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December 09, 2008

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Bourjaily: Can You Hear Me Now?

My hearing isn’t getting any better as I get older, but my friends’ hearing loss is catching up to mine. I attribute that to my wearing hearing protection any time I shoot a gun on the range or in the field. 

In my early 20s I went on my first dove hunt, and burned through five or six boxes of shells in my old A-5 with a vented PolyChoke. (It was loud – I’m told Cutts Compensators were even louder).  At any rate, my ears rang for three days afterwards. I went to an audiologist, and tests showed a definite loss in my right ear; it’s the off-side ear that takes a beating and I am left-handed. Today I have a very difficult time understanding conversation in a noisy room. Worse, I can hardly ever hear turkeys drumming.

But, since that hunt, I have worn hearing protection for everything, even shooting air rifles, and my hearing hasn’t declined much more. At the range, I wear electronic muffs over plugs. On dove hunts, I wear foam earplugs. Hunting waterfowl and birds, I use those North Sonic Ear Valves, which have a mechanical valve that closes when you shoot. Some people tell you they don’t work, but to me they make a real difference. With them, I can hear flushing birds yet still protect my hearing. And, on those occasions when someone thoughtlessly puts a muzzle next to my ear and shoots, I can turn calmly to them and say “Don’t do that again,” rather than falling to the ground in pain, clutching my ears.

Does anybody else here wear earplugs in the field? Perhaps I have to say it a little louder: DOES ANYBODY HERE WEAR EARPLUGS IN THE FIELD? 

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Comments

Deaf

With a great deal of hearing loss in my family, I wear them always and without fail.

Robert

I don't, but probably should. In the last 6 years, I've done about 90% of my hunting with a bow and fired exactly 4 shots with a firearm at game. However, that has as much to do with the fact that I can't use my preferred firearms here in Michigan very much as with my love of archery. If I end up moving to another state with longer firearms seasons, I'll likely change that ratio a good bit and will get a good set of ear-plugs for hunting.

Still, since I don't hunt game that usually requires large amounts of shooting per day, I don't anticipate huge issues solely from days in the field. On the range, of course, that's a different story.

WA Mtnhunter

I have never worn hearing protection in the field. I ruined my hearing in a 4.2 inch mortar platoon years ago. Particularly my right ear.

I do wear double hearing protection at the range and don't hunt near anyone using ported choke tubes or muzzle brakes. I even stay off the range when someone is firing a .30-378 or ultrawhatever mag with a muzzle break.

I suppose I should start wearing earplugs in the goose blind, too.

Douglas

Please excuse my ignorance, but this column is the first place I ever heard that turkeys drum.
I live where the grouse drum, but never realized that turkeys do that too. If its a joke, you got me good. If not, I learned something new today.
As for hearing protection, I really need to get on board with that. Thanks for the reminder!

MNhunter

I have never weare hearing protection when hunting and my hearing has suffered from it in my right ear. 10ga and 12ga blasts in duck boats contribute alot and along with coyote hunting with AR style rifles.

ASH

I've got the tinnitus kicking in from years of loud work environments. Plugs are a part of my field pack and muffs & plugs never leave the range box. I wear 'em without fail. The only time I don't is when I'm stalk hunting deep brush during deer season and I'm already saving my pennies for a set of Peltor's to fix that.

It's a shame to lose your hearing over something so easily prevented.

Jeff4066

As a young'n, I saw quite a bit of hearing loss. I am lucky that I have always worn something. In the service, I would stick cigarette butts in my ears if I had nothing else. My wife thinks I have some kind of OCD about it, since I wear plugs or phones for anything louder than the coffeemaker. Vacuum, mower, weed whacker, etc. I wear them always.

After 22 years active and reserve Marines, I only lost 5% from my left ear.

But why bother? My wife has quite a bit of hearing loss, and we "discuss" the proper volume level of TVs and radios all the time now.

Bernie Kuntz

I wear hearing protection at all times while target shooting, but never while hunting. But I don't hunt species like doves where there will be a lot of sustained shooting. I have tinitis and a ten percent hearing loss, according to the V.A. I attribute it to three years spent in the Marine Corps in the late '60s and early '70s--I was close to rifle and machinegun fire, mortars, hand grenade explosions and I flew dozens of times in the din created by CH-46 helicopters--no ear protection at any time. The Corps determined I had a hearing loss when I was discharged in 1971. V.A. denied me any compensation. Thirty-five years later they started paying me $117/mo. for the tinitis. Nothing for the hearing loss, and no back pay.

When I was in Africa four years ago the PH was incensed when a pair of U.S. hunters wore ear plugs while hunting. The PH had difficulty communicating with them, and ordered them to remove the plugs.

Yes, I stay away from those shooting rifles with muzzle brakes too. I hate those damned noisy things!

