Autumn is prime hunting season in Texas. If you’re preparing to head into the field, think safety. Not just gun safety (though that’s important too, of course!), but hearing safety. Gunshots emit decibel (dB) levels loud enough to cause permanent hearing damage if you aren’t careful, so it’s important to take precautions before heading out to ensure a safe trip.
Firearms are Hazardous to Your Hearing
Noise is the most common cause of hearing loss in Katy. Hearing impairment usually occurs gradually over many years, but exposure to extremely loud sounds can result in instantaneous, irreversible hearing loss.
What is a safe sound level
85 dB is generally considered the threshold for safe listening exposure; anything louder can damage the tiny hair cells in the cochlea that are responsible for converting sounds into electrical impulses that are sent to the brain for interpretation. Once the nerve cells are damaged, they can’t be repaired.
The higher the dBs, the shorter safe exposure time you have before your hearing is damaged. For example, you can safely listen to sounds at 85 dB (about the sound of traffic in Katy) for eight hours without worrying about causing harm, but at 100 dB (roughly equivalent to the sound of an ambulance siren), permanent hearing loss might occur in as little as 15 minutes.
How loud is a gunshot?
Decibel levels for firearms average between 140 and 165 dB.
Can that damage hearing?
That’s loud enough to cause immediate hearing loss, so proper ear protection is essential for hunters in Katy and other professions where firearms are common (e.g., police officers, military personnel).
Use firearm hearing protection
There are two recommended types, both of which will help protect your ears from the damaging volume levels produced by gunshots:
There are a variety of different earplugs designed specifically for hunters.
They are made with acoustic filters that let you hear sounds around you easily and clearly but offer automatic noise suppression to protect your ears from gunshots; these consist of a tiny valve that closes when struck by a sound wave. Hunter’s plugs are typically made from silicone or foam. They are lightweight and easily portable; your best bet is a custom-molded pair created from impressions of your ear canals—these offer a comfortable fit and a tight seal. Some come with straps or cords for hanging around your neck.
Earmuffs are a great alternative to earplugs.
They cost a little bit more, but electronic earmuffs are easy to put on and remove, cover the entire ear and provide both hearing enhancement and hearing protection; you’ll be able to hear the sounds of approaching game, and will automatically be protected from damaging decibel levels when you fire a round. One advantage of earmuffs is the protection they offer the delicate bones behind the eardrum. They can be a little bulkier to carry around but if you aren’t too weighed down by gear, they represent an excellent investment.
What’s the NRR of your hearing protection?
Regardless of which choice you make, pay attention to the product’s Noise Reduction Rating (NRR), which lets you know how much decibel reduction your gear provides. The higher the NRR, the more noise reduction you’ll have. Most earplugs and earmuffs made for hunters have an NRR between 15 and 33 decibels. Some hunters even choose to double up by wearing earmuffs over a pair of earplugs.
Speak to your audiologist about hearing safety.
Additional hearing protection tips recommended by your local audiologist include taking breaks between rounds in order to give your ears a chance to rest and recover and using a gun suppressor to reduce the volume of every shot (though regulations vary, so make sure these are legal where you’re hunting).
Learn more about Noise-Related Hearing Loss:
- Can Hand Dryers Hurt Kids’ Ears?
- Don’t Put the Pedal to Heavy Metal: Spin Class & Hearing Loss
- Tinnitus & Concerts
Our Katy Audiologist Office Location
21715 Kingsland Blvd
Katy, TX 77450