Firing guns can cause hearing damage
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.”