Pinkston News Service
Depending on where you live in the U.S., hunting season for large-game and fowl is open, or is about to be. For many gun owners, this means the risk of hearing loss goes up as large bore rifles and shotguns come off the racks and out of safes to see action once again. As men, women and children head out to the fields, forests and blinds, experts have offered a number of options to protect their hearing, their health and their hunt.
It’s estimated that 15 million Americans hunt each year. Indeed, hunting is a way of life for many families, but it’s not without hazards, especially when it comes to hearing loss. Noises greater than 140 decibels (roughly the amount a jet engine at take-off) can permanently damage hearing, but many long arms exceed that threshold by as much as 30 decibels. Study after study confirms that hunters and target shooters without adequate ear protection (after adjusting for age and other factors) were more likely to have a marked high-frequency hearing loss than those who had ear protection.
Some of this is self-induced. Some studies have shown that 70% to 80% of hunters “never wear earplugs or earmuffs.” Mayo Clinic Health System Ear, Nose and Throat specialist Dr. Thomas Lowry told the Mayo Clinic News Network, “I’m an avid sportsman, and I’m amazed by how many people don’t wear hearing protection when they shoot guns.”
To prevent danger, there are strategies one can adopt to mitigate the possibility of hearing loss. Among the recommendations from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association: using or wearing hearing protection devices when shooting, double-protecting your ears (by putting earmuffs over plugs when shooting big-bore firearms) and making hearing protective devices a requisite part of your shooting gear.
Another option is to adopt the use of silencers or suppressors. These gun barrel attachments shave off 20-35 decibels from each report, reducing very loud and damaging noises to a safer level. Silencer Shop (www.silencershop.com), the largest silencer distributor in the U.S., assists buyers in acquiring these highly regulated but effective tools for protecting the aural health, selling suppressors for virtually every firearm setup — even for fowling weapons like shotguns, frequently among the loudest of long arms.
Silencer Shop Founder Dave Matheny says he bought his first suppressor to protect his son who is deaf in one ear. “My son and I enjoy hunting together and to be able to continue to do one of our favorite activities safely, I bought him a silencer to protect his hearing in his good ear. That eventually led me to use my software development expertise to start Silencer Shop to help protect others and make the process of buying a silencer simple.”
Suppressors also provide benefits apart from your hearing. If you hunt with family or a friend, they can protect the hearing of both you and your companions, as well as improve your chances of bagging that trophy, say hunting experts. By reducing the volume of the shot, suppressors help anonymize your position, leaving prey confused as to where the threat is coming from. Suppressors can also improve your aim by reducing jarring noise and recoil that can obstruct follow-up shots.
This fall, hunters in most states who want to preserve their hearing have a number of safety precautions at their disposal.