August 11th, 2022
Thank you for reading this post, don't forget to follow and signup for notifications!
How Sound Can Hurt Your Hearing and Protection Options
“Science tells us that exposure to continuous noise of 85 dB for eight hours is enough to cause permanent hearing loss, and worse, spikes of 130 dB and more can result in permanent hearing damage instantly.” Source: NRA Blog.
The Risk of Hearing Loss
Hearing loss can be progressive and irreversible. If you are a shooter, this is serious business. As the NRA Blog cautions: “You may not even realize you’re harming your hearing. Hearing loss occurs gradually, and can go effectively unnoticed until symptoms become severe. By then, the damage is done.”Effective hearing protection is a must whenever you are shooting firearms or when you are in the vicinity of gun-shots. For ultimate protection, we recommend a good set of tapered foam earplugs, topped by ear-muffs. However, there are situations when you may prefer lighter-weight hearing protection that can be quickly removed. 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.”
Sound Levels for Common Noises:
9mm Luger pistol: 160 dB
Jet aircraft engine (near): 140 dB
.22 LR pistol: 134 dB
Normal human pain threshold: 120 dB
Noisy Nightclub: 110 db
Riding Motorcycle at 65 mph: 103 db
Power Lawnmower: 95 dB
Hearing damage possible: 85 dB (sustained for 8+ hours)
Ringing Telephone: 80 dB
Normal conversation: 60 dB
What about suppressors? If you use a suppressor is it OK to dispense with hearing protection? Not really. Even the most effective suppressors, on the smallest and quietest calibers (.22 LR), reduce the peak sound level of a gunshot to between 110 to 120 dB. To put that in perspective, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), that is as loud as a jackhammer (110 dB) or an ambulance siren (120 dB). For normal caliber handguns and rifles, suppressed sound levels routinely exceed 130 dB, just shy of OSHA’s “hearing safe” threshold of 140 dB. Accordingly, we recommend use of hearing protection even when shooting suppressed.
Compact, Low-Profile NRR 27 dB-Rated Ear Muffs
Many hunters and competitive shooters prefer low-profile ear muffs. As these typically have a lower Noise Reduction Rating, perhaps NRR 22-27, we recommend running earplugs under muffs. If you use low-profile electronic muffs, such as Howard Leight Impact Sport Muffs, you should still be able to hear range commands even with plugs underneath.
Another good option for hunters and range visitors are hearing bands, basically earplugs connected with a semi-rigid plastic band. These banded products provide “quick access” hearing protection for hunters. You can keep them handy around the neck while spotting game, and then insert the plugs before shooting.
Howard Leight MAX NRR 33 Earplugs, Just $9.40 for 20 Pairs
|20 Pairs||50 Pairs|
These Howard Leight NRR 33 Max-1 Plugs are your Editor’s favorite foam earplugs. Between shooting, motorcycling and mowing lawns, I probably have Howard Leight foam plugs in my ears 3-4 days a week. They are comfortable and the flared outer edge helps the NRR. There is also a Max-30 corded version, with the same excellent 33 dB Noise Reduction Rating. Get five pairs of Max-30 Corded Plugs for $6.80 on Amazon, or 25 pairs of Max-30s for $14.50.
Note, if you prefer thin, light-weight earmuffs, we recommend running earplugs underneath for double protection while shooting firearms (or when you’re on the firing line). Sound experts tell us that running plugs and muffs together can effectively improve your effective noise reduction by 4-7 dB NRR.
Tags: decibels, Ear Muffs, Earplugs, Hearing Loss, Muffs, Noise Reduction, NRR, Sound Levels, Suppressors