Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Protecting your hearing when shooting


An estimated one in five Americans suffers from some form of hearing loss, rising to one in three for those over the age of 65. For shooters the risk of damaging your hearing is even greater, with the sound of gunfire enough to cause immediate and irreparable damage to your ears.

Safe levels of sound

Sound experts suggest that the threshold for safe and dangerous noise is 85 decibels (dB), which is the same as the noise of passing traffic. As the decibel levels increases towards and above 100dB, exposure time must fall to avoid sustained hearing damage over time. From 140dB the recommended exposure time is less than a second, as this will lead to immediate hearing damage.

Sound range of firearms

The majority of smaller firearms, like a small .22-caliber rifle, have a sound rating of around 140dB, with larger rifles and pistols producing sounds of up to 175dB.

This volume can increase if shooting takes place inside the confines of walls or solid structures, or if the gun is modified, which can amplify the sound level further.

The table below illustrates the sound rating of a variety of guns:

Gun
dB
Gun
dB
.22 LR rifle 134 .44 Special revolver 156
.410 shotgun 150 .22 Magnum pistol 157
.22 LR pistol 152 .45 ACP pistol 157
20 gauge shotgun 153 .380 ACP pistol 158
.223 rifle 155 .38 Special revolver 158
.25 pistol 155 .30-06 159
12 gauge shotgun 156 9mm Para pistol 160
.30-.30 rifle 156 .41 Magnum revolver 163
.308 rifle 156 .44 Magnum revolver 164

Even for quieter guns, sustained practise without the use of hearing protection can lead to hearing damage, like tinnitus, which is debilitating and frequently incurable, so it’s really important to take care.

Protecting your hearing

Wearing hearing protective devices (HPDs) such as earplugs or ear muffs will protect your ears from damaging noise associated with gunfire, while also allowing you to concentrate better on your aim.

There are many solutions available on the market, although specific shooting earplugs have higher Noise Reduction Ratings (NRR), designed to significantly reduce the high levels of sound that comes into contact with your ears.

Combining a good set of ear plugs with some ear muffs is the best solution overall as it provides double the protection. Remember that you need to reduce sound exposure to somewhere between 85dB-120dB, depending on the length of exposure time.

However, despite their positive influence, studies have shown that only half of shooters wear ear protection all the time during practise, often for fear of reducing their ability to hear ambient sounds, like animals; however, some solutions are now available which mitigate these concerns.

Custom-fitted earplugs

Custom-fitted silicon earplugs provide a high-value, expert solution which fits snugly in the ear canal while providing high-level sound reduction, perfect for serious and professional shooters.
ProGuard Custom Shooter and Marksmans Earplugs safely reduce noise levels to 85dB, while being expertly moulded to fit your ears by an audiologist. They also allow you to hear ambient external noises.
Alternatively, for a good set of non-custom fitted silicone shooting earplugs, Hearplugz DF Earplugs offer a NRR of 33dB – however, remember that for louder guns, these should be combined with a set of ear muffs to provide the higher required protection.

Foam earplugs

Highly economical foam earplugs, like Mack's Hi-Viz Shooters Foam Ear Plugs, work particularly well against high-level impulse noises, as they have high NRRs of around 32-34dB.
Like silicon earplugs, foam ones can be worn underneath a hat, reducing the risk of the shotgun stock or rifle connecting with them, which can happen with ear muffs, when firing; they also come in larger packs, ideal for groups.
However, foam plugs have a very generic fit and therefore need to be inserted properly to avoid them becoming ineffective.

Ear Muffs

Mack's Shooters Double Up Ear Defenders are a good-value solution with an NRR of 34dB, reducing a .22 low-calibre rifle to only 100dB, an acceptable volume in short, infrequent bursts.
Alternatively, for a higher-quality, higher-value solution, Deben Slim Electronic Ear Defenders block out loud and harmful noises whilst amplifying quieter sounds in stereo, using dual microphones fitted in each cup; this allows you to hear ambient noises like conversation and wildlife.

Rob Doole is managing director at Allearplugs.com, check out his latest updates on Google+.

The article has been provided by Allearplugs.com.