Should You Use Hearing Protection For Hunting?

should you use hearing protection for hunting?

ISOtunes Sport Team / 14 October 2021

There is a bit of a misconception when it comes to hunting ear protection. Many hunters think earplugs or earmuffs eliminate all sound, limiting their ability to scan and listen for game. Others think that hearing protection isn’t necessary, and that only firing a few shots while on a hunt won’t damage their hearing. We’ve heard it all. And while we know hearing protection is important for the safety and performance of hunters, we also know there are many reasons why people avoid hunting hearing protection altogether.

You might avoid hunting hearing protection for the following reasons:
• You want to hear what other hunters are saying to you.
 
• You want to hear all the sounds around you.
 
• You feel uncomfortable wearing ear protection around your friends.
 
• The ear protection you've chosen is uncomfortable.
 
• Wearing ear protection makes you feel unaware of your surroundings.
 
• You simply feel you don't need ear protection.

While some of these are valid concerns, the benefits of hearing protection tend to outweigh them.

Hunter carries rifle while wearing ISOtunes Sport ADVANCE hearing protection

The Physical Process of Hearing Damage

A gunshot produces impact noise, which is different from airborne noise. Impact noise is a physical assault on a solid object. In this case, the solid object is the bony structures of your ear. The impact noise from a gunshot is concussive and damaging, not only echoing around the inside of the ear, but also causing a physical impact within the ear.

Your ear is a series of parts — the eardrum, the tiny hair-like cells in your ear, plus the liquid sac called the cochlea. When you fire a gun without hearing protection , the impact noise can cause the tiny hair-like cells in your ear to shift positions, resulting in temporary hearing damage. If exposure is minimal, the cells should return to their normal shape within a few hours. In more severe cases with prolonged exposure, impact noises can lead to tinnitus, irreversible hearing loss, or even deafness.

Tinnitus — an ongoing ringing or noise in your ears that does not stop and may last indefinitely.

Tinnitus is an annoying condition. For some, the buzzing or ringing sounds in their ears never go away. It’s not only caused by having your ear near the chamber when firing a gun, but can be initiated just by being near a gun as it is fired.

The Physical Process of Hearing Damage

A gunshot produces impact noise, which is different from airborne noise. Impact noise is a physical assault on a solid object. In this case, the solid object is the bony structures of your ear. The impact noise from a gunshot is concussive and damaging, not only echoing around the inside of the ear, but also causing a physical impact within the ear.

Your ear is a series of parts — the eardrum, the tiny hair-like cells in your ear, plus the liquid sac called the cochlea. When you fire a gun without hearing protection , the impact noise can cause the tiny hair-like cells in your ear to shift positions, resulting in temporary hearing damage. If exposure is minimal, the cells should return to their normal shape within a few hours. In more severe cases with prolonged exposure, impact noises can lead to tinnitus, irreversible hearing loss, or even deafness.

Tinnitus — an ongoing ringing or noise in your ears that does not stop and may last indefinitely.

Tinnitus is an annoying condition. For some, the buzzing or ringing sounds in their ears never go away. It’s not only caused by having your ear near the chamber when firing a gun, but can be initiated just by being near a gun as it is fired.

Prevention is Essential

It only takes a single gunshot to cause permanent damage. Even if you’re a lifelong hunter and do not have tinnitus or hearing damage, you still need hearing protection. Chances are that you have hearing loss and don’t even know it. Some hearing impairment happens slowly, while others are felt or experienced like a punch in the nose. The sound of a gunshot is that physical. How our bodies interpret that assault varies from one hunter to another.

If your reason for not wearing hearing protection while hunting is because:

1. You want to hear what other hunters are saying to you.

Try talking with an old farmer who has been on a tractor for much of their lives. They yell, not at you, but because they can’t hear themselves talk. If you want to hear what other hunters are saying to you, you need healthy ears, and the best way to keep your ears healthy is to wear hearing protection. There are also many electronic hearing protectors out there with level-dependent technology. Take Tactical Sound Control™ Technology for instance; this hearing protection tech amplifies safe levels of sound and blocks harmful gunshot noises.  

ISOtunes Sport Tactical Sound Control™ Technology logo
2. Wearing ear protection makes you feel unaware of your surroundings.

Some ear protection blocks all noise. When hunting, you want to choose ear protection that allows you to hear safe levels of noise while blocking the harmful sounds of a gunshot. You can find electronic hearing protection that blocks impact sounds and still allows you to hear environmental sounds, such as people talking.

3. You feel uncomfortable wearing ear protection around your friends.

If you are hunting or shooting in a group, everyone should be wearing hearing protection. Be a leader and help your friends save their hearing. Shop for ear protection that is low-profile, such as an in-ear style.

4. The ear protection you've chosen is uncomfortable.

There are many options when it comes to choosing ear protection. Some are inserted into the ear, while others sit over the top of the ears. If you find ear plugs uncomfortable, earmuffs may be a better fit for you. Try a few options to find the style that works best for you. Remember: losing your hearing is uncomfortable too.

5. You simply feel you don't need ear protection.

Hunting is risky, and one of those risks is irreversible hearing damage. The good news is, you can easily prevent this by prioritizing your hearing health.

What Should You Look For In Hearing Protection for Hunting

Block harmful noise

Hearing protection for shooting must block out any noise that registers over 85 dB. That does not mean you have to choose hearing protection that blocks out all sounds. If you want to be aware of your surroundings, some hearing protectors contain technology that amplifies safe sounds, such as people’s voices or the snapping of twigs by a passing deer.

Comfort

Like any other tool, you aren’t likely to use it if it’s uncomfortable. When you shop for hearing protection, comfort should be a top feature. We recommend trying out both in-ear and over-ear options, and deciding which is the best fit for you.

NRR

or Noise Reduction Rating, is used to measure the effectiveness of a hearing protector to decrease sound exposure. The higher the NRR rating, the more sound the product blocks. For hunting, aim for a product with an NRR of at least 20.

ISOtunes Sport DEFY Slim and DEFY Slim Basic on wood table

The all NEW ISOtunes Sport DEFY Slim and DEFY Slim Basic earmuffs were designed with ultimate comfort and protection in mind. Coming soon!

The Misconception of Hearing Protection Equipment

There is a misconception about how hearing protection products work. That assumption is that you lose the ability to hear while wearing ear protection. With modern technology, not all hearing protection is restrictive and limiting. Some options allow you to hear conversations and your environment, while simultaneously protecting your ears from gunshot sounds. Many of these devices even have Bluetooth, allowing you to take calls and listen to music.

Improved Accuracy and Performance

For many, hearing protection improves shooting accuracy and performance. When you need to zone in on technique and focus on a single shot, ear protection can help you create a zone where it is just you, your target, and your ability to focus. Whether you are at the range and want that Bullseye or in the brush, waiting to take down a trophy buck, hearing protection can deliver you that apex moment.

Ready to shop or learn more about hearing protection for hunters? Visit our store or contact us.

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ISOtunes Sport Team / 13 April 2021