To put things into perspective, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration recommends that on-the-job noise exposure to a level of 115 decibels not exceed 15 minutes per day. A .22-caliber rifle produces a noise level of 140 decibels, and a typical deer rifle can produce noise greater than 175 decibels.
Sound levels can increase at firing ranges where sound waves bounce off walls. Permanent hearing loss can occur with a single shot if no hearing protection is used. In addition to hearing loss, tinnitus — or ringing in the ears — can develop temporarily or permanently.
“The good news is that noise-induced hearing loss is preventable,” adds Lowry. “Wearing hearing protection, such as earplugs or muffs, allows you to still hear soft sounds, while preventing damage to your ears from loud noises, especially with some of the more expensive options.”
Lowry says you also could wear hearing protection around your neck while in the woods and quietly put it in place just before the shot. Your local sporting goods store usually carries an assortment of inexpensive, effective products.
Lowry suggests hunters should set a good example and wear hearing protection when hunting with family and friends. This will help children or grandchildren know the importance of wearing hearing protection — similar to wearing a helmet when riding a bike.
“Hearing protection is necessary when using guns,” Lowry says. “Make the effort to bring hearing protection for all shooters and bystanders when target shooting and hunting. Believe it or not, once you make this a habit, you’ll be surprised how little it affects your hunting experience.”
(Mayo Clinic News Network