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Old January 7, 2014, 12:28 AM   #1
David spargenator
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Do I have ear damage?

A couple years ago I was shooting my shotgun with no hearing protection, and after a few shots my ears started ringing every time the gun would go off. But I kept shooting for a few minutes like a moron. Now, 2 years later I shoot a 9mm with no hearing protection. And my ears ring. My ears will ring if I shoot anything more than a 22lr. Do I still have hearing loss from the shotgun you think?
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Old January 7, 2014, 12:36 AM   #2
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If your ears ring, it is usually an indicator that damage is taking/has taken place. Damage to your ears doesn't really heal like a normal injury, your brain just compensates for the loss until it can't compensate any more. Then your ears ring all the time, and/or you just can't hear things you used to be able to hear.
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Old January 7, 2014, 12:40 AM   #3
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Your ears ring as a reaction to the loud noises. I'd go into the physiology of it all, but basically your ears are telling you to give them protection. The sooner the better!

If not, you can be like me in my 40s who hears ringing ALL THE TIME in a quiet room because of not wearing hearing protection in my 20s.

Plugs or muffs, sometimes both. Just do it.
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Old January 7, 2014, 03:14 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David spargenator
A couple years ago I was shooting my shotgun with no hearing protection, and after a few shots my ears started ringing every time the gun would go off. But I kept shooting for a few minutes like a moron. Now, 2 years later I shoot a 9mm with no hearing protection. And my ears ring. My ears will ring if I shoot anything more than a 22lr.
Wait, so a couple of years ago you realized what can happen when you shoot without hearing protection -- you understood at the time that it was a bad idea -- but you still do it now?

Quote:
Originally Posted by David spargenator
Do I still have hearing loss from the shotgun you think?
You have hearing loss from any gun that you've ever shot without hearing protection. Every time you shoot a gun without hearing protection, even a .22 LR, you're permanently damaging your hearing. The noise of each shot breaks off microscopic hairs inside your ears that help you hear, and those hairs will never grow back. The shotgun was worse than the 9mm or .22, but they all cause permanent damage every time you pull the trigger. The effects are cumulative, so do it a few times and the damage might be small enough that you won't notice it, but over time it just gets worse and worse. And I'm no audiologist, but I'm pretty sure that if your ears ring it means it's way too late; you should have started using hearing protection a long time ago.
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Old January 7, 2014, 06:37 AM   #5
MoGas1341
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@ David spargenator

I currently have ringing in my left ear, and will be getting compensated by the VA for it when I get discharged. What I am getting compensated for is a condition called Tinnitus. Here is a link to wiki (yes I know its Wiki, but you'll get the idea) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tinnitus

Also note that Im a right handed shooter so the muzzle of the rifle would be closer to my left ear... hence left ear ringing...

Anyways, as required in the Marine Corps, whenever we were on the rifle range (or any range) we had to wear ear pro. Even though I wore ear protection, my hearing is still damaged through a series of other events, like heavy equipment running constantly (I am an Engineer, and D-7 Bulldozers were loud) my hearing is still damaged.

If it is absolutely quiet, as if I'm home alone with no TV or radio on, I can hear the ringing. Even when I go to the range, and wear fitted ear pro, when I'm done shooting and I get in my truck, before I turn the keys, I can still hear ringing. If I were you, I would get an Audiogram done, because you might not have hearing loss, just tinnitus.
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Old January 7, 2014, 09:06 AM   #6
NoSecondBest
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Hearing loss due to shooting without hearing protection is irreversible. Once gone, it's gone forever. I'm a retired safety manager (one of my jobs/responsibilities) and I'm guilty of it myself. I've lost 50-65% of my mid range hearing due to not wearing protection when I was young. I'd shoot my 357s and 44s for hours and my ears would ring until they hurt. That's nerve damage taking place. If I were you, I'd start wearing it every time I shoot. Every time! FYI...even if your ears aren't ringing, it's accumulative damage.
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Old January 7, 2014, 11:18 AM   #7
Brian Pfleuger
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David spargenator
Do I still have hearing loss from the shotgun you think?
Hearing loss of any kind is permanent. You can cause damage with a single gunshot. I have personally done it.

That 9mm handgun is almost without doubt louder than a shotgun.