Chris

What?

Bill in VA

I come from a long line of deaf mean and am trying to break that family tradition. I wear double hearing protection at the range and at least single hearing protection when dove shooting. I haven't worn plugs while rifle hunting, but I will start carrying a pair with me during muzzleloader season from now on. I won't wear them while shooting at a deer, but before I discharge my smoke pole at the end of the day I'll put them in.

eyeball

You think shotguns are loud? You want to try handgunning. I spent an afternoon in the open air shooting .357 Magnums from a 6" barrel about thirty years ago, and my hearing never recovered from that one session. You know that Dirty Harry is not for real because a real human with real ears after all Dirty Harry's .44 Magnum gunfights wouldn't be saying, "Go ahead, make my day," he'd be saying "Huh? Wha?" Since then I use plugs and muffs together.

Having experienced them at the range, I never wear the muffs in the woods. I want to hear the game, friends shouting to me, etc. Is there an electric earmuff out there that 1. amplifies ambient sounds, 2. shuts out gunfire, and 3. is small enough to be worn under a hat or a hood, not clank against your stock when you shoulder your weapon, etc.? That last one is the tough one. I have trouble enough being quiet in the woods without hitting plastic on a stick whenever a deer comes by.

eyeball

You think shotguns are loud? You want to try handgunning. I spent an afternoon in the open air shooting .357 Magnums from a 6" barrel about thirty years ago, and my hearing never recovered from that one session. You know that Dirty Harry is not for real because a real human with real ears after all Dirty Harry's .44 Magnum gunfights wouldn't be saying, "Go ahead, make my day," he'd be saying "Huh? Wha?" Since then I use plugs and muffs together.

Having experienced them at the range, I never wear the muffs in the woods. I want to hear the game, friends shouting to me, etc. Is there an electric earmuff out there that 1. amplifies ambient sounds, 2. shuts out gunfire, and 3. is small enough to be worn under a hat or a hood, not clank against your stock when you shoulder your weapon, etc.? That last one is the tough one. I have trouble enough being quiet in the woods without hitting plastic on a stick whenever a deer comes by.

Dr. Ralph

Never even thought about wearing hearing protection in the woods, that would take away half the fun. I still don't wear hearing protection shooting clay because shotguns just don't hurt my ears... no ported choke tubes please. Anytime I'm at a gun range or shooting a revolver I'm wearing ear protection. It's stupid not to.

Scott in Ohio

I always wear hearing protection on the gun range and wear muffs while mowing the lawn or using other noisy motorized lawn equipment (chainsaw, weed-whacker, etc.)

Phil, I have a pair of north sonic ear valves and always mean to wear them in the duck marshes, but don't regularly do so. Guess I should. I’ll try them during the second season.

This year at deer camp in PA a buddy brought out a pair of amplifier muffs and he let me use them briefly. I was very impressed with their performance but have the same concerns that Eyeball mentioned above.


Nigel

I started shooting with the army cadets in 1966. Ear protection was a couple of pieces of 4x2 (the cloth material used to clean the bore of a .303 with a pull-through, not a piece of wood!). Hearing protection, as we would all recognise it, didn't appear until about 20 years later, and by then substantial damage was done. What you want to avoid is the double-whammy of hearing loss (I have virtually no high frequency hearing) and tinnitus (sounds a bit like high-pressure steam escaping in both ears - and it goes on 24h/day). I don't field shoot,but I wear electronic muffs everywhere around the clay range, even when away from the main shooting area. Once your hearing has gone, that's it, it won't come back. I suspect that a whole new generation of the partially-deaf are on the way (far more than have ever been deafened by firearms) thanks to in-ear headphones and MP3 players, but that's a different story.

Del in KS

I hated to fly on those damn Chinook choppers. The noise was pure hell on the ears. I once bought a 4 inch Modl 29 S&W after one shot it had to go. My hearing is pretty bad and the VA never gave me squat for it. The worst of all was those big howitzers on Fire base Bastogne in 'Nam. The shock wave would clear the sinuses and make your head ring. Nowdays I wear the electronic head phones for shooting and high tech hearing aids for the rest of the time. PRO ears makes a low profile set that doesn't hit the gun stock like most.

alabamahunter

Since no one else has adressed it, I will. Yes Douglas turkeys drum. It was not a joke, even though I know turkey hunters that claim to have never heard it. The thing is, you can only hear a turkey drumming at VERY close range, and even then he has to be strutting looking to impress a lady. Even then, the frequency of the sound is just barely in the range humans are capable of hearing. It is an extremely low pitched sound, something akin to when a radio is on in another room, and you can just hear the bass. No one really knows how they make the sound, only that they do. It can be hard to reconize, but after you've heard it once it is a farely distincts sound.

Douglas, I hope someday you are lucky enough to be close enough to hear a turkey drum. It truly should be on your "bucket" list.

