Can You Shoot Without Hearing Protection?

Can You Shoot Without Hearing Protection?

Can You Shoot Without Hearing Protection?

Yes, you can shoot without hearing protection, but you probably won