Protect Your Ears: 5 Reasons to Wear Gun Hearing Protection

Protecting your ears is an important part of gun safety. Anyone who uses guns regularly should be aware of the risks associated with hearing loss. Not wearing the proper ear defenders can lead to permanent damage, lifelong tinnitus, and a variety of other ailments. 

Luckily, it is relatively easy to make sure that you are protected from these potential problems. Want to learn more? Read on, and we will walk you through the top reasons why you should wear gun hearing protection.

Loud Decibels

People can experience permanent hearing loss after being exposed to noises at 140 DB or louder. According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, “almost all firearms create noise that is over the 140 DB level.”

A small .22-caliber rifle is going to create a sound at a level of around 140 DB. Larger rifles and pistols can produce sounds at 175 DB and louder. And when we add modifications like muzzle breaks, we can increase the shot’s volume even more. Enclosed rooms with reverberation can also make gunshots sound louder.

Permanent Hearing Loss

With the wrong conditions, a person can experience irreparable hearing loss the very first time they fire a gun. With that said, hearing loss is much more common among frequent users of firearms. These people will have trouble hearing high-pitched sounds like “v”, “s,” or “th.”

Tinnitus is a common symptom of hearing loss due to exposure to loud firearms. Those who suffer from tinnitus will hear a ringing sound in their ears. Tinnitus itself isn’t a condition itself but rather a symptom of an underlying condition.

Single-Sided Ear Problems

Most shooters are right-handed. Because of this, they tend to suffer more damage in their left ear than in their right ear. This is because the left ear is directly in line with, and closer to, the muzzle of the gun.

Also, the right ear is partly protected thanks to head shadow. Head shadow is when one ear has to do the heavy lifting and hear for both ears because one is deficient. This can make it difficult to interpret sounds coming from the person’s weaker side.

People with this problem may be able to hear what is being said but the sounds won’t be clear. It will seem to them that the person talking to them is mumbling.

Large Variety of Hearing Protectors

Nowadays, there is a large and assorted variety of different hearing protectors. Those who may have been reluctant to wear gun hearing protection can rest assured knowing that there is a material out there that can fit their lifestyle and comfort level.

Some people may not want to wear hearing protectors because they don’t like the way that they look. These people might even feel that the protectors are burdensome and not necessary. This is far from the truth. Ear defenders are an important aspect of gun safety can be very easy to use.

Let’s take a look at some of the most popular types of protectors.

Foam Earplugs

Foam earplugs are cheap yet effective at protecting your ears when out in the field. Because they are small and relatively affordable, it is always worth taking a pair of these when you go out shooting as a helpful backup.

The biggest drawback of these is that they only protect the ear canal. This means that they fail to adequately protect the sensitive bones that are outside the ear. Extremely loud sounds can still damage your hearing due to this.

It is also easy to wear foam earplugs incorrectly. When not inserted deeply enough, they won’t provide the amount of protection that they are meant to. They also dampen all noise, not just excessively loud noises.

This can make them impractical in social situations and competition shooting.

Impulse Earplugs 

These are like the classic foam earplugs except more sophisticated. The impulse earplugs are able to detect the decibels of outside noises and block out the ones that reach a certain volume. This allows you to hear average noises relatively well while still getting protection from gunshots.

They are also usually reversible. One side provides a constant noise reduction. This can be useful when working with firearms.

The other side provides noise-activated protection.

Still, these earplugs do not provide protection against extremely loud noises. You will need more heavy-duty ear defenders for that.


Headphones, sometimes referred to as cans, are the most popular form of protection. They also come in a variety of options. The traditional ones reduce and cancel outside noises.

Newer digital versions are able to block out sudden noises that clock in over a specified amount of decibels.

Older Shooters Are More At Risk

When it comes to hearing problems associated with firearm use, older shooters are especially at risk. A study was recently conducted in Wisconsin with over 3,700 participants. All of the participants were between the ages of 49 and 92.

Using a self-reporting method, the participants wrote down their firearm use during hunting and target shooting.

The shooters’ hearing was then measured using pure-tone audiometry. According to the results, 1,538 men who took part in the study over the past year were more likely to experience a loss of hearing.

If you continue to go hunting without proper protection, you are likely to eventually lose your ability to hear well if at all. Being able to hear a variety of distinct sounds is paramount to being a good hunter.

This is why it is so important to protect yourself when using firearms. Read more here about other great gear that will keep you protected.

Understanding the Importance of Gun Hearing Protection

While pretty much everyone who uses a firearm understands that they can cause harm to others, they may not as often consider the harm it can cause to themselves. The rate at which frequent shooters experience hearing loss is unfortunately high. The next time you go out shooting, be sure to bring some gun hearing protection with you. Your ears will thank you.

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About the Author

I'm Rodney Heaton and I love hunting in the wild. In the past, I was in the military for over 5 years. After that I became a licensed hunter and a mountain guide.