Simple and straight-forward, it is foolish to ever discharge a firearm louder than a 22 rifle without using hearing protection, unless your life literally depends on it.
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Old January 7, 2014, 11:23 AM   #8
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Even when I'm shooting a .22 I put ear plugs in. Especially if its a pistol.
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Old January 7, 2014, 11:27 AM   #9
geetarman
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The damage has been done. You may be able to prevent more damage by using plugs and muffs.

Buy protection and use it every time without fail. Save what is left.
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Old January 7, 2014, 12:16 PM   #10
Brian Pfleuger
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dc777
Especially if its a pistol.
Yes, that's why I specified rifle. A 22 handgun is MUCH too loud to shoot without protection.

Even a rifle is above the damage limit but the exposure time is so low unless you're shooting a whole lot that it really isn't much of an issue.

If I were going to go out and shoot 500 rounds with the 22 rifle I'd still where hearing protection. For hunting purposes only with the 22 rifle, I don't.

All other guns, I do. 100% of the time. No exceptions unless life depends on it, literally.
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Old January 7, 2014, 12:56 PM   #11
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Hearing loss is going to happen, but don't panic. Every exposure to loud noises will reduce hearing somewhat. Even with ear protection there is some damage, just not nearly as much. Unless the noise is extremely loud, or close to the ear the damage comes in small steps. Think of each shot as one step on a 100 mile journey. Every shot you take reduces your hearing a bit and gets you closer to being completely deaf. But usually a few unprotected incidents isn't enough to be noticeable.

I almost never used any ear protection until my mid 30's. As part of my job I was required to take a complete physical every year including a hearing test. At about age 35 I was informed that I had about 10% hearing loss in my left ear (the one closest to the firearm for right handed shooters), but that my right ear was almost perfect. That was when I started wearing ear protection. I'll soon be 56, and the left ear is still holding at about 90%.

Unfortunately a medical condition took my good ears hearing about 3 1/2 years ago. Not noise related at all. I went to bed one night with perfect hearing in my right ear and woke up stone deaf. Taking a round of steroids has brought back some, about 10-15%. While the slight loss in my left ear wasn't a big deal before, I'd like to have it back now.

I wouldn't lose any sleep over the past. You cannot change it anyway, but do take steps in the future to preserve what you have left.
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Old January 7, 2014, 05:06 PM   #12
Jimboh247
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Wear hearing protection!!
You'll get into your 40's and wish you had!
I've worked manufacturing for 25+ years. Some of which I was not required to wear hearing protection, but I probably should have.
Now my hearing is terrible, and there is nothing I can do short of hearing aids.
Shooting is terrible for your hearing!
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Old January 7, 2014, 07:45 PM   #13
Ben Towe
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I'm 28 and already have hearing loss that is obvious to me. When I was a kid I wouldn't wear hearing protection (thought I was tough) and now I can't hear well if there is any background noise and my ears ring. Now I religiously wear protection. I even keep a pair of plugs in my pocket with my keys. Wear hearing protection!
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Old January 7, 2014, 09:26 PM   #14
jcwit
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Why do you not wear protection? Just wondering.
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Old January 7, 2014, 10:04 PM   #15
Nick_C_S
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Tinnitus

My ears ring constantly (tinnitus). It's not always caused by loud noises (I doubt it was with mine), but if you have tinnitus (regardless of cause), loud noises most certainly aggravate it.

I haven't done a lot of shooting without hearing protection, but probably more than I should have. Any is more than one should, I suppose.

At any rate, when I shoot, I've been "doubling up" (foam plugs and overheads) for quite a few years now. And even at that, the concussion causes my tinnitus to aggravate, leaving my ears are more "ringish" for the remainder of the day.

But the short answer to your question is: Yes, in all likelyhood, you have experienced at least some permanent hearing loss. Protect your hearing. Can't stress it strongly enough.
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Old January 8, 2014, 01:10 PM   #16
Willie Lowman
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Quote:
Do I have ear damage?
Yes you do.

We all do. It is not a badge of honor. The sound of gunfire isn't something that you will "get used to" the way ole' Grandad said.

Ear protection every time. Every shot. Period.





