Updated: Nov 24, 2020
- by Matthew Falk, Doctoral Resident at Professional Hearing Services
It’s almost Fall, which means the long-awaited hunting season is right around the corner. For many, gun safety is a very important aspect to hunting. However, one area of gun safety is often overlooked, hearing protection. According to OSHA, any noise exposure over 140dB SPL can cause permanent damage to one’s hearing. To put this into perspective a small .22 caliber rifle can produce around 140dB. Therefore, a single shot from a rifle, shotgun, or pistol can cause instant hearing loss. Protecting your Hearing is important for everyone, especially for our teenage children. With hearing loss now correlated with memory issues and dementia, now is the time to begin protecting your hearing around all noisy situations.
There are two main hearing protection options for those that are hunting in the field. The first is the standard foam ear plugs which is the cheapest option and can be found at any drug store. They come in a variety of shapes from cylinders to cones but both are only effective if placed in the ear appropriately. For proper insertion you roll them and then pull your ear back using your other hand to open the ear canal and place the ear plug into your ear while letting it expand.
A disadvantage of this type of this type of ear plug is some hunters feel it is too occluding and can take away from their ability to hear sounds they want to hear, such as game or other hunters. Another disadvantage of foam ear plugs are they are often inserted incorrectly, and therefore do not provide adequate noise reduction. These two disadvantages can be resolved with a custom ear plug such as a Hocks Noise Breaker or Defend Ear Digital. These ear plugs are custom made for comfort and noise reduction. An audiologist takes an impression of your ear(s) for the personal fitting. Hocks noise breakers prevent hearing loss caused by harmful gunshot noise but allows ambient sounds such as conversational speech through the ear plug. Defend Ear digital also blocks harmful gunshot noise. However, these devices allow the hunter to adjust sound levels to safely amplify sounds such as a flushing pheasant in the field or deer on a trail.
Stop in to your local audiologist for free foam ear plugs or ask if they can offer custom made earplugs. Enjoy your hunting season but keep your hearing!