October is National Protect Your Hearing Month as well as the opening of hunting season in many areas. It’s a chance to remind hunters and those who enjoy the shooting range to be vigilant all year-round. Here are five quick takeaways if you or someone you care about is a hunting or sport shooting enthusiast.
- At the shooting range or in the field, bystanders, as well as shooters, are in danger of hearing loss. Always use hearing protection devices if you are going to be anywhere near firearms being discharged.
- According to a survey of people who use recreational firearms, 62% never wear hearing protection devices while hunting and 44% never wear protection while target shooting. “It’s not that surprising that 25 percent of my male patients are hunters,” said Beltone hearing care practitioner Byron Robertson of Poughkeepsie, N.Y. “Some come in before deer season starts, and I set them up with a hunting program on their smartphone’s hearing aid app so that they can hear everything moving in the woods. It’s a little louder than their normal setting with increased wind reduction and omnidirectional mics. I tell them they should mute or remove their hearing aids before they shoot. I also know that they’re not going to do that, so I lower the MPO setting (maximum power output, the level of sound that will cause hearing aids to temporarily shut down) to give them some protection.”
- It’s louder than you think! The peak sound pressure from a firearm has traditionally been pegged at 140 decibels (dB) but analysis of the peak sound pressure from a rifle can be as high as 174 dB, a shotgun up to 170 dB, and a pistol shooting blanks 165 dB. These decibel ranges can cause instantaneous and irreversible hearing loss.
- Firearm suppressors that lessen the noise from a firearm discharge reduce the intensity of the sound, but they don’t eliminate the need for hearing protection. Unsuppressed decibel levels from .223 and .308 caliber rifles were 148-161 dB; with the suppressor, they were reduced to 120-137 dB – still far too loud not to warrant hearing protection.
- If you think you have hearing loss, schedule a hearing screening. Technology has rapidly improved in recent years, offering users powerful, discreet hearing aids that can restore natural hearing. Features include Bluetooth technology, silencer systems to filter out extraneous noise, and environmental awareness settings that instantly adjust intake to the user’s sound backdrop. Free hearing screenings can be arranged at any of the 1,500 Beltone Hearing Care Centers nationwide at beltone.com or by calling 1-800-BELTONE.