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Tinnitus apart, despite using ear protection, many shooters still suffer a significant loss of hearing, particularly at the high end of the sound scale. Keeping your ear defenders or plugs on at all times during shooting will reduce the risk of damaging your hearing or worse, suffering from tinnitus. The great majority of my shooting is pigeon over decoys, and a reduction in range would mean getting the quarry to come in close. Have you ever finished a concert or left a nightclub and heard a ringing, whistling or hissing noise in your ears.
The sound can range from very quiet background noise to a disturbing loud noise. It can be intermittent or continuous, and can vary in loudness. It will usually go away after a day or so but sometimes, particularly if you are often in loud noise, it will not. If your tinnitus is related to noise exposure a simple way to avoid it is to have custom-fitted ear protection made to protect you from further damage. Although there are no specific cures for tinnitus, anything that reduces stress can help, as many find their tinnitus gets worse when they are anxious or distressed. Calming body-based therapies, counselling and psychotherapy help restore well-being, which in turn allows tinnitus to settle.
Quiet uneventful, relaxing music, a fan or a water feature at bedtime can help distract from the tinnitus sound.
We can also help with inexpensive devices that produce environmental sounds, and these are particularly useful at bedtime. The majority of sufferers endure an acute phase of distress when the problem begins, followed by an improvement over time.  But for a minority of patients the distress is on-going, and they will require specialist support.
If you are worried about your tinnitus, our hearing therapist can help you decide on the best course of action for you. To see what DJ Eddie Temple-Morris says about us and how hearing protection helps his tinnitus click here.
Please feel free to contact us on 020 8455 6361 for an appointment or to discuss the impact that  tinnitus has on your life. All our staff are highly skilled audiological practitioners who are trained in healthcare provision.  As we are registered with the Health Professions Council, we can accept self-referrals, or referrals direct from your GP or from Ear, Nose and Throat specialists across the UK. North London Hearing has been awarded the Phonak Premium Partner mark in recognition of the high level of service they provide to their clients. Once you have bought a good clay gun, there is some additional kit which is essential, and some which will come in very handy. Similarly you MUST wear eye protection (which is now a requirement in CPSA registered competition). A shooting vest is a must for clay shooters, and it must offer glitch free mounting and unrestricted movement.
You will also need a cartridge bag of some sort, and, an equipment bag that can include all your kit when you are going to major shoots.
I had hoped it would speed up the checkout and debriefing process upon my return from deployment.
Once my unit landed in-country, the gunners in our Light Armored Vehicle (LAV) company got together to share ideas on how to build in some modern conveniences that would make our tour in Iraq a bit more comfortable. These SportEAR aids have helped combat Poole’s tinnitus, and they serve as great ear protection for shooting.
He also figured out how to override the safety feature that prevented an LAV-25 turret from rotating 360 degrees. My memory of the days and nights blend together, so I can’t tell you the exact date of the event. These GhostStryke aids from SportEAR are great ear protection for shooting sports, if you’re willing to spend the money. The ringing in my ear didn’t bother me much in the hours after that night, but anytime a rifle was fired around me, especially when I was caught off guard, it came back painfully worse. I had an audiogram in May and learned I didn’t have hearing loss as much as I had tinnitus, and the left-ear ringing starts at 3,000 Hz and drops steeply to severe in the 6,000 to 8,000 Hz range.
For those looking for ear protection for the shooting range but don’t want to break the bank, these over-the-ear electronic muffs from SportEAR retail for under $100. Coincidentally, I learned of SportEAR around the same time from gunwriter Tom Beckstrand, who had fallen in love with a pair of its GhostStryke low-pro ear protection for shooting that actually enhance normal hearing and digitally compress loud noises.
My hearing is not only being served with protection at the range, I actually hear better because the program is enhancing and canceling different tones at the decibel range of my tinnitus. If you can relate, I’d recommend reaching out to SportEAR at 801-566-0240 or visiting the company’s website here. Effective hearing protection is a must whenever you are shooting firearms or when you are in the vicinity of gun-shots. In addition to traditional ear plugs and ear-muffs, new band-style protectors provide a third sound-blocking option. Leight Quiet Band® sound protectors can be purchased from many online vendors for under $5.00 per set, which includes a spare pair of ear buds. When I first started shooting I was 18 and like many red-blooded American males, I never really bothered with ear protection—until I shot my first handgun. At the time I had a Ruger Blackhawk in .357 Magnum and one day I took it out with some factory ammo—some good, heavy duty stuff to practice with for hunting. The second half of this equation involves the nature of human hearing and how this instrument reacts to loud noises.
