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Hunters and Hearing Loss

Hunters and Hearing Loss: Understanding the Hazards by John O’Connor

Hearing is critical for outdoor sportsmen, particularly hunters. From the faint crackling of dry leaves to the far-away call of a duck, sounds help hunters anticipate their next shot. The lack of adequate hearing protection can instantly damage hearing and keep hunters from participating in their favorite sport.

As they head to the woods and fields during hunting season, many outdoor sportsmen carry new guns, hunting knives and other accessories. Wise hunters include hearing protection on their equipment lists. A hearing aid or hearing aids provide sound amplification for hearing-impaired hunters. As many sportsmen can attest, just one hunting trip without adequate protection can cause noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL).

My father has been a hunter for many years, but often times when he was off on a hunting trip with friends or at the range teaching me how to shoot he would not be wearing hearing protection. Although he would not be wearing hearing protection he would always make sure that I was equipped with a proper hearing device. After many years of hunting and shooting without hearing protection, the gun blasts began to take a toll on his hearing so he eventually decided to see a doctor. Many tests later the doctors concluded that my father is affected severely by noise- induced hearing loss and that he would require the use of hearing aids in order for him to hear well. Although my father still heads to the range to practice he always makes sure he has his hearing aids in and earmuffs on at all times to limit any further damage to his ears.

Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

Noise-induced hearing loss involves hearing damage from overexposure to loud sounds. Most guns, especially those that are used for hunting, have a sound range between 140 and 170 decibels. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), long or repeated exposure to sounds that are louder than 85 decibels can cause permanent damage to hearing.

The amount of time it takes for the damage to occur depends on the decibel levels of sound. The louder the sound, the sooner it can cause hearing damage. The distance from the sound source is another important factor. The NIH advises hunters to avoid sounds that are too loud, too close or too long.

Causes and Symptoms

Noise exposure damages hair cells inside the ears as well as the auditory nerve. Impulse sound often results in immediate and permanent hearing loss. Tinnitus, a ringing or buzzing in the ears, may accompany hearing loss. The damage can occur in one or both ears.

Continuous exposure to gunfire also damages hair cells and the hearing nerve. However, the damage tends to occur more gradually than with impulse sound exposure. Tinnitus is also common with NIHL caused by continuous exposure to loud noise.

Over time, someone with noise-induce hearing loss will hear muffled or distorted sounds. In addition to the important sounds that signal their next shot, other sounds are difficult to hear for hunters with NIHL. For example, hearing-impaired hunters may find it hard to understand another hunter’s speech.

Prevention and Protection

The best way to prevent noise-induced hearing loss is to recognize noise hazards and practice good hearing health. Hunters must understand that gun noise causes hearing damage. Earplugs, earmuffs and other protective devices can protect hearing during hunting activities.

Hearing tests are another good idea for shooting sportsmen. Regular examinations help hunters take steps to prevent further damage. Hearing loss cannot be reversed, but treatments can improve hearing. Be proactive today in protecting your hearing to ensure healthy hearing in the future!

Hi my name is John O’Connor, I am a father, outdoorsman and passionate about living a healthy lifestyle.  Over the past few years I have become more and more interested in hearing loss.  My father and grandfathers, who are and were all hunters, are affected by hearing loss.  I feel that there is a general lack of understanding around the issue and it is our job to spread awareness where we can.  Check out John’s blog at!

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