Shooting and hunting are a popular pastime in the U.S.A, with over 13 million people engaging in the activity each year. For hunters, a keen sense of hearing is an important asset. Although silence is the name of the game in hunting, periodic and dangerous noise from gunshots can post a threat to your hearing. Let’s look at some of the key facts about hunting and hearing loss.
A study conducted by the University of Wisconsin aimed to look at the relationship between recreational firearm use and high-frequency hearing loss in older adults. Surveying 3,753 participants, the study showed that men aged 48 to 92 who hunted regularly were more likely to experience high-frequency hearing loss. The risk of hearing loss increased by 7% for every 5 years a man had been hunting.
Perhaps the most alarming result, is that of the study participants, “38 percent of the target shooters and 95 percent of the hunters reported never wearing hearing protection while shooting in the past year.”
Hunting & Noise-Induced Hearing Loss
Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) is one of the most common forms of hearing loss. It is also preventable. NIHL can be caused by a one-time exposure to an intense “impulse” sound, such as a gunshot or explosion. It may also be caused by continuous exposure to loud sounds over an extended period of time.
The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) notes that “long or repeated exposure to sounds at or above 85 decibels can cause hearing loss. The louder the sound, the shorter the amount of time it takes for NIHL to happen.” A single shot from a gun can range between 140-190 decibels, loud enough to cause immediate damage to your hearing. The shot doesn’t have to be fired right next to you, either. Gunshots that are up to 100 feet away can have an impact on your hearing, especially if exposure happens repeatedly and over a prolonged period.
Hunter’s with NIHL may notice that their hearing loss is asymmetrical, that is, worse in one ear than the other. This is the result of a phenomenon known as “acoustic shadow.” Right-handed shooters shoulder their gun on the right. The right ear is tucked into the shoulder, while the left ear is closer to the barrel of the gun. In this instance, the hearing loss would be more severe in the left ear, as the right falls within the head’s acoustic shadow.
Protecting Your Hearing While Hunting
Using appropriate ear protection when hunting is a must. But there are also other steps you can take to help reduce the risks to your hearing when hunting:
- Suppress The Noise – In Minnesota, firearms suppressors, also known as silencers, were legalized in 2015. A silencer will help to reduce the volume of a gunshot, and thereby the risk to your hearing. It’s worth noting that gun suppressors are not legal in every state, so do ensure you check your local state laws. Even with the use of a gun suppressor, we still recommend ear protection.
- Practice Quiet Time – Even if you are using hearing protection, prolonged exposure to firearms can damage your hearing. You can help to further reduce the risk of hearing loss by taking a timeout between rounds. If you can do so in a quiet area, even better. Give yourself 5 – 10 minutes to let your ears rest.
- Wear Protection – Even if you’re not shooting, if you’re out with a group or at the shooting range your ears can be exposed to dangerous volumes. Keep your hearing protection in at all times.
Can You Hunt If You Wear Hearing Aids?
Being a hearing aid wearer doesn’t immediately exclude you from hunting. It does, however, pose some challenges. Rapid, loud noises such as a gunshot can overload the microphone on your hearing aid, making them ineffective. And if your hearing aid includes a noise-cancelling feature, don’t immediately assume that it will protect your ears against gunfire. If you’re a hearing aid wearer but want to continue hunting, we recommend booking in an appointment with the team at Clear Wave Hearing Center. We’ll be happy to discuss the options that are available to you.
Hunting doesn’t have to result in a hearing loss. Protect your hearing with the tips above, and you’ll be able to enjoy many years of hunting. If you’d like to discuss any of the above information in further detail, why not schedule an appointment? Call today on (507) 208-7002, or click here to request an appointment.