By Pete Rogers
At an event recently at the Palmetto Shooting Complex in Edgefield, SC, one of my colleagues was asked to wear hearing protection prior to beginning a round of sporting clays. His response was confusing and alarming: “I never wear ear plugs and my doctor says my hearing is fine.” He said. A few of us looked at one another puzzled at his stubbornness. Thankfully, strict rules prohibited him from firing a shot without some protection.
For decades I have seen sportsmen refuse to wear hearing protection as some proof of testosterone. They thought it silly or weak to wear protection against gun fire. Many sportsmen of a different generation are deaf as a post due to this way of thinking. Science has taught us differently for decades now. But there seems to still be a faction of outdoorsmen and women who continue to refuse to protect one of their most valuable senses. Let’s take a look at the science behind hearing damage and protection and see if we can make sense of it all.
Scientists tell us that any noise above 140dB can cause permanent hearing loss. Notice the use of the wording here: “permanent loss.” That is pretty emphatic. Any noise that is suddenly introduced to our inner ear above 140dB can cause permanent hearing loss. That is roughly the sound of a .22 long rifle being fired from a rifle. Large caliber rifles and most pistols have a decibel level exceeding 175dB. While the difference may not seem like a lot, in the world of hearing damage that is sizeable.
Other factors play into these numbers as well. Someone firing a gun at an indoor range will experience greater sounds from the reverberation and echo from the gun being fired than will someone firing outside. There is nowhere for the sound to go, so it just bounces around. Muzzle brakes do wonders in reducing felt recoil, but also add up to 11 dB from the blast due to the gasses being thrown in different directions instead of away from the shooter. Different ears can experience different amounts of damage also. Studies indicate that the ear closest to the muzzle experiences about 3-7 dB more than the ear further away. The left ear in right handed shooters will suffer greater damage than will the right ear due to its proximity to the muzzle. Handgun hunters and shooters have greater threat to hearing loss due to the short barrels and very loud reports from all handguns.
As someone who really enjoys handgun hunting, I learned long ago that not being able to hear anything other than ringing in my ears for days was not worth the “look” of having ear protection on. Today, I do not go to the range, or afield without my hearing protection. As someone who grew up in an age when hearing protection was in its infancy, I have learned the valuable lesson of wearing protection to keep the hearing I have left.
So how do we protect this valuable asset? There are in today’s world two ways to protect your hearing from gunfire (and other introduced noises). Passive and active hearing protection. Passive protection is usually in the manner of ear plugs or ear muffs. For ear plugs to be effective, they must completely seal the ear canal from all noises. Muffs, such as Walkers Game Ear, should fit firmly around the entire ear to protect it fully. Ear plugs and Walkers Game Ear muffs can reduce noises by approximately 5db-13db. It is recommended that for noises greater than 100dB these should be worn in combination with one another.
Active hearing protection such as those offered by Walkers Game Ear Razor Earmuffs or Xcel Earmuffs offer no greater protection over passive protection, but they do offer the advantage of being able to hear normal conversation and surrounding sounds. Active protection in Walker’s Game ear Xcel uses technology known as Sound Activated Compression. When an introduced noise (gun blast) reaches a certain decibel level, the device shuts off. This happens in milliseconds thereby transforming the hearing enhancer into hearing protection. Virtually the same technology is used in the many different devices Walker’s offers.
The advantage of Xcel Muffs over other muffs offered by Walkers is the radically new design that offers more comfort. The access to the controls are now on the headband rather than the ear muff itself. The Xcel muffs that I personally use have external microphones to pick up surrounding sounds and enhance them for the user. For someone with hearing damage, like myself the enhanced sounds help in hunting situations to pick up those slight footsteps made by game animals.
Shooters at a range are better served with the Walker’s Game Ear Xcel muffs due to the full protection offered. The slim design of the Razor and Xcel Muffs by Walker’s prevents the muffs from interfering with the mounting of a long gun. With the ease of adjustments and the option for four hearing modes, along with wind noise reduction, these Xcel muffs are some of the best offered in this price point. The softer more ergonomic headband makes wearing these Xcel muffs more comfortable, thereby eliminating the complaint offered by many that ear muffs are uncomfortable. Walkers Game Ear’s new muffs are adding to the tradition of the worlds best hearing protection company. New innovation and comfort make wearing these muffs a must for all gun hunters and shooters alike. One thing is clear, if we don’t protect our hearing we will lose it – permanently. Choose wisely for your protection, choose Walker’s Game Ear.