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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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My hearing still tests above average after 40 years of shooting. In the field I wear EAR Minicanals or Peltor electronic muffs.I always wear hearing protection, no exceptions!


I'm totally deaf in my left ear and about 50% deaf in my right. Thank heaven for the invention of the hearing aid. How did I get that way. Shooting guns, working near F-4s, F-16s, F-15s and other expensive military hardware, and not wearing hearing protection. Today I do not have a choice. I have to protect what little hearing I have left. It means double protection (foam plugs and peltor muffs)when I'm tripping the trigger on a gun with a muzzle brake,and single protection (either the muffs or the foam plugs) when I'm using anything else, up to and including the chain saw or lawnmower. Early on in my shooting career I thought I was impervious to hearing loss; I got smart too late. No advantages to being a deaf hunter.

Jerry A.

I wear hearing protection at the rance and when plinking or shooting clay birds, but not when hunting. (Really should, though.) I constantly have to ask people to repeat themselves, so I'm sure I have hearing loss. I attribute it to the Army and being a police officer.

Jerry A.

Happy Myles

CanYou Hear Me Now?

A renowned professor, who was a diligent, but hearing impaired hunter was reading an article which indicated that spouses who were frustrated with their mate's deafness, often had hearing problems themselves. Being a scientist, he decided to conduct an experiment. From their bedroom, he called to his wife who was in the kitchen, "can you hear me?" No response. He walked a room closer "can you hear me now?" Still no answer. He moved a room still nearer, "can you hear me now?" Silence. He then entered the kitchen and once more inquired, "can you hear me now?" She replied, "like I said the last three times, I can hear you just fine."

I now use ear protection, I have not regretted sixty five years of shooting and hunting, just wish I'd been better informed and a little smarter. I keep a sharp eye and tongue with the grandkids regarding their ear protection.


unfortunately, the times we are least likely or willing to use protection are the times we are using the loudest, most horrifying loads/guns. like bratwurst-ish magnums on turkey hunts, and ballistic missile-esque cartridges out of ported rifles on big game hunts.

Clay Cooper

There is a study out that said the loss of hearing probably isn’t damage but a disconnect or better yet put unplugging of a nerve for a specific range of frequencies from the ears to protect the hearing portion of the brain from overload. ?????????????????


no, i dont. but, to be honest, i have never heard of north sonic ear valves. so i am going to have to try to find a set of these. i always wear plugs or a headset while target shooting, but hunting, you need to hear the woods and everything in it in all of its glory. strange how age changes people. for me, my hearing has gotten more sensitive. i have always had trouble hearing conversation with any mechanical noise nearby. that is the way it has always been for me.


The other day my wife asked if I had some soft earplugs left. I thought she was going shooting with me, but no, she said I kept her awake with my snoring.


All This Conversation! Good Grief! Just use "game ears" in each ear. Problem solved!


I worked with a guy that went to the doctor and got some hearing aids, in about two hours, he laid them on the mantle above the fireplace an never wore them again. said he heard enough..


My kid and I always use Peltors at the range and when plinking so we can communicate but yet have ear protection. While hunting we take regular little orange ear plugs as we often have time to put them in prior to shooting. As much as I would like to agree on the Norton Ear Valves I have not had satisfactory results from them. I have owned 2 or 3 pairs due to buying a pair in each decade since the seventies. I like the idea but they simply do not seem to offer the surpression that I require. A friend uses Walker Game Ears and swears by them. They sure are pricy but then so are hearing aids.


By the way my family and I just spent 8 days in Orlando with the temp going up to 80. Flew back through Dulles where it was 58 and Denver at about the same. Upon landing in Cody during a blizzard it was -14. Talk about requiring an adjustment. The wind was blowing to boot. This little storm should blow through to you guys in the midwest and east in a day or two so get ready. The kid had been to Florida with me three times. He loves the place until he realizes that his Wyoming freedom does not exist there. He can't shoot his rifles, ride his foxtrotters or Yamaha YZ450F, or just wander the mountains or desert almost anywhere he wants if he is in Florida. Beautiful state and I have loved it since I was a kid and still do, but just too many people and commercialism. I don't mean to offend any of you Floridians but it is just so much different than the rural west of the Rockies, good and bad. I guess that is why we endure a blizzard every now and then so we can enjoy beautiful weather most of the year.

