"Never, ever, let your gun ..." Words of warning that should extend to "Never, ever shoot your gun without wearing effective ear protection"
One of the safety rules of shooting should certainly be that the shooter wears efficient ear protection at all times.
Take a cavalier attitude to protecting your hearing and you risk profound deafness and the lifelong misery of tinnitus with all the discomfort, annoyance, dizziness and disorientation that comes with the condition.
Every time you shoot a shotgun or rifle your ears are assaulted by a high level of decibels. Facts and figures show that the noise and recoil shooters are subject to are major causes of deafness amongst the shooting community.
85 decibels and above is dangerous
So what level of decibels is unsafe and likely to cause damage to your hearing? Take a look at the infographic below and you’ll see how the sounds heard in everyday life compare. Exposure to noise over 85 decibels is dangerous and without adequate ear protection you are risking losing one of your precious five senses – hearing.
Source: The Smoking Barrel USA
Avoiding permanent hearing damage
Warnings about using protection came too late for tinnitus patient, 55 -year-old business George Hilton, who now wears a pair of customised ear defenders.
“I was once one of the ‘it will never happen to me’ people who loved shooting and never bothered with hearing protection.
“By the time I realised I should wear ear protection it was too late and tinnitus had already set it. It was almost certainly attributable to my failure to bother about protecting my hearing.
Mark Williams, a leading tinnitus expert adds: “The most worrying aspect of noise induced hearing loss is that the damage to the hearing organ is permanent, with no prospect of repair. The good news is there are different ways shooters can defend their ears.”
So what you should choose to protect your hearing?
There are a variety of options. You can use customised ear defenders that are made to suit you individually or non-customised versions – which could include headphones – whenever you go out shooting or participate in field sports. Of course, whatever ear protection you use will need to be worn every time you go out shooting to be effective.
These are a cheap but effective option and no shooter should be without a packet in their pocket for emergencies.
Headphones – also known as ‘cans’
Here you have a variety of options. You can opt for straightforward noise cancelling headphones or go for a more sophisticated digital version which blocks out sudden noise over a certain amount of decibels. Peltor have a popular selection.
Some shooters like to wear the noise cancelling headphones in conjunction with moulded earplugs.
These digital plugs provide discreet and effective protection from the intensely loud sharp noises generated from firearms. Custom made versions are available. The Tinnitus Clinic has a good selection and can offer advice on what would suit you best.
You may also find that your local GP has an audiology specialist you can discuss hearing protection with, as may your local hospital.
Our shooters on the Forum are often discussing the issue of ear protection so if you want to get involved and see what is being said, you can join in free here.
Sporting Gun will be running a feature in the February issue covering all aspects of ear protection.
Finally, if you’d like to check the current state of your hearing, here’s a quick online hearing test.