Doesn't matter how you do it, you have to protect your hearing.
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Old January 8, 2014, 01:24 PM   #17
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tinnitus can be cause by an infection or other causes, but the normal ringing in your ear that dissapates after several minutes caused by loud noise, from what i was taught in school, is trauma to your eardrum, its the piece of your hair cell breaking off and causing your brain to send the sound signal of that hair cell for several minutes, these hair cell tend to grow back within a few days so its not to worry too much about

but you can traumatize your ear with enough force to cause the entire bundle of hairs break at the base, you can destroy that whole spectrum of tones permanently, they wont grow back

i dont know if this is all fact, just relaying what i remember, i do know that teenagers can still hear a spectrum of pitches that us old folks cannot hear anymore, i assume due to our abuse

i think thats its probably pretty unnatural for our ears to have to compensate for anything louder than a crack of thunder, if i am ever shooting close to anyone and i am not wearing earplugs, it still very much hurts my ears, and id say thats a good sign, if it didnt hurt, i would be worried

sorry for the run-ons, my period key is broken

ps, the reason your generally hear high pitch tones is those are the thinnest hair cells, the hair cells get fatter as the tone gets lower like a stringed instrument
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Old January 8, 2014, 03:03 PM   #18
Brian Pfleuger
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The reason we tend to lose high-frequency hearing first is because of the structure of the ear. The cilia that respond to high-frequencies are closest to the opening of the cochlea and so closest to incoming sound and do not benefit from the sound being dampened by having to travel through the entire structure before reaching them, so they are often the first to be damaged.
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Old January 8, 2014, 03:51 PM   #19
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Mid range is lost first (I should say noticed first). That's why people who have shooting damaged ears can't hear what you're saying if there's any background noise. Ever sit in a restaurant with someone who shoots a lot and all they say every time you tell them something is...."what"?

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Old January 8, 2014, 04:03 PM   #20
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I have some hearing issue myself with the new roommate I have called "ringing noise". From shooting a couple mags of 9mm out of my SIG P226 a few years ago.

Stop doing it to yourself if you want to salvage what you have left!
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Old January 8, 2014, 04:07 PM   #21
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Mid-range (3-4k hertz) tends to go first but it doesn't tend to go farthest. High-frequencies go the largest amounts and the most often. I spent some time selling hearing aides. The average hearing test graph becomes familiar very quickly. It is typically flat to slightly sloped down through about 2k hertz, slopes down slightly more between 3 and 8k hertz and drops like a rock after 8k. By far, the most common severe loss is the highest frequencies.
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Old January 8, 2014, 05:16 PM   #22
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Any time your ears ring, you cause yourself hearing damage. It is cumulative and non-reversible given today's medical technology. They're working on some amazing things to reverse it, but do you want to gamble that it's going to happen in your lifetime?

Like Brian said, I could see occasionally shooting a .22 bolt action rifle without hearing protection if you were doing a shot or two. The SPL of a .22 bolt would be somewhere around a loud car or movie theatre. My CZ 452 is the only firearm I shoot with just the ear plugs. If I shoot anything louder (like a 9mm handgun) I wear plugs and muffs.

You can lose hearing from doing things other than shooting. I play in a hard rock band and anytime I practice with live drums in the room (or an enthusiastic guitarist) I wear hearing protection. I've heard other musicians say that even some classic cars (Corvettes) require hearing protection to drive more than 20 minutes with the top down.

We're all going to lose a little bit in our lives but you don't want tinnitus or permanent hearing loss if you can avoid it at all.

This is incidentally one of the reasons I am dubious about using a 5.56 short barrel with a muzzle brake for home defense, but that's another topic altogether.
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Old January 8, 2014, 05:37 PM   #23
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thats not true that its always irreversable, ears hair cells do grow back

not saying that it cant be irreversable, but not always, not even typically

"There are two ways hearing can be damaged by loud noises," Auer says. "Noise can stress the stereocilia bundle so much that the tip links break. However they usually grow back in 24 hours — this is the rock-concert effect, where hearing loss is temporary. But loud noises can also shear off whole bundles of stereocilia. In mammals these can't regenerate, and the loss is permanent."

http://www.lbl.gov/Science-Articles/...ution-gap.html
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Old January 8, 2014, 05:44 PM   #24
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Quote:
But loud noises can also shear off whole bundles of stereocilia. In mammals these can't regenerate, and the loss is permanent.
I was under the impression that this is what happens as a result of shooting pretty much any firearm from a .22 on up without hearing protection? Or at least a .22 pistol on up.
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Old January 8, 2014, 07:09 PM   #25
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One thing to keep in mind is that our ears were designed to pick up the sound of a leaf rustling 40 yards away. Modern life is a constant all-out assault on our hearing. What we now perceive as a fairly quiet environment would be considered hellacious racket to our ancestors.
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