This movement causes a chain reaction of vibrations to occur through the middle ear bones and, in turn, the hairs that line the cochlea (the spiral-shaped cavity in the inner ear that is the auditory portion of the system) called Stereocilia or commonly just Cilia, also commence to vibrating. Most public ranges supply earplugs or full on shooting muffs gratis with range admission (in fact, many would think twice about even going to a public range that didn’t offer access to these staples).
You could be showing signs of the dreaded tinnitus and failure to use ear protection when shooting means that you are at a risk of suffering from this debilitating condition.
After studying the facts and figures regarding cause and effect, what it all boils down to for those of us who shoot, is that noise and recoil are the obvious causes and unless you use some form of hearing protection, your ears are subjected to far too many decibels each time you use a shotgun or rifle.
Following a busy shooting day, I began to experience an unpleasant ringing in my ears, accompanied by a strange sensation of light-headedness, mild nausea and sometimes an annoying headache. I’ve tried everything, but with no known cure it’s something you gradually learn to live with. By the time January pheasants came along it was back to the 12-bore using 2in cartridges, which worked well for a couple of seasons until a few sub-standard loads destroyed my confidence in using them.
Right from mid-November, two or three days a week were spent on various bits of oilseed rape.
A session with Ed’s 20-bore seemed no better, and in the end I decided to go the whole hog by downsizing to a 28. As with any new gun, the first few shots brought mixed results, but a week later an opportunity came along to really give it a try. Having tinnitus does not mean you will automatically have hearing loss but it is advisable to have your hearing checked. I have a number of hard spectacle cases to accommodate various shooting glasses a€“ the hinged hard cases make them all easily available. I was in such a hurry to process out and leave Camp Lejeune that I decided not to report the hearing damage I was sensing in my left ear. After nearly 10 months in Iraq, I was tired and anxious to hit the road and see the family farm. Marc Christ, my vehicle gunner, cleverly figured out how to splice some wires and tie-in his CD player to the vehicle’s intercom system. He successfully argued that once we crossed the line of departure at the Kuwait-Iraq border, gunners would need to be able to quickly throw the turret to the rear if a driver was unable to swing a vehicle around or if vehicle mobility had been compromised. Near the front of a convoy, the enemy waited for us to pass before making their twilight ambush. My .50-caliber Barrett was in a soft case and became caught between the turret and the hull. Though it annoys me in moments of silence, it is a constant noise that I’ve learned to live with. I have fewer headaches, and, because they’re fit for my ears, they are actually comfortable.


For ultimate protection, we recommend a good set of tapered foam earplugs, topped by ear-muffs. Every year more hunters and shooters find they are suffering from irreversible hearing loss brought on by prolonged exposure to gunshots and when we consider that prevention is so cheap and easy—simply using ear protection every time you go shooting—this reality is unacceptable.
All it took was one day shooting a large caliber revolver to learn just how painful it can be and how long the effects can linger when you shoot without ear protection.
When humans experience what we know as sound, sound waves are being funneled into the ear via the external ear canal.  These waves hit the eardrum, really just a thin membrane, and the compression and rarefaction of these waves puts the eardrum into motion. And though your body may compensate (you have millions of Cilia in your ears) this means that once the damage is done, it’s there to stay. Unfortunatly too many young people will likely not even read it, or articles like it, until they start to notice changes or ringing in their ears as they age(when it's too late).
