re in a noisy area like at a party or in a crowd. This might be the start of high-frequency hearing loss; hearing tests will detect it. If you experience any of the above symptoms, you might not have anything more serious than an ear infection or impacted wax, which may easily be corrected. But, it may be hearing loss from noise. You shouldn’t take any chances with noise – the hearing loss it’ll cause is permanent. If you think you are experiencing hearing loss, consult an audiologist who has specialized training in hearing disorders and ear care.