November 21st, 2021

Say What? How to Prevent Serious Hearing Loss

Hearing Protection DB sound level ear plug muff

“Science tells us that exposure to continuous noise of 85 dB for eight hours is enough to cause permanent hearing loss, and worse, spikes of 130 dB and more can result in permanent hearing damage instantly.”
Source: NRA Blog.

The Risk of Hearing Loss
Hearing loss can be progressive and irreversible. If you are a shooter, this is serious business. As the NRA Blog cautions: “You may not even realize you’re harming your hearing. Hearing loss occurs gradually, and can go effectively unnoticed until symptoms become severe. By then, the damage is done.”

Nobody wants to go deaf. But we often see shooters without effective hearing protection when they are walking around a few yards behind the firing line. That’s bad — even if you are away from the firing line, gunshot noises can damage your hearing. You MUST use effective hearing protection every time you go to the range. Good foam earplugs costs mere pennies but they can prevent deafness in your later years. Many folks also wear muffs over plugs.

Sound Levels for Common Noises:

9mm Luger pistol: 160 dB

Jet aircraft engine (near): 140 dB

.22 LR pistol: 134 dB

Normal human pain threshold: 120 dB

Noisy Nightclub: 110 db

Riding Motorcycle at 65 mph: 103 db

Power Lawnmower: 95 dB

Hearing damage possible: 85 dB (sustained for 8+ hours)

Ringing Telephone: 80 dB

Normal conversation: 60 dB

The Myth of the “Quiet” .22 LR
The NRA Blog notes that “many rimfire shooters, particularly those using the beloved .22 Long Rifle cartridge, argue that the small .22 LR caliber doesn’t produce enough sound to damage your hearing”. So, is that really true … or is it a myth?

In fact, a .22 LR can be much louder than you think — a .22 LR pistol can produce sound levels of 134 dB. That’s well above the normal human pain threshhold.

hearing protection ear muffs NRR earplugs osha deafness

Compact, Low-Profile NRR 26 dB-Rated Ear Muffs

walker shooting hearing protection muffs 27 db NRR

Many hunters and competitive shooters prefer low-profile ear muffs. As these typically have a lower Noise Reduction Rating, perhaps NRR 22-27, we recommend running earplugs under muffs. If you use low-profile electronic muffs, such as Howard Leight Impact Sport Muffs, you should still be able to hear range commands even with plugs underneath.

Another good option for hunters and range visitors are hearing bands, basically earplugs connected with a semi-rigid plastic band. These banded products provide “quick access” hearing protection for hunters. You can keep them handy around the neck while spotting game, and then insert the plugs before shooting.

Howard Leight MAX NRR33 Earplugs, Just $11.50 for 50 Pairs.

accurateshooter.com review Max-1 Howard Leight ear plugs

20 Pairs
50 Pairs

These Howard Leight NRR33 Max-1 Plugs are your Editor’s favorite foam earplugs. Between shooting, motorcycling and mowing lawns, I probably have Howard Leight foam plugs in my ears 3-4 days a week. They are comfortable and the flared outer edge helps the NRR. There is also a Max-30 corded version, with the same excellent 33 dB Noise Reduction Rating. Get five pairs of Max-30 Corded Plugs for $6.65 on Amazon, or 100 pairs of Max-30s for $27.86.

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