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Firearms and Hearing Loss

Sep 24, 2013 Firearms and Hearing Loss

There are millions of people across America who participate in sports that use firearms – hunting, recreational sport shooting and more. But those people – and those who are bystanders – are at increased risk for hearing loss, and need to take special precautions to protect their hearing. Read on to find out more.

It's a fact that exposure to noise over 140 dB can permanently damage your hearing, but what most people don’t realize is that almost all firearms create noise over this threshold. A relatively small .22-caliber rifle will produce noise around 140 dB, while larger rifles and pistols can generate sounds around 175 dB. If the firearm is discharged indoors where sound can reverberate, or if modifications to the firearm such as muzzle brakes are used, it can make the sound even louder. This means that even one shot can cause permanent hearing damage if you’re not wearing hearing protection.

Firearms Lead To Hearing Loss
It has been proven that those who use firearms are more likely to suffer hearing loss compared to those who don’t. The hearing loss most commonly associated with firearm use is high-frequency permanent hearing loss. People with this type of hearing loss have trouble hearing high-pitched sounds and speech sounds like “s”, “th” and “v”. There is usually more hearing loss in the left ear than the right because it is closer to the muzzle of the firearm, and the right ear is protected by the head shadow.

Diminished Hearing And Tinnitus
People with this type of hearing loss often say that they can hear what people are saying, but it’s not clear, and they often accuse other people of mumbling. They may also suffer from tinnitus (ringing in the ears), and they don’t get tested because they don’t think they have a problem – the problem is the “mumblers”.

Hearing Protection For Shooters
Studies show that only half of shooters wear hearing protection each time they target practice, and hunters are even less likely to wear hearing protection because they say it interferes with being able to hear approaching game or other noise. But there are many hearing protection devices that can protect your ears from loud sounds while allowing you to hear the softer sounds you need for your sport. Ask your audiologist or call Ascent Audiology & Hearing (703-942-8110) for more information.

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