May 21st, 2020

Learn How the Human Ear Works — And Protect Your Hearing

hearing protection inner ear anatomy science hearing medical electronic muffs earplugs

hearing protectionAll shooters, even rimfire enthusiasts, should always wear ear protection when at the range. A typical rifle gunshot is very loud — in the region of 140 to 170 decibels (the pain threshold is 130-140 db). Without ear protection, you can permanently damage your hearing during a single shooting session. We all know older shooters who are partially deaf, or who suffer from Tinnitus, because they didn’t use earplugs or muffs when they were younger.

How Humans Hear Sounds — Amazing Video Reveals All
The human sense of hearing involves multiple delicate internal membranes, bones, organs, and nerves. Shooters understand the importance of protecting their hearing, but they may not understand the bio-mechanics of human hearing. We hear sounds through Auditory Transduction. Sound waves vibrate the ear drum (tympanic membrane), but that is only the beginning. These vibrations are passed along via tiny rocker-arm-like bones to be “processed” in a spiral chamber, the cochlea.

This remarkable VIDEO explains how humans hear sounds. We strongly recommend you take the time to watch and learn. The hearing you save may be your own!

Click Speaker Icon to turn on the video’s soundtrack.

Vibrations moving through the cochlea are separated into frequencies and then sent as neural messages to the brain. It is an astonishingly complex process, one that truly seems miraculous when you examine the bio-engineering involved. In the Video above, the process of human Auditory Transduction is explained and illustrated with 3D animation. You really should watch this amazing video. By the end you will have a new-found appreciation for your ability to hear.

hearing protection inner ear anatomy science hearing medical electronic muffs earplugs

Every shooter should own a pair of Electronic muffs, even if you prefer shooting with earplugs and/or standard muffs. Electronic muffs are great when you are spotting for other shooters or are working near the firing line. They let you hear ordinary conversations while still providing vital hearing protection. You can also wear ear-plugs under muffs for extra sound attenuation.

shooting ear protection nrr 33 ear plugs howard leightPlugs PLUS Ear-Muffs — The Benefits of “Doubling-Up” Your Hearing Protection
According to OHS Online: “The combined attenuation of an ear plug and an ear muff is not simply the algebraic sum of the performance of each individual protector. This is due to an acoustic and vibratory interaction between the ear muff and the ear plug that causes them to behave together as a system rather than as independent hearing protectors.

Generally speaking, when you combine two hearing protectors, ear muffs over ear plugs, you can expect an increase [in noise reduction] of between 3 and 10 dB over the higher-performing hearing protector. OSHA [now advises] 5 dB as the [typical] benefit offered by combining hearing protectors.” Source: OHSonline.com

Ear diagram courtesy Siemens Medical Solutions.

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April 17th, 2015

“Say What?” — Forum Members Talk About Hearing Loss

hearing protection ear muffs NRR earplugs osha deafness

Hearing loss can be progressive and irreversible. If you are a shooter, this is serious business. You need to use effective hearing protection every time you go to the range. Even if you are away from the firing line, gunshot noises can damage your hearing. Good foam earplugs costs mere pennies but they can prevent deafness in your later years. Many folks also wear muffs over plugs. Some other shooters prefer the custom-molded ear plugs. Electronic muffs can be useful when you are away from the firing line because they allow you to converse.

Here are some comments from Forum members on the subjects of hearing loss and the need for proper ear protection. You can join the discussion in this FORUM THREAD:

“If you are young and don’t want to end up with profound hearing loss like I have… ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS use hearing protection. This is from a guy who is social security/medicare eligible, has two Re-Sound aids at a not so cheap $2000.00 EACH… and now has religion! When I was young [we] never wore ear gear and laughed at the ringing after 100 rounds of 12 gauge at the skeet range. Now we live with the consequences. Be smarter than I was!” — Gary0529


“Take it from a 70-year-old that has been shooting 49 years. I now have a Re-Sound hearing aid in the left ear and a Cochlear Implant in my right. I still cannot hear. Custom molded plugs are best. Some are sold at gun shows and some are made by the folks that make hearing aids. They are cheap as compared to this $200,000 implant. DO IT NOW for everyone around guns.” — Richard King, King’s Armory


“Say WHAT? You have to type a little louder! I used to shoot without any muffs, when I was ‘young and indestructible’, and now I have about 40% loss. When I take youngsters and friends shooting, they get muffs and plugs. I’m not allowed suppressors where I live. I would use them if I could.” — Josh B.


“For what it’s worth, I wear both ear plugs and muffs that have NO sound adjustment capability. As a youngster (15) I wore no ear protection either in shooting or motorcycle riding. I kept doing that until entering military service at age 18 where we had to wear ear plugs at the range. Started wearing ear plugs after that, except when motorcycle riding. At around age 53 my hearing started going south as a result of my own stupidity as a youngster and now some 15 years later I only have about 45% of my hearing left. So beware all — there is a price to pay if you don’t protect your hearing.” — Shynloco

hearing protection ear muffs NRR earplugs osha deafness

“Here are several points to consider:
1. The NRR (noise reduction rating) is determined by “experimenter” fit, not user fit, and trained listeners during the testing period. This results in inflated protection numbers compared to real-world protection.
2. Any disruptions in the protector/skin seal will greatly reduce the effectiveness. Think eye glass temple bars, lots of hair, ear wax, etc. A 5% leak results in a 50% reduction in effectiveness.
3. Double protection gives only 5-10 dB extra protection.
4. Bone conduction gives about 50 dB protection so hearing protectors are the weak link[.]
5. Keep the protectors in/on your ears. Over 8 hours, if you remove them for only 30 minutes (cumulative), the effective protection is cut in half.

So, if you are using a really good muff with NRR of 33 and a foam plug with NRR of 27, the real-world NRR would be about 35 dB, at best. This would attenuate a gunshot by that amount. The key is time versus exposure. Limit the exposure and you limit the dose.” — DelS


“Personally, I use Etymotic Research GSB-15 electronic blast protectors. They are rated at 26-28 dB, but inserted correctly, with the correct fitting tip, approach 38 dB. And, they have a compressor amplifier that allows you to hear soft sounds normally and with very high fidelity. As the sound level goes up, the gain goes down till at an ambient sound pressure level of around 90 dB SPL, the gain is unity, or what comes in goes to the ear canal. However, once the sound level gets to 117dB SPL, the amplifier cannot go higher. So, if you are firing a large rifle with an impulse noise of around 160 dB SPL, your ear only hears 117 dB SPL of that for an effective attenuation of about 40 dB. RIGHT! about the same as the mastoid bone! Can’t get any better than that.

What gives me the right to say all these things? First, a BSEE as well as the graduate course in Audiology and a hearing aid dispensers license. And working in research and product development for the ear the last decade of my career.” — Norm Matzen

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