Del in KS


I grew up 45 miles west of Orlando in Sumter Co. Last few times I went home could barely find my way around due to the new growth and change. Anyway after my Army days I never moved back for the reasons you stated. Also much better hunting in Kansas. Heck, my relatives want to come out here to hunt every year. Kansas just doesn't have many 10 lb largemouth bass and 2 lb Shellcrackers (redeared sunfish to yankees).
Bet you went to visit the world's largest tourist trap. Give me the woods anyday. My daughter loves that place. When I went in the army the Orlando airport had maybe 6 gates. Now it dwarfs KCI.


I knew this would eventually happen, you running out of anything to write about, like rerun o TV about this time of year.


I've noticed in the field w/ a slug gun, taking a shot at a deer that my ears don't ring after the shot, but, I wonder if my hat or balaclava pulled down over my ears protects you from that loud noise. Thoughts anyone? I did forget to pull my muffs off my neck sighting in my BAR .300 Win mag w/ a BOSS at my family range and scared myself w/ how much it hurt. But, while maybe the guy who said that pussies use the ported barrels, consider this. When I site in, I don't put 3 down range and call it good. I put 20 to 30 through because I want to feel comfortable w/ that particuler rifle, as I only hunt w/ it 1-3 times a year. I reload so I don't have the same box of ammo for 10 yrs. Anyone want to shoot 50-60 rounds w/ me w/ a 30-06 unported against my Boss. There is such a thing as flinch, and I've fired big bores for over 25 yrs. I've got 6 yrs as a forward combat air controller and did the gig in Panama, so, I've seen the elephant. Anyways, I still like the idea of ported barrels for big bores, it will increase your accuracy, wich means a humane kill. I did get into a live fire exercize and forgot my hearing protection back at the firing line, but was to embarrassed to stop the whole thing and get yelled at, so I did it w/ my 60 and a whole bunch of 16's w/ m-203's and boy did I regret that. Wear your hearing protection every chance you get, I say.

Jim in Mo

Mock 1,
Are you nuts? Any shooting at the range is damaging. My nephew stopped by and said he didn't feel well and his head hurt. He said he practised with his new .357 with someone elses handloads and no ear protection for over fifty rounds. Well no kidding.
Shots in the field are generally just one or two and out in the open, so your not affected as much. But they do take effect.


Jim in Mo,

I never said that shooting at the range w/o protection is not damaging. I just said that when I shoot at the range, I use hearing protection and I like ported barrels because I shoot ALOT at the range. As for your son, I shot my uncle's 4 inch Ruger Blackhawk at different targets at my Dad's old ranch in Jefferson Colo. Not wanting to look like a puss, I didn't use ear plugs for 6 shots, and I felt that for about 3 days. I hoped your boy learned his lesson. Ouch! Have a good day!


By the way Jim, for some reason I'm Mock1 at my wife's computer and mmm on this one, so I changed it back to Mock-1


My hearing is already shot to hell (pardon the pun). Though not only from shooting - chainsaws, live punk & hardcore concerts, regular powertools, etc. I have to admit, at 27 my hearing is atrocious - to the point where I cannot distinguish a voice in a crowd or understand conversation when there is background noise. Shooting has contributed to it quite substantially however. Always wear plugs/muffs at the range but never anywhere else - now I am wising up; bought a pair for the field this year.


Firecracker wars in childhood, aircraft carrier (berthed right under where the catapult slammed home), C-130 trips were bad enough to combine for some loss; I foolishly shot 2-3 boxes of .357 Mag. in the 80's without protection. Otherwise, all my range activity has been with plugs and/or muffs, both esp. with magnum handguns, which I don't shoot as much as I'd like. Rabbits, pheasants and quail are hard to hunt with hearing protection of any kind. I handgun, bow and occasionally slug gun hunt deer, with (hopefully!) only 2-3 firearm shots per year. Somehow the bow doesn't hurt so much...
I must point out that I work with women primarily, and find that the pitch of most of their voices is more difficult to pick out of background noise than male voices. Before I'm asked, it's not selective; I've had several tests, from local docs to the University of Iowa, consensus being that hearing aids would have little benefit and cost multiple thousands of dollars I could spend on guns, ammo and tuition for the kids.

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