The impulse noise from firearms is as intense as 132-165 dB and thus extremely dangerous to the hearing.
A Polish study including 18 hunters and 28 police trainees, with average ages of 46.2 years and 25.2 years, respectively, found that as many as 72.2 percent of the hunters suffered from hearing loss. Only 11.1 percent had completely normal hearing, and the remaining 16.7 percent had normal hearing only in the ear furthest away from the rifle.
The hunters had never used hearing protection while hunting. The police trainees had always used hearing protection when practicing target shooting and none of them suffered from measurable hearing loss.
In a comparison of the two groups their hearing was examined before and after a number of test gunshots. Changes were noted in the hearing of the hunters, whereas no measurable changes were found in the police trainees after the test shots. The latter group wore hearing protection throughout the test shooting.
The study indicated that long-term exposure to gunshot blasts is not the only hearing hazard when using firearms. Even short-term exposure can cause temporary hearing damage and make the ear more susceptible to noise damage later on.
On the plus side, the study confirmed that hearing protection effectively prevents hearing loss. The use of hearing protection is therefore highly recommended when using firearms.
Source: Temporary changes in hearing after exposure to shooting noise. International Journal of Occupational Medicine and Environmental Health
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