many people, autumn colors and cool mornings in September
signal the beginning of the long-awaited hunting season. Gun
safety is important to most hunters, but some other
lesser-known precautions are overlooked.
an avid sportsman, and Iím amazed by how many people donít
wear hearing protection when they shoot guns," says
Thomas Lowry, M.D., 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."
show that people who use guns are more likely to develop
permanent hearing loss than those who donít. Shooting
without hearing protection practically guarantees you will
suffer at least some degree of hearing loss in your lifetime.
Aging and heredity also contribute to hearing loss, but
exposure to noise, especially noise from guns, is the one
preventable variable that you can control to reduce your risk
of hearing loss.
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
levels can increase at firing ranges where sound waves bounce
off walls. Permanent hearing loss can occur with a single shot
if no hearing protection is used. In addition to hearing loss,
tinnitus ó or ringing in the ears ó can develop
temporarily or permanently.
good news is that noise-induced hearing loss is
preventable," adds Lowry. "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
says you also could wear hearing protection around your neck
while in the woods and quietly put it in place just before the
shot. Your local sporting goods store usually carries an
assortment of inexpensive, effective products.
suggests hunters should set a good example and wear hearing
protection when hunting with family and friends. This will
help children or grandchildren know the importance of wearing
hearing protection ó similar to wearing a helmet when riding
protection is necessary when using guns," Lowry says.
"Make the effort to bring hearing protection for all
shooters and bystanders when target shooting and hunting.
Believe it or not, once you make this a habit, youíll be
surprised how little it affects your hunting experience."