Fir­ing guns can cause hear­ing dam­age

Boston Herald - - THE EDGE -

For many peo­ple, au­tumn colors and cool morn­ings sig­nal the be­gin­ning of the hunt­ing sea­son. Gun safety is im­por­tant to most hunters, but some other lesser-known pre­cau­tions are over­looked.

“I’m an avid sports­man, and I’m amazed by how many peo­ple don’t wear hear­ing pro­tec­tion when they shoot guns,” said Dr. Thomas Lowry, an oto­laryn­gol­o­gist at Mayo Clinic Health Sys­tem. “I see pa­tients every week with hear­ing loss, and a large num­ber of those pa­tients have a his­tory of noise ex­po­sure with­out the use of hear­ing pro­tec­tion.”

Stud­ies show that peo­ple who use guns are more likely to de­velop per­ma­nent hear­ing loss than those who don’t. Shoot­ing with­out hear­ing pro­tec­tion prac­ti­cally guar­an­tees you will suf­fer some de­gree of hear­ing loss.

To put things into per­spec­tive, the Oc­cu­pa­tional Safety and Health Ad­min­is­tra­tion rec­om­mends that on-the-job noise ex­po­sure to a level of 115 deci­bels not ex­ceed 15 min­utes per day. A .22-cal­iber ri­fle pro­duces a noise level of 140 deci­bels, and a typ­i­cal deer ri­fle can pro­duce noise greater than 175 deci­bels.

Sound lev­els can in­crease at fir­ing ranges where sound waves bounce off walls. Per­ma­nent hear­ing loss can oc- cur with a sin­gle shot if no pro­tec­tion is used. In addi- tion, tin­ni­tus — or ring­ing in the ears — can de­velop tem­po­rar­ily or per­ma­nently.

“The good news is that noise-in­duced hear­ing loss is pre­ventable,” Lowry said. “Wear­ing hear­ing pro­tec­tion, such as earplugs or muffs, al­lows you to still hear soft sounds, while pre­vent­ing dam­age to your ears from loud noises, es­pe­cially with some of the more ex­pen­sive op­tions.”

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