S­hhhhh…. Is it a bi­rd? Is it a pla­ne?

SA Jagter Hunter - - INHOUD - By DR KA­RA HOFF­MAN

How is your he­a­ring? I said, how is...

As an au­di­o­lo­gist, I am not well-ver­sed in the wor­ld of hun­ting, ho­we­ver I ha­ve a lot of ex­pe­rien­ce de­a­ling with a lar­ge por­ti­on of the po­pu­la­ti­on who ha­ve be­co­me he­a­ring im­pai­red as a re­sult of noi­se ex­po­su­re, par­ti­cu­lar­ly shoot­ing. Did you know that ma­ny hun­ters, in­clu­ding the la­te El­mer Keith, Jack O’Con­nor, and Nash Bucking­ham, we­re se­ver­e­ly he­a­ring im­pai­red as a re­sult of the cu­mu­la­ti­ve ef­fects of gun­fi­re that they sus­tai­ned o­ver a li­fe­ti­me of shoot­ing?

Hun­ters and shoo­t­ers ha­ve been told ma­ny a ti­me that he­ar- ing loss as a re­sult of noi­se ex­po­su­re is com­mon, but ma­ny hun­ters do not wish to we­ar ear pro­tecti­on for fe­ar of not he­a­ring the bi­rds sing, the rus­t­ling of le­a­ves or any sounds that a­ni­mals ma­ke. It seems to be a ca­tch-22: to we­ar the pro­tecti­on to pre­vent da­ma­ge to t­heir he­a­ring so that they can in fact he­ar the bi­rds and ot­her sounds of na­tu­re or to we­ar it, and accept that it blocks out the sound of the ga­me one is tar­ge­ting. And not to men­ti­on the ti­me it ta­kes to get the plugs in­to one’s ear – in that ti­me the op­por­tu­ni­ty for ta­king a shot may be lost!

Shoo­t­ers and hun­ters are ex­po­sed to so­me of the lou­dest, most dan­ge­rous noi­ses (and a­ni­mals) a­ny­w­he­re in the wor­ld. E­ven s­mall ca­li­b­re we­a­pons cre­a­te dan­ge­rous im­pact noi­ses. A sin­gle guns­hot can cau­se per­ma­nent he­a­ring da­ma­ge. T­his ma­kes hun­ters and shoo­t­ers es­pe­ci­al­ly pro­ne to he­a­ring loss. It is ex­tre­me­ly im­por­tant that you ta­ke ap­pro­pri­a­te steps to pro­tect your he­a­ring w­hen you are ex­po­sed to noi­sy en­vi­ron­ments.

How much noi­se is too much? And how can one know the le­vel they are being ex­po­sed to at any gi­ven mo­ment? Any noi­se lou­der than 85 de­ci­bels can cau­se he­a­ring loss, and if the noi­se is loud e­nough, the da­ma­ge can be im­me­di­a­te. But w­hat is 85 de­ci­bels to the a­vera­ge per­son? For re­fe­ren­ce, a guns­hot blast is a­bout 130-180 de­ci­bels (gi­ve or ta­ke, de­pen­ding on the lo­ad). Ad­di­ti­o­nal­ly, so­me fi­re­arms pro­du­ce a pres­su­re wa­ve strong e­nough to cau­se he­a­ring loss by da­ma­ging the bo­nes be­hind the ear, e­ven if the ear ca­nal is pro­tected by an ear plug. T­his is es­pe­ci­al­ly com­mon for pe­op­le shoot­ing ind­oors or in c­lo­se prox­i­mi­ty to ot­hers shoot­ing shotguns or rifles with muz­z­le bra­kes.


Inste­ad of sel­ling a pro­duct or ser­vi­ce, I thoug­ht it would be per­ti­nent to gi­ve so­me ad­vi­ce to the a­vera­ge hunter on how to pro­tect his/her he­a­ring. Of cour­se, as an au­di­o­lo­gist it is my ro­le and re­spon­si­bi­li­ty to re­mind all hun­ters and shoo­t­ers (and any in­di­vi­du­al ex­po­sed to loud noi­se, in­clu­ding do­mes­tic wor­kers who use va­cuum cle­a­ners, etc.) to ha­ve t­heir he­a­ring an­nu­al­ly as­ses­sed. Ma­ny hun­ters and shoo­t­ers know t­his al­re­a­dy, despi­te the fact that most on­ly tend to co­me for an as­ses­sment on­ce they be­gin to ex­pe­rien­ce the symp­toms.

It is al­so my re­spon­si­bi­li­ty to in­form the pu­blic that pre­ven­ti­on is bet­ter than cu­re! Na­tu­ral and nor­mal he­a­ring le­vels are and will al­ways be bet­ter than any pie­ce of techno­lo­gy you pla­ce in your e­ars – so, I re­mind you all sub­t­ly to ha­ve your he­a­ring chec­ked be­fo­re it be­co­mes a pro­blem. The­re re­al­ly is so much techno­lo­gy out the­re to as­sist you in pre­ven­ting nois­e­in­du­ced he­a­ring loss. So, w­hat fac­tors can a hunter ta­ke in­to ac­count im­me­di­a­te­ly, to as­sist in slo­wing do­wn he­a­ring loss?

• He­a­ring loss may not af­fect both e­ars e­qual­ly. Be­cau­se of a­cou­stic shado­wing by the he­ad, tho­se shoot­ing rifles and shotguns ty­pi­cal­ly suf­fer gre­a­ter he­a­ring loss in the ear that is ne­a­rest to the muz­z­le.

• The bar­rel length of the fi­re­arm (shor­ter bar­rels are ge­ne­ral­ly lou­der);

• Car­trid­ge in­ten­si­ty;

• Bul­let speed (sub­so­nic vs. su­per­so­nic);

• P­re­sen­ce of a muz­z­le bra­ke, which can add up to an ad­di­ti­o­nal 11dBA.

• Shoot­ing en­vi­ron­ment: en­clo­sed a­re­as with hard, a­cou­sti­cal­ly re­flecti­ve sur­fa­ces, such as an ind­oor shoot­ing ran­ge with in­a­de­qua­te sound baff­ling, in­cre­a­ses re­ver­be­ra­ti­on and sound ex­po­su­re;

• Sound is al­so di­recti­o­nal, so tho­se stan­ding be­si­de a rifle, par­ti­cu­lar­ly if that rifle has a muz­z­le bra­ke, re­cei­ve con­si­de­ra­bly mo­re noi­se ex­po­su­re than the shoo­t­er. »

Gun noi­se le­vels.

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