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Hunting and Hearing Loss Don’t Have to Go Hand-in-hand

Hunting and Hearing Loss Don’t Have to Go Hand-in-hand

Hunting season is under way in Washington, Idaho and throughout the Northwest. And whether you hunt big game, waterfowl, turkey or other wildlife, you are at high risk for hearing damage when exposed to firearms without hearing protection.

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) is clear: “People who use firearms are more likely to develop hearing loss than those who do not.” Yet a University of Wisconsin study found that “95% of the hunters reported never wearing hearing protection while shooting in the past year.”

How Hearing Loss Happens

Hearing loss from hunting or other sports involving shooting is called noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). The sound of gunfire can range from 140 dB to more than 175 dB. Compare that to the 60 dB level of normal conversation and you can imagine the damage to the sensory hair cells within your ears with the explosive sound of gunshots. 

Even though the sound of gunfire is short, a single exposure can cause permanent damage to hearing. 

Signs to Look For 

Here are some symptoms that should prompt you to seek advice from a professional: 

  • You experience distorted or muffled sounds.
  • It becomes difficult to hear others speaking or you have to turn up the volume on electronic devices like TV or your mobile phone.
  • You experience ringing or buzzing sounds in the ears caused by tinnitus.
  • You experience temporary hearing loss that disappears after a few hours.

NIHL is Preventable

According to the National Institutes of Health, NIHL is the only type of hearing loss that is completely preventable. Here are their recommendations to protect your hearing for life:

  • Know which noises can cause damage (those at or above 85 decibels). Download the free NIOSH Sound Level Meter App. Anything above 85 dB will start to put you at risk for NIHL.  
  • Wear earplugs or other protective devices when involved in a loud activity (activity-specific earplugs and earmuffs are available at hardware and sporting goods stores).
  • If you can’t reduce the noise or protect yourself from it, move away from it.
  • Be alert to hazardous noises in the environment.
  • Protect the ears of children who are too young to protect their own.
  • Make family, friends, and colleagues aware of the hazards of noise.
  • Have your hearing tested if you think you might have hearing loss.

Source: National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders

Are you concerned about hearing loss from hunting? 

Contact Palouse Specialty Physicians today to schedule an appointment with one of our ENT and Audiology professionals. We can test your hearing, provide recommendations for necessary treatment and help you find the most appropriate devices that will help protect your hearing. Most hearing tests are covered by health care insurance. 

Published on October 12, 2017

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