Protecting hearing is a vital safety step when practicing with gun targets. Firearms are extremely loud and any noise exposure that exceeds 140 dB (decibels) can lead to permanent hearing loss. Most firearms generate noise that is greater than 140db. For example, a small .22-caliber rifle produces noise that is approximately 140db. However, rifles and pistols can produce noise that exceeds 175db.
Firing guns in areas where sounds bounce off walls, structures or reverberate increases noise frequency and leads to an increase in hearing loss. Adding any modifications or muzzle breaks can contribute to making firearms louder.
Shooters that do not wear any hearing protection can ultimately suffer from severe hearing loss in as few as a couple shots. Audiologists report this is a common problem when hunters are exposed to pistols, shotguns or big-bore rifles.
People who frequently shoot firearms without ear safety are likely to develop hearing loss, which includes demonstrating problems with speech sounds, such as “th,” “v,” “s” or other high-pitched sounds. Since most shooters are right-handed, the left ear suffers more damage, with the right ear bearing partial protection. Some people that experience high-frequency hearing loss may not hear clearly or think other people are mumbling. They may also resist getting hearing tests or experiencing constant ringing in their ears, which is known as tinnitus.
To help protect shooters from permanent hearing loss, shooters need to use earmuffs or earplugs when shooting steel shooting targets. Currently, only half of shooters wear any form of hearing protection. Hunters are less likely to wear hearing protection for fear they will not be able to hear approaching noises or game. Some hearing protection simply limits hearing, allowing shooters to hear softer noises, such as game, but protects their ears from high frequency decibels.
There are two types of hearing protective devices (HPDs):
- Electronic – Electronic HPDs make soft sounds louder, but automatically shut of when there is a loud noise, such as gunfire. This includes several different styles, such as earmuffs, earplugs and behind the ear devices custom-made ear devices.
- Nonlinear – These allow soft to moderate sounds to pass through the hearing device, but may not close enough to protect ears from loud noises.
Audiologists recommend that shooters always use hearing protection when firing guns, using some type of HPD. Avoid shooting in large groups or in environments that promote reverberating noises. For maximum results, visit Jumping Targets for shooting targets that are made of high quality metal steel and are ideal for shooting long distances.