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April 19, 2004

Hunters blast hearing

Go target shooting and you will find that most people at the shooting range wear hearing protection. It's common sense. But hunters using hearing protection against their shotgun or rifle blasts are often as hard to come by as a bear in winter.

If you are a hunter and still have any hearing left, you may want to listen to R. David Wilson of Columbus, Ohio, a lifelong trapshooter, who is paying the price for not wearing hearing protection when he was younger.

"I didn't wear hearing protection for about the first 10 years I shot trap. The hearing loss happened slowly. After I started noticing it, I went another 10 years before I got a hearing aid," he recently told the Columbus Dispatch.

As many as half of all recreational shooters suffer from hearing loss, according to a study cited in the Women in the Outdoors magazine, published by the National Wild Turkey Federation. The explanation is simple: The noise from a gunshot far exceeds the noise levels at which permanent hearing damage may occur even from one single exposure. But mostly, the hearing loss builds from repeated exposure to intense noise bursts.

Right-handed shooters who hold their rifle to the right chin, tend to develop hearing loss in the left ear, whereas left-handed shooters develop hearing loss in their right ear.

R. David Wilson, who is a former president of the Ohio Trapshooters Association, sees two answers to this problem: You can either pay now and buy good hearing protection or you can pay later and buy much more costly hearing aids.

Hearing protection for target shooters varies from inexpensive earplugs to custom molded ear plugs and earmuffs. For hunters, who need good listening skills in between shots, new devices are available that amplify normal sound while blocking noise loud enough to harm the ear. When a shot is fired, they cut the sound instantly.

Even at prices as high as US$900 for the best hunters' ear protection now, this is a considerable savings compared with the cost of the best hi-tech hearing aids later and the suffering involved with hearing loss.

Source: The Columbus Dispatch, 9. November, 2003.

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