The effect can be anything from a brief, mildly annoying, high-pitched whistle or buzz, to a really serious long-term condition that causes pain, discomfort, dizziness – and even disorientation. On bad days it often continued throughout the evening, but after a good sleep usually faded away until the next busy session with the gun. Noticeably louder than normal, eventually the ringing kicked off all the usual symptoms, but at a higher level than before and, most unusually, I was ready to call it a day long before the pigeons did. Brick wall partitions between the ranges rebounded echoes, rattling around in my head until I was almost floating. Heavier load, sub-sonic cartridges were tried, but found to be very slow, and I eventually settled to using normal, though fast, light loads, far more successfully for many years. Everything I tried was far louder, had noticeably more recoil, and was – at the time – far less effective than lead. Combined with a busy game and wildfowl season, it all added up to a fantastic amount of shooting.
Using around half a 12-bore load, hopefully the adverse effects would be cut significantly. Starting just before midday, I managed to clock up over 300 birds during a great afternoon’s decoying. And, you must make sure the lenses suit shooting a€“ in particular, they must not be too small. I might also add for the record, that I ALWAYS wear ear protection, though it may not be visible in photographs. We rode Quick Reaction Force (QRF) missions listening to a mix of classic metal and soul music when we weren’t busy communicating. The safety system was designed to prevent injury to security personnel, like me, who stand out of the back hatches. The company used the results of my audiogram to tune a program for a skin-tone unit molded specially for my ear canal. However, there are situations when you may prefer lighter-weight hearing protection that can be quickly removed.
As shown in the photos, the NRR 25-rated QB2 positions cone-shaped foam pads next to the ear openings and holds them there with light pressure from the orange-colored band. Considering that hearing loss can start at anything over 85 db, unless you’re shooting airguns or suppressed weapons (and even then, not all supressors are made equal) there is never a time that you should be range shooting without hearing protection.
Over the years my ears have been pounded by live music on and off stage, industrial machinery noise and of course, the range. Around other people, I’m reasonably okay in one-to-one conversations, but in a crowded pub or at a noisy shoot dinner, I can only nod, smile, agree with everyone and hope for the best.
My concentration suffered badly, and it was only a few years before I gave up serious clayshooting to return to falconry. Things have developed since then, but recoil itself is a bigger part of the tinnitus problem than most people realise, and getting hit hard when you’re already feeling low soon gets the head spinning. Teaming up with shooting buddy, Ed, my score was 17 days well over 100, plus two double centuries from one area alone.
Granted, the pigeons were most co-operative – it was ones and twos all the time – but it taught me that with straight shooting, the little small-bore could still get the job done. Baseball style caps are very popular for clay shooting and allow muff type hearing protectors to be worn too. The custom ear protection for shooting came with a custom cost of $2,500, but the result has been life-changing. For example, if you are standing well behind the firing line as an observer, or if you are working as a rangemaster or waddie some distance away from the shooters. There is also an Inner-aural version (item QB1HYG, yellow band, NRR 27), and a Semi-aural model (item QB3HYG, red band, NRR 21). Since my mid 30's I always wear hearing protection, to keep the ringing and hearing loss from getting any worse.
Communal speech is virtually impossible to decipher, with only an odd word or two picked out from what is usually a background murmur.
Besides a lifelong passion for decoying pigeons, game and wildfowl shooting, and lamping forays for rabbits during the summer months, I was quite heavily into competition skeet and sporting clays.
Flinching becomes a normal reaction when taking a shot, which is far from helpful when fluency, smoothness and confidence are required to shoot at your best.
For me and my firearms students, hearing protection is mandatory at the range.Noise Hazard from ShootingThe noise from gunfire is one of the most hazardous non-occupational noises that people are exposed to. If in doubt, take professional advice and you may wish to involve a hearing specialist (start with your doctor). My advice is to buy thin leather ones of the highest quality a€“ they are a good investment. My vehicle commander, Major Dave Duhamel, was giving me several colorful signals for “What are you doing?” so I managed to stand back up to resume my role as a combatant.
Our preferred QB2 Supra-aural (orange band) model is just as comfortable as the QB3 (red band) version, and offers much better protection. With my ears, they fit the best if the band starts on top of my head, I insert the plugs then rotate the band behind my head. It all added up to quite a lot of shooting, though at the time few Guns wore ear protection, even at clay shoots.
During the latter days, I’d just about had enough, but with several combined days of 300-400 plus, it was hard to walk away from.
