Across North America, hunting is a popular pastime. While most hunters are conscientious gun owners with a focus on firearm safety, far fewer hunters take the same precaution with their own auditory health. In fact, according to recent research, as many as 95 percent of hunters fail to use any form of hearing protection. Considering that a shotgun blast registers 140 decibels, the absence of hearing protection puts hunters at great risk of noise-induced hearing loss (see noise induced hearing loss facts).
Loud noise can irreparably damage the cells of the inner ear. Hunters need to protect these cells, but also need to be able to shoot accurately as well as communicate with fellow hunters. With this in mind, there are a few options available to hunters for hearing protection.
Earplugs are a common and reliable source of protection. However, they must be fitted properly to serve their purpose. A second option are earmuffs, which fit over the ear, offering great protection, but at the risk of diminishing overall hearing. Finally, noise-canceling devices eliminate noise over certain decibel levels while allowing normal conversation to continue. Each of these options has their advantage and hunters should test all three to determine which approach fits best with their physical and financial needs.
Unprotected hunters are at great risk of noise-induced hearing loss. Such loss is most often gradual, with the changes only evident over time. A single exposure to loud noise may not seem to cause any loss, but the damage is complete. Over time, unprotected hunters will experience difficulty hearing the television or holding a conversation in a moderately noisy environment. This is noise-induced hearing loss and it is irreversible (see cure for noise induced hearing loss). If you hunt, be smart and find suitable ear protection. The quality of your life is at stake and it pays to have the protection before it’s too late.
Source: BB Audiology