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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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I wear hearing protection everywhere except to bed. I lost 98% of my hearing in the voice ranges, and until recently communicated by reading lips.
I have spent the equal of three of the best custom rifles on hearing aids,$9000+. The present set has molded inserts and five sound suppressors, so they act as instant, and effective, ear plugs. My hearing loss was due to a very high fever when I was 12yrs. old. However, years of shooting various guns and rifles has accelerated my deafness. I always wear muffs over my ears when I shoot or am close to shooting, and always wear eye protection. Just this morning, I was shooting up some old .22 LR ammo in a little Rem. Mod.11, and a case ruptured and sprayed powder back on my glasses, so that I had to clean them before I could see clearly to throw the rest of the ammo in a creek.


Sorry, I hit the wrong button.
You can call me a girly-man if you like, but I want to be as whole as possible as long as possible. That means, I want to see as well as possible and I want to hear as well as possible. You can't shoot what you can't see, and it's a great embarrassment to always have to tell someone you are talking to they must look directly at you when they talk, because you must read their lips. And I never did learn to read lips on the telephone. I've only had this set of hearing aids a short while, but so far they are a near miracle.

Clay Cooper


Had to cross train from aircraft maintenance to maintenance scheduling in the Military due to loss of hearing. Funny thing, they said my shooting was the cause of it. After cross training some of my hearing did come back despite exposure to high power competition and hunting. Audiologist said my hearing loss was to chemical exposure while in Egypt at an Old Russian deserted military air base so go figure.

Clay Cooper

Bernie Kuntz
giant pimple on the nose of a beauty queen?


Nunya Binnis

Only pussies and communist bed-wetters wear hearing protection.

Joe C.

I have found the new electronic earmuffs work very well in the field. They amplify the sounds of birds flying and flushing. I can hear my friends talk to me, and they don't have to shout. When the gun goes off I don't have to flinch, and they keep my ears warm in the blind and field. I can only wear a ballcap style hat with them but that's the only downside I have found. Since I always wear muffs on the range it feels pretty natural to wear muffs in the field. I highly recommend them.


Well,...well well,.
Mr or Mz?? Nuya Binnes .,.
Been my experiance ( recognioze the profile) you are very likely all you describe and then some.
Particularly the bed wetter.
As people with their heads pulled at least "mostly" out the place where the sun never shines
Which means 99% of the guys contributing to this blog,. would simply never say that.
Is sir ( or maddam) as they say simply beyond the pale.

Which also means you could very well be an ati-social socipathic wannabe , of some tilted ilk.

Thusly sir or maddam,or maybe both
..Could you please tell us where you "claim" to hunt
IE: Whatpart of what State ?
So I for one ( and I am dead a$$ed certain others) can make sure I /we don't get so much as near the suicide mission sort of whacK Job you seem to be.

Thank you a have pleasant Holiday even if is behind bars .


Don't wear ear plugs while hunting. I depend a bunch on my hearing while hunting.

IT's my understanding from the experts hearing loss comes from length of exposure to high db's and/or serious over pressures.

Gained my VA Disability for hearing loss while on air crew and in missile CP's although USAF claims it was from music and shooting. That's government's way of avoiding paying hazard duty pay.

Driving is the worse hearing environment. I always wear plugs driving long distances as well firing on the range...and I wear plugs if I'm playing on stage with amps' power tubes running hot and really push air.


Kinda like Ralph says ,..my shotgus ( for what ever reason ) dont hurt my ears ,.. Also like most ,. certain I have minnor hearing loss,.. from shooting when younger ,..
IE: back when i was bullet proof and immortal YUK YUK
But only twice in civilian attire did my ears hurt.

One was Newyears day 1982 at a range next to (10 yds down) from a guy trying to melt the barrel off a 45 colt single action ,. That to gter wit a nearby 7mm mag gave me a doosey of a haead ache.
The other time would take to long ,.to tell ,..but funny as hell,..
The result essntially being one brother and myself trying to talk to one another ,.to utterly no avail.

IE: We could both see the others lips moving ,. but couldnt hear a "D" thing ,.. for about 20 minutes yuk yuk.
Will say this howevr,.. such are the risks of disharging a firearm in a confined area,.. more than that I dont think it makes sence to say ,..yuk yuk
(kids ya know ?)

Hmmmmm,.. now that I think of it ,..had a similar experiance with lady friend of late ,..
But no guns or loud noise to blame.
And I don't believe scotch whiskey in amunts of less than 4 oz will do that. Go figure HUGH ?


I wear hearing protection everytime I'm at the range but never in the field. It almost seems like my brain shuts off the loudness factor when I raise a gun to harvest something. Of course that doesn't mean I may not be doing damage to my hearing.

Clay Cooper

A while back I was picking on David for shortning his 338 Remington Ultra Mag to 22 inches if I remember right. I bet that rifle really rattles the canyons, knocks the snow off the trees and sweeps the leaves out in front when he torches off his cannon especially blasting everyone’s ears standing close to him!

If I didn’t pick on ya occasionally, you’d think I was mad at ya!!!

Clay Cooper

Have you ever noticed when hunting when that big buck steps out the adrenalin and heart beat starts pounding away and you don’t remember how really loud the blast and recoil was.

Scott in Ohio

Clay, got to agree with you 100%. I have noted on shooting my last two bucks that I don't even hear the rifle blast. No discomfort at the report, no ringing, nothing.

But, the damage is still probably being done.



