The reality of firearms is that they are extremely loud. It is common knowledge that when firing guns, you should wear ear protection, but what are the real risks? At first glance, the average decibel level that a human can hear without causing damage is anywhere between 30 dB and 89 dB without experiencing damage. Noises between 90 dB and 139 dB are painful to the ear and might cause damage, and exposure to noises above 140 dB run a high risk of permanent damage to hearing. With decibel levels of .22 round reaching 140 dB and noise levels only going up from there, it is clear that hearing damage is all but inevitable if one does not wear hearing protection while firing guns.

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Shooting in firing ranges increases the risk of hearing damage even more since the noise of the firearm is bottled up within the confines of the range. But what are the risks that are run? Who is vulnerable to these risks?

The primary and obvious risks that are faced when firing guns without ear protection is hearing loss. This can have an effect on many areas of life including work, social settings, learning, and safety for ourselves and others. Because of the frequency of firearms, the tendency is to lose hearing in higher frequency noises, for example, some the speech noises like “s”, “th”, and “z” sounds. It is normal for the severity of hearing loss to be higher in the ear that is closer to the noise, so for a right handed shooter, the right ear is at a higher risk because it is closer to the gun. This loss of hearing is called Auditory Deprivation, which is the irreparable damage of small hairs in ears that send sound information to the brain, causing the inability to hear certain frequencies.

Because of the common frequencies that are damaged in human hearing, those who have hearing damage tend to struggle to communicate with others. Those with high-frequency hearing loss talk with friends, but may say that they hear mumbling. And yet on average those struggling with hearing problems tend to not visit an ear doctor for 5-15 years because they are not aware they have damage. There can also be permanent ringing if the damage is bad enough, and this is called tinnitus.

Hearing loss can branch out and greatly impact a person’s lifestyle. Some of the outcomes of hearing loss can be:

  • Tension, irritation, or frustration at the communication difficulties

  • Feelings of inadequacy in everyday interactions

  • Fear of being ridiculed, pitied or appearing less intelligent

  • Feelings of being prematurely old, handicapped, or abnormal

  • Tendency to avoid social gatherings, outdoor activities, even personal interactions

  • Embarrassment at having to ask for repetitions or at not understanding conversations

  • Isolation

  • Physical fatigue from straining to hear

  • Personal safety risks

There are many risks when not wearing ear protection ranging from discomfort to permanent damage, and most people will not act on the damage until it has taken its toll. The upside is that these risks can be avoided if you make the choice to wear proper ear protection while around firearms. So do yourself a favor and stay safe.

Originally Posted:

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