Shawn Dulohery, a national- and world champion skeet shooter and 2004 Olympic team member in the skeet event, would never discharge a firearm without them. Similarly, Dave Henderson, a nationally distinguished outdoor sports writer and hunting expert, wouldn’t dream of venturing into the woods without having his. These two incredibly skilled shooters ardently support the wearing of ear protection such as earmuffs or earplugs when firing a shotgun, rifle, or other firearm used in hunting or sports shooting.
Dulohery knows this from experience. The 40-year-old former Sergeant First Class in the U.S. Army’s Marksmanship Unit, Fort Benning, GA, has been shooting since he was 12 years of age. He has already lost some of his hearing, and he is determined to safeguard the hearing he still possesses.
“A loud noise, such as the 140-decibel blast of a rifle, can irreparably harm the complex cells of the inner ear– called hair cells– that gives us our ability to hear,” said James F. Battey, Jr., M.D., Ph.D., director of NIDCD. “Therefore it is critically important for us to protect our ears when we are repeatedly bombarded with loud noise.”
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), a part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suggests that hunters and shooters don earplugs and earmuffs together when shooting guns, to enhance the amount of hearing protection provided.
According to a 2000 research study supported by the NIH, a lot of male hunters and target shooters are not using ear protection at all. Of the approximately 1,500 Wisconsin men who participated in the study, and 95% of those who hunt and 38% of those who target shoot had never worn ear protection during the year preceding the survey. (There were no females included in the study since few females from the study community had recently taken part in either activity.)
Most significantly, the study shows a direct link between hunting or target shooting and high-frequency hearing loss in men. High-frequency hearing loss is the decline of the ear’s capacity to hear high-frequency sounds, the sounds which are required for understanding speech.
Henderson, who is an avid outdoor sportsman who has published four books on hunting, in addition to thousands of newspaper and magazine articles on hunting and shooting, found his hearing loss at the young age of 19 during a physical he took for the military.
” I never used hearing protection as a kid. Typical pattern,’” saying that Henderson’s hearing loss was primarily in the high-frequency range, with a slight loss in the middle range.
At 56, Henderson, who fires 15,000 rounds of shotgun and rifle ammunition annually, has been using hearing protection without fail for the past two decades. He regularly gives presentations to new hunters and shooters, particularly children and teens, pointing out that, as hearing protection becomes more advanced, there’s no justification not to wear it. For instance, some hearing protection appliances make it possible to block out loud sounds while amplifying quieter sounds that hunters or target shooters need to hear, such as snapping twigs or the issuing of range commands.
” Ear protection nonetheless is very much neglected, especially in hunting,” Henderson cautions. “But, particularly in hunting, our sense of hearing is extremely important– almost as vital as our sense of vision. We have to protect it as much as we can.”.