I went shooting and hunting at every opportunity when I was younger. I shot bricks of .22 ammo. When I was 5 to 8 we lived by a trap shooting range. My dad had me chop up the wooden boxes ammo came in for firewood. Now I am 65. I have tinnitus. Those who suffer from it know the nightmare of never ending ringing in your ears. Day and night it never quits. When I take my grandchildren shooting I take hearing protection for everyone. A three year old granddaughter wears her own "ear savers" even though she is well away from the shooting area.



I've noticed that. When shooting game you not only don't feel the recoil, you barely hear the shot(s). Doesn't mean they aren't there, though.

Shotguns have long barrels and seem to BOOM more than they CRACK, so it may seem to Dr. Ralph that shotgun blasts don't hurt his hearing. But it also seems like the earth is flat. By the time you find out that you are NOT the only man alive who can shoot without losing hearing, it will be too late. Wear the plugs, Dr. Ralph.

Steve C

Ditto on handguns. The worse ear ringing I got was from a Colt Peacemaker copy in .22 cal.

Of course working in a shipyard, flying helicopters in the Army, and listening to Led Zepplin full blast on the 8-track didn't help.

tom warner

All of the above are excellent comments. I am now 75 years old and can well remember the time when potential hearing damage from high decibels was unknown or ignored. I have lost at least half my hearing and to a large extent I have Uncle Sam to thank for this. I was in the army in the late 50's and went through basic training at Ft. Dix, NJ. Each day, when we returned from the range, I had such severe ringing in my ears, I could barely hear conversation. We not only practiced with rifles, but fired machine guns and threw grenades. Why didn't we use hearing protection? Because it was a PUNISHABLE offense to do so! So, obviously, nobody did it. The military was even dumber in those days than it is now, if that's possible. So I seem to be a poster boy for the penalties of not using hearing protection at all times.


John P

I have a degrading hearing condition due in part to heredity and in part to working on jet engines while in the USAF. I cannot watch tevevision without closed caption!! When I shoot for fun (targets, skeet)I wear foam plugs AND muff type hearing protection. When hunting, I wear foam plugs. I may hear less game with the plugs, but I'm not willing to destroy what hearing I have left.


I had perfect hearing until som a**hole threw an M-80 next to my head on New Years Eve and I heard a crackling sound in my right ear and lost all hearing for a few days. Its never been the same since. I wear electronic muffs in the field. They keep your ears warm, you can hear branches snap and the muzzle blast is nothing. At the range I wear foam plugs and muffs. I also shoot a non-magnum round in my rifle. Either my .243 or 7mm-08 and the deer dont give a damn. My buddy shoots a browning A-bolt in 300 win mag with the Boss brake and he has tinnitus for 3 to 4 days after hunting. Not worth it. As for bird hunting I get the ear valves.


I made the mistake once of firing a .357 SIG Glock at my gun club's indoor range without my muffs (which were around my neck). Notice I said once. My ears rang for 15 minutes and a heard of buffalo could've been passing by without me taking notice.

In the field I insert an earplug in my left (shooting) ear.

WA Mtnhunter

Out in the open, gun noise is much less obvious than at the range. Vegetation and snow are great mufflers and absorbers or sound waves, but there are seldom any of those between your ears and the muzzle. The range is a different story. In my neck of the woods, almost all ranges are covered or have partitions. both of which reflect sound waves and double your exposure. Not to mention all the noise from fellow shooters down the line. I hate those #&%!*&# muzzle brakes so much that I usually go inside the range house until they are done or go home. Those pu$$ies need to get a rifle they can handle or take up crochet and knitting.

I few shots from your rifle (without muzzle brake) at game won't ruin your hearing. Potential harm can come from your hunting buddy who touched one off with you not squarely behind him. I have hearing loss from the military, but I doubt big game hunting has had much impact.

P Linnihan

I felt like the Army beat the hearing protection drum fairly loud when I was in (granted that was 90-97), we all thought it was pretty funny that the CSM would jack up the 1SG if the grass cutting detail on the mower didn't have on both eye and hearing protection. ( I doubt few folks at home in 1990 mowed their yard with hearing protection).

That being said, I don't know how you wear hearing protection in fight. I'd be too worried about missing a radio call to shift fire or some other key call.

From those of you who've fought in the post 9/11 Army and Marines- how are you do this now?

As for hunting - bird hunting is one thing - but since deer hunting is usually just one shot and maybe a follow up, does hearing protection matter?



Losing some hearing is no big deal. The problems get elevated however when your ears start ringing and never stop. That is what is going to happen after your ears lose the ability to transfer sound to the brain. It is called tinnitus and it can drive you crazy. People who don't have it don't know how devestating it can be to your life. You can never go to a quiet place in the woods and not hear some sort or ringing noise. I don't know what quiet is anymore. Yes I have learned to cope with it. There are techniques you can use to minimize it. However it can flare up and be the dickens to deal with every once in a while. My advice to anyone who shoots a gun. Put in your earplugs. I won't hurt a thing to put a plug in the ear that is closest to the muzzle when you hunt. If you shoot right handed then put a plug in the left ear. Prevent the problem before it begins. By the way there is millions in research being spent on tinnitus but no easy cure yet. My ears have been damaged by guns, tractors, loud cars etc. Don't let it happen to you. I now have a very expensive set of electronic ear plugs that I use every time I go hunting. I would turn around and go home if I did not have some sort of hearing protection in when I go to the range or the field. That my friends is how serious I take hearing protetion to be.


I have taken to wearing electronic ones always when duck hunting now


I have a bad hearing problem, Not from the Army, They required hearing protection and the Air Force in 1962-68 we carried ear plugs,but I built Mining Machinery for twenty years and all that machinery running has done a job on me. To top it off, after our co. sold out and moved to West Virginia, I went to work at a university working on the large(400ton)Air conditioning units which in the latter years did require Ear muffs, but too late.

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