"Your ears will get used to the noise." or "Your ears will toughen up." are two of the stupidest statements I have ever heard regarding gunfire and hearing protection. The sad truth, unfortunately, is that I heard those words or similar ones uttered far too often during my formative years as a shooter and hunter.
Getting used to the noise or "toughening up" is incremental deafness. Your ears don't "get used to" loud noises, they get damaged. Every time your ears ring your hearing is being damaged. Yes, it is true that you ears can heal, but you never get back to the point you were before the noise assault occurred.
A fact that many folks don't understand until it's too late is that hearing damage is incremental and builds up over time. Some shooters erroneously believe that when their ears stop ringing that their hearing has come back to normal. That simply is not true. A small amount of permanent damage has been done.
Those who expose themselves to dangerous noise levels over a long period of time may not even realize that they are slowly going deaf. It's not until family members complain about the volume level on the TV or they cannot understand someone in a crowded room that they realize their hearing is damaged.
Hearing Loss Facts
Hearing loss is incremental and irreversible. The slow onset of permanent hearing loss may take place over several years. By the time you realize you have hearing loss the affects cannot be reversed.
Hearing loss is not inevitable. The process of aging does not cause deafness. It is a lifetime of noise assaults on unprotected ears that causes deafness.
It is never too late to protect your hearing. Jealously guard your hearing and protect your ears for the future. Just because you have already experienced hearing loss does not mean you should not protect what you have left.
One shot from rifle, shotgun, or handgun can damage you hearing. The auditory exclusion you experience during the adrenaline rush of a hunt does not protect you ears from damage.
Hearing protection is cheap compared to the cost of hearing aids. Foamy ear plugs cost a few cents a pair and can save you thousands of dollars on electronic hearing aids. Even the more costly electronic hearing protection available is a fraction of what you would have to pay for digital hearing aids.
Hear While You Hunt
When practicing on the range or zeroing their scopes, most every hunter will take precautions with their hearing. They will put in plugs or put on muffs. However, many of these same folks will go to the field to hunt, using the same guns and ammunition, without any hearing protection.
"I need to hear that deer crunching through the woods." Or "I've got to hear the elk as he bugles back at my call." Yes, hearing the sounds of the wild is a part of the excitement of the hunt. However, one shot from that .30-06 rifle or a blast of turkey load from your Mossberg will do permanent damage to your ears. Add that damage up over the years and you eventually won't be able to hear a buffalo bearing down on you.
How many of you take your kids or grandkids hunting? Are we teaching them to protect their ears for a lifetime or passing down the same old ignorance?
It's the 21st Century folks, time to start taking advantage of modern technology. Walker's Game Ears has been in the business of protecting hunters' hearing for quite a while now. Their new 4 microphone electronic muffs are fantastic. You can hear game from all directions and still keep your hearing. Yeah, I know, they aren't free. Go out and price a set of WalkersGameEar digital hearing aids for your battered ears and tell me how much they cost.
Okay, so you've got a limited budget. Check out the SonicDefender ear protection from SureFire. These ear plugs allow safe sounds to get through but block out harmful noises. These are perfect for hunting applications where you will be firing a few shots versus hundreds on the range.
You might have picked up a hint of passion in this piece. That's because I have hearing damage and grew up listening to poor advice from old shooters. I wish someone would have given me the facts about hearing loss when I first picked up a rifle, but they didn't. That being said, I jealously guard the hearing that I have left and you should too.
Do we want another generation of deaf hunters? The time is now to raise intelligent hunters and shooters that will actually be able to hear their grandkids speak because they protected their ears in the field. Hearing Pro mentioned in this article: SonicDefender / WalkersGameEar
Paul Markel © 2013
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