Ralph the Rifleman

I wear ear protection at the range, but not while hunting.

Jerry

"I still don't wear hearing protection shooting clay because shotguns just don't hurt my ears... no ported choke tubes please. Anytime I'm at a gun range or shooting a revolver I'm wearing ear protection. It's stupid not to."

With all due respect Dr. Ralph its also stupid to not wear hearing protecting shooting shotguns, ported or not. You do not need to feel pain for noise to be damaging your hearing. Wear ear protection !
I also hear lots of old shooters say " I don't wear plugs/muffs because I've already lost my hearing." Where's the logic in that! Hearing loss is cummulative. It loss builds up (or runs down depending on how you look at it) and even if you've already sustained some hearing loss PROTECT WHAT YOU HAVE LEFT!!! It's more important now that ever.

Finally, Eyeball, look into the Walker Game Ear as a small, discrete device that amplifies quieter sounds but shuts out load ones.

Phillip

I got into the habit at the range many years ago, after far too many years of using nothing at all... but like a lot of folks, I thought it didn't matter while I was hunting... especially big game. Heck, most of the time shooting at big critters, I never even really heard the gunshot. I did notice that the .44 might give me a little ringing from time to time, but not my rifles or shotguns.

That all changed last February, thanks to a Browning A-bolt with the BOSS and a foolish wild pig that gave me a simple, cross-canyon shot.

One shot.

For several days afterward, it was like I'd jammed a half pound of cotton into my left ear. It didn't ring or hum... it just went dead. When it finally started coming back, various low tones caused a buzzing sound. That lasted for several months. The "worst" of it seems to be over now, but like Phil, I have lost a level of hearing in that ear, and it's very difficult for me to understand conversations in crowds. Even worse, it's tough to hear and enjoy live music any longer, because the ambient noise causes too much interference. And I LOVE live music.

I know most of this is due to cumulative effects over a lifetime of hunting and shooting, but it served as a pretty sobering message that I need to pay more attention to stuff like this.

And probably the most embarrassing thing about all this? I had a nice set of custom-fitted Sport-Ears right there in my pack the whole time.

Jim in Mo

I don't sit at the range with the muzzle whatever people anymore. Had too many mags with a muzzle break next to me. Always me. If I owned a range, the blasters would be on their own end, with each other.
Sorry, learn to shoot the caliber or step down in size.

buckstopper

Several years ago, some nut in the duck blind shot his SBE over my head but under the roof. It literally knocked me and the guy next to me down. Had tinitis ever since. Crowded rooms and tvs in an open room are difficult to hear in. I have been shooting for most of my life. I regularly wore plugs or muffs when I'm target shooting but not in the field. Learned my lesson the hard way.I use a plug on my offhand side now while hunting. I hate being next to the guy at the range with a BOSS. Especially when the firing line is under a canopy. Plugs and muffs aren't enough for me then.
One of the loudest guns I've ever shot was my Colt .45 ACP officers model, even more than any .44mags I've owned. Must be the short barrel.

Bernie Kuntz

These people who need a BOSS or some other muzzle brake to soften recoil ought to go to a smaller cartridge or take up golf. What a dreadful invention for the centerfire rifle!

Those old Cutts Compensators and Polychokes may not have caused a shotgun to blast like these rifles with muzzle brakes. But gads, how they disfigured countless Model 12 Winchesters and Browning Auto-5s! Like a giant pimple on the nose of a beauty queen!

JT

I have been wearing hearing protection in the field for the last two years now, always have at the range. I am 28 and have already noticed a small decline in hearing compared to when I was younger, not much but enough that I notice and I want to keep it from getting any worse. When I am bird hunting I wear electronic muffs, and I had a similar experience where a friend of mine fired a shot that he shouldn't have. Thankful to have the muffs on. While deer hunting I wear the electronic muffs or foam ear plugs. I find the ear plugs better in colder weather with hats, and watching a field does not require the hearing perception that bowhunting or deep woods hunting does. In addition to hearing protection, I always wear eye protection when hunting or doing any type of shooting. How many out there wear eye protection in the field? Unfortunately among my friends I am the only one who wears eye protection all the time, when we go sporting clay shooting they see the eye protection rule as a rule to be broken rather than a wise idea. Seems like cheap insurance against a stray pellet, and I have been thankful in the field when prickley ash branches have brushed my face. Plus with tints I can see better than with my eyes alone.

Don't wear ear protection in the field since I don't fire that much to give a constant noise exposure.

It's my understanding the length of exposure to high db's is the primary reason for hearing loss. The other is high over pressure's

I've lost more hearing from *driving* I believe than from USAF flight duty and playing in bands [wore ear plugs in both situations].

I always wear ear plugs will driving long distances and shooting on the range.




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