Advice from Your Hearing Specialist for Anyone That Loves Shooting

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hearing health careAmericans like their guns. Some of this interest in guns derives from TV and movies where policemen, cowboys and bad guys are donning their guns with pride and constantly shooting at one another. The impression left by these images must have been powerful, because America still has millions of gun owners who fire them often, while hunting or at ranges. The piece of the story that you don’t see on TV or in the movies is just what happens to these gun shooters in their later years. Many wind up close to deaf or suffer major hearing problems.

Noise-induced hearing loss, or NIHL, is a very real concern, and accounts for a large percentage of hearing disabilities in today’s world. NIHL can be caused by two forms of noise – sustained high noise levels (for example heavy machinery sounds), and transient sounds at high volumes (for example gunfire or explosions)

The loudness of sounds is measured in decibels, with zero decibels corresponding to the sound of totalsilence, 40 decibels in a library setting, and 60 decibels being the volume of a typical conversation. The decibel scale is logarithmic. 50 decibels is twice as loud as 40, 60 is four times as loud as 40, and 70 is eight times as loud as 40 decibels. Continuous exposure to sounds over 90 decibels can result in irreversible, NIHL after only a few weeks. Exposure to even quick periods of louder sounds (for instance a jet engine or rock concert at 120 decibels) can cause long term loss of hearing in just a few minutes. Gunshots measure 140 decibels.

One topic that gun fans and hearing specialists agree about is that no one should be firing a gun lacking some type of hearing protection. What kind of ear protection is ideal will depend to some extent on where you’re shooting.

If you typically fire guns at shooting ranges, the ideal ear protection is the “muff” headphones which fit over the ear, because they prevent the sound of gunfire from hitting not only your inner ears, but also the cochlear bones behind them. The muff can be easily paired with in-the-ear foam ear plugs for added protection. Many range shooters will opt for in-the-ear foam plugs with a Noise Reduction Rating of 30 or higher for use with their muffs. The best protection – and unfortunately the most costly – is offered by headphones with electronic noise-cancelling technology. Additionally, they have the advantage of allowing you to hear normal-volume conversations, while blocking the transient high-decibel sound of the gun firing.

Regardless of whether you’re a novice or experienced range shooter, ask your hearing care professional about the newest ear protection products, and under no circumstances go to the range without them. They will probably have some specific advice for you; listen to it while you still can.

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