Hearing Loss For Real For Hunters

There is a one-word question with which I too frequently respond when my wife tells me something. That one-word question?


It all started for me several years ago when I was attending an outdoor writer’s conference in Tennessee. One of the features of each annual conference is to visit the firing range for some hands-on experience with the newest firearms on the market for that year.

I was standing at a station preparing to try out a new muzzleloading rifle. Standing next to me was a fellow writer with a high caliber rifle; I believe it was a 30.06. 

I had a pair of foam ear plugs in my hand and was preparing to insert them but just before I did, the guy next to me fired his rifle. What I experienced next was not only ringing in my ears but a roaring sensation hard to describe. From that day until now, I have limited hearing in my right ear as a result of the absence of protection from that rifle blast.

Dr. Jerrilyn Frasier Vaughan is an audiologist with office in Ruston, who recently posted a column in the Lincoln Parish Journal that addresses the vital importance of proper hearing protection for hunters.
“When you’re in the wild, you’re focusing on the thrill of the hunt, not on your ears. The truth is that noise from a single gunshot at close range can harm them, even leading to permanent hearing loss.

“Noises of 85 decibels or more are known to harm your hearing. A gunshot measures between 120 and 130 decibels, making it extremely hazardous to your ears,” she wrote.

She explained just how your ears are designed to do what they’re supposed to do and how one event, such as the one I experienced in Tennessee, can seriously damage your hearing.

“You rely on tiny hair cells in your inner ear to help you hear. A one-time exposure to an extremely loud noise or listening to loud sounds over time can damage and even destroy these cells, leaving you with hearing loss,” she continued.

One study she mentioned found that men over the age of 48 who hunt regularly are more likely to experience high-frequency hearing loss, the kind that often results from damage caused by sudden loud noises. The risk of having a marked high-frequency hearing loss increased by 7% for every five years a man had hunted.

What suggestions did the doctor offer to prevent hearing loss before it’s too late?
“Hunting ear plugs are usually made of foam and fit tightly in the ear canal, they reduce gunshot noise but not gunshot vibrations,” she said. “Hunting earmuffs minimize the majority of sounds, even at close range. They have a snug fit and enclose the entire ear, making them highly effective at blocking sound.
“Electronic hunting earplugs and earmuffs include technology that suppresses loud noises while still allowing you to hear quieter sounds, such as animal movement. The earplugs are custom molded to your ears for a precise and comfortable fit.”

Although the temperatures have been high and hunting may be the last thing you’re thinking about now, hunting seasons are right around the corner. Follow the advice of this hearing expert to be sure you won’t be having to respond to comments from your wife with that one word that makes her face turn red as she chinches her teeth.