Better still, though, such a session with a 12-bore would have brought severe repercussions, after firing the best part of 400 shots almost non-stop, hardly any side-effects were noticeable! It’s possible that a single gunshot heard by an unprotected ear can lead to immediate and permanent hearing loss, often accompanied by tinnitus or ringing, hissing or humming in the ears.
If you do not wear hearing protection YOU WILL go deaf or develop tinnitus a€“ constant ringing in the ears.
I saw the turret quartered over the opposite hatch, so I grabbed my M16A2, changed seats and stood up just as he fired three rounds from the LAV’s 25mm Bushmaster chaingun. The QB1 Inner-aural (yellow band) model requires that you place the ear buds in the ear canal, so it’s not really any easier to use than conventional earplugs.
The Cleveland Clinic and the Sight and Hearing Association report that hearing loss can definitely result from a single gunshot or from noise over an extended time. You need to be looking through the central area of the lens when your head is in a shooting position on the stock a€“ the spectacles must not sit too low on the nose. There is also the issue of side protection to be considered a€“ many accidents have occurred which might have been prevented by suitable side protectors on the spectacle frame. William Clark, senior research scientist of the Noise Laboratory at the Central Institute for the Deaf in St. Yet, they are big enough to keep around your neck out of the way[.] I can sit these Howard Leights down on the shooting bench without worrying about them getting dirty since the band is curved, placing the plugs in the air. Both amplitude and intensity duration are related to a sound’s power and possible hearing damage.
So without hearing protection, listening to rock music at 90 dB for 30 minutes may not be as damaging as working in an industrial plant environment or hearing continuous gunshots at 90 dB for 6 hours or so. As the amplitude increases, the time duration your ears can tolerate noise without damage goes down. For example, at 115 dB the duration drops to 15 minutes or less and the pain threshold begins usually at about 130 dB.


A dangerous sound is usually considered to be anything over 85dB for an extended period of time, without protection, but a single loud gunshot for a short time can also be very damaging. I recall a few times at the shooting range when I forgot to put my hearing protector muffs on and the resulting loud bang and how my ears were ringing just from one occurrence. Michael Stewart, Professor of Audiology at the University of Central Michigan and the American Speech-Language Hearing Association, gets specific and says that exposure to noise greater than 140 dB can permanently damage hearing, without protection. A small .22-caliber gun can produce noise around 140 dB, while big-bore rifles and pistols can produce sound over 175 dB.
Firing guns in a place where sounds can reverberate, or bounce off walls and other structures, like inside a building or some indoor shooting ranges, can make noises louder and increase the risk of hearing loss. Stewart says that shooters who do not wear hearing protection while shooting can suffer a severe hearing loss with as little as one shot, if the conditions are right.
So just because you might have shot without hearing protection in the past, and without apparent hearing loss, does not mean you might not damage your hearing the next time.
So, it’s important to wear hearing protection EVERY time you shoot a gun to avoid possible hearing damage.
The NRR is derived from an involved calculation that begins with attenuation test results from at least ten laboratory subjects across a range of frequencies. Two standard deviations are factored in to account for individual user variation, and several corrections and cushions are included to make the NRR applicable to a broader population, and a wide variety of noise sources. The NRR is the most standardized method currently in use for describing a hearing protector’s attenuation in a single number and estimates the amount of protection achievable by 98% of users in a laboratory setting when hearing protectors are properly fitted.
The higher the NRR the greater the noise level is reduced.Check the noise reduction rating (NRR) of your hearing protector.
All hearing protection devices are rated according to how much noise (in decibels) they will reduce for the wearer. While wearing hearing protection your exposure to noise is equal to the total noise level minus the NRR of the hearing protectors in use.
For example, if you were exposed to 80db of noise but were wearing earplugs with an NRR of 29, your actual noise exposure would only be 51dB. These plugs are placed into the ear opening and they serve to dampen any high volume sound that the ear is exposed to. Ear plugs are by far the least expensive form of ear protection, but do they actually work well?
Like the passive ear plugs, this model won’t have the electronic sound dampening device.
The ear muff style design is nice as the cup has a seal that protects the entire ear from the noise versus the ear plugs which only partially protect the ear canal itself.
Most ear muff models have the ability to be adjusted, although some of the less expensive ear muff models may not have this feature. The entire sound dampening process takes place faster than the blink of an eye as the suppressed sound is transmitted to the wearer almost instantly.
The best feature of electronic hearing protection is the ability to hear everything that is going on around you while you are shooting.
In many situations, such as on the range, during training, or while hunting; this can be a great benefit. Of course, due to the technology needed, electronic hearing protection tends to be the most expensive of all the hearing protection devices. A number of the higher end electronic models may have other enhancements such as a separate volume control for each side of the ear muffs, enhanced adjustability, a battery saver feature to conserve battery use, and ambient sound magnification. The ambient sound magnification is a great benefit for hunters as it amplifies noise to a degree that is far greater than the naked ear can hear. At the same time, the augmented sound is instantly dampened when a shot is fired.Electronic Hearing Protection Headsets vs. Passive Hearing Protection EarmuffsBoth Electronic Headsets and classic earmuffs have advantages and disadvantages.
The three common styles of earmuffs are the standard over-the-head, cap-mounted and behind-the-neck.
The cap-mounted earmuffs are design to mount directly to most hard hats that have side-accessory slots. Classic earmuffs are less expensive than electronic headsets and tend to have a slightly higher NRR.Electronic Earmuffs provide the same protection as standard earmuffs but also offer other special features. These headsets allow you to protect your hearing from loud noises while still being able to listen to low sound levels such as conversations. Others features besides distort free amplification can include audio jacks, automatic shut offs and volume controls. Although they are certainly better than nothing, they provide only the minimum of protection. If you shoot infrequently or don’t have the need for the additional capabilities of an electronic model, basic passive ear muffs will most likely work OK. If you are a active shooter or hunter, the electronic models can be a worthwhile purchase with all their added features. I switched from passive headphones to an electronic model for almost all purposes and don’t regret it.
Some acceptable brands of hearing protectors to consider are Radians, Peltors, Pro Ears, Winchester, Caldwell, Howard Leight, Browning, and Remington.
Prices range from just under $20 for passive earmuffs to up to $250 and more for electronic headsets. Generally, you should be able to get a decent pair of passive earmuffs for about $20 and a decent electronic set for about $50.
At the end of the day, the choice really comes down to your own personal preferences, frequency of shooting, and needs.Although I own several different hearing protection devices, I prefer electronic noise canceling headsets that detect sharp, loud noises, allow me to hear my students clearly, and cancel the volume in the headset for a split second when I shoot. Of course, I need to regularly hear and understand my students talking to me at the range and I shoot very regularly.
My electronic headset cancels loud noises up to an acceptable level and also increases the volume of ambient sounds, so I actually hear better.
Standard ear muffs deaden sound to a decent level of safety, but hearing low-level sounds is not possible.
When plinking for fun at my outdoor range, I might use standard passive earmuffs, as they are usually lighter and a little more comfortable than my amplified type. When I’m teaching a class of students at the outdoor range where it is important to hear student-shooters ask questions, I wear electronic earmuffs. In very noisy environments, such as when shooting very loud (often magnum) firearms or at an indoor range, I use both earplugs inside of earmuffs, for maximum hearing protection. When dual hearing protectors are used, the combined NRR provides approximately 5 – 10 decibels more than the higher rated of the two devices. For example, using disposable ear plugs (NRR 29dB) with ear muffs (NRR 27dB) would provide a Noise Reduction Rating of approximately 39 decibels. I had a student who wore a hearing aid and she found it best for her condition to use both plugs and muffs. Shooters should match the level of hearing protection required to their need, situation, and priorities. Most importantly, always wear some sort of ear protection when shooting, in addition to proper eye protection. All Rights Reserved. This article may not be reprinted or reproduced in whole or in part by mechanical means, photocopying, electronic reproduction, scanning, or any other means without prior written permission.
Air Force, with joint services Special Ops duty and training, and is Air Force qualified as "Expert" in small arms. Ben is an experienced NRA-Certified Pistol Instructor, NRA Range Safety Officer, and FL Concealed Carry License Instructor. Ben wrote the 2015 book "Concealed Carry and Handgun Essentials for Personal Protection" with 57 comprehensive Chapters about concealed carry and handgun principles, techniques, and tips for both experienced and new shooters.



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