The noise difference between a handgun and an AR both fired indoors would be "deaf" versus "very deaf". It doesn't really matter how you feel or how bad you think it hurts or whether you "notice", both are far, far above safe dB levels and can and have caused permanent hearing damage in a single shot.
Still happily answering to the call-sign Peetza.
The problem, as you so eloquently put it, is choice.
He is no fool who gives what he can not keep to gain what he can not lose.
-Jim Eliott, paraphrasing Philip Henry.