If you’re a hunter, you know that firearms deer season is practically a holiday. Hunters scout and track wildlife all year in anticipation of filling their tag during a few short weeks. While afield, the average hunter is very careful about firearms safety. But one safety aspect tends to be overlooked: hearing protection.
High decibel blasts associated with this sport can cause hearing loss. Hearing loss caused by hunting is so common that the medical profession coined a term for it: shooter’s ear. Symptoms of shooter’s ear include ear pain, tinnitus and even permanent hearing loss.
Here’s how hunters can enjoy the season despite hearing loss and protect the hearing that they still have.
Corey Breckner from Pennsylvania has been hunting with his family since he was 12 years old. He’s also the only one in his family with hearing loss. So, I asked him, what is it like to hunt if you’re deaf or hard of hearing?
“It’s so peaceful when you’re hunting,” he says. “Everything is quiet and it’s beautiful to be in the woods.”
For Breckner, hearing loss hasn’t changed his hunting strategy much. He learned from his hearing family. He likes to hunt from a tree stand.
“When you see a deer, your heart starts beating faster,” he says. “It’s one of the most exciting feelings.”
Breckner said he doesn’t use much sign language while hunting and only occasionally wears his hearing aids. Instead, he watches for movement and enjoys the quiet environment.
“I want to hear some things because otherwise it can be pretty scary,” Breckner says.
“I want to hear some things because otherwise it can be pretty scary.”
Hunter William Starnes shares his experience with hearing loss in the Beretta blog article “Using Hearing Aids with Hearing Protection.” Starnes wanted an ideal listening environment while still protecting his residual hearing. He noticed that electronic earmuffs and hearing aids both have settings that cut out noise over 85 decibels. He decided to use earmuffs and hearing aids together while hunting.
“Both devices have worked flawlessly together, and I’ve had no issues to report,” Starnes wrote.
Repeated exposure to any high decibel sound can wreak havoc on your hearing. This is called noise-induced hearing loss.
Hunting-related hearing loss is so prevalent that there’s a term for it: shooter’s ear. Shooter’s ear is an asymmetrical or unilateral hearing loss caused by noise exposure.
Permanent hearing loss can result from repeated exposure to sounds at or above 85 decibels, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. The louder the sound, the shorter the amount of time it takes for noise-induced hearing loss to occur. Noise exposure from firearms can measure between 140 and 175 decibels, according to the American Speech Language Hearing Association.
Hunters can protect their hearing by always wearing ear protection at the range. Wearing earmuffs and ear plugs at the same time offers extra protection. While afield, electronic earmuffs can allow hunters to hear small movements while still canceling out damaging levels of noise.
How do you protect your hearing while hunting? Let us know in the comments!