Hunters are at risk for noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). This can happen from one singular shot or shots over a lifetime. When a person is exposed to sounds above 85 dBA, NIHL occurs.

How can hunters prevent noise-induced hearing loss?

  • Attenuation is “a general term that refers to any reduction in the strength of a signal.” Passive or active hearing protection can be used to accomplish the attenuation of gunfire noise. The amount of noise attenuation is measured by a Noise Reduction Rating (NRR), a complex unit of measurement expressed in decibels. The higher the NRR number, the better the noise reduction and hearing protection. What are the types of hearing protection?
  • Earplugs- considered a passive form of hearing protection, they can reduce actual noise by 5 to 13 dBA, can be used in conjunction with earmuffs when noise exceeds 105 dBA, which is highly recommended. Earplugs can have an NRR of 29 dBA and earmuffs can have an NRR of 27 dBA, but the combined effect is only 34 dBA.
  • Earmuffs- considered the best option when at a shooting range. Two main types of earmuffs, electronic and passive (non-electronic). Depending on which type, they can either block out all noise or only when loud noises are detected. Why is hearing protection important for hunters and shooters?
  • 140dBA is how loud a noise/sound needs to be in order to produce hearing loss. It is also on the low-end decibel mark for most firearms. • Studies have shown that about 50% of gun users use hearing protection.

Using hearing protection is extremely important for gun users because the long term effects can be challenging when protection is avoided. Shooters and hunters who do not wear the recommended hearing protection while shooting can suffer hearing loss with as little as one shot. Audiologists do see this often, especially during hunting season (September through June, in some states) when hunters, shooters and bystanders are exposed to rapid fire from rifles, shotguns, and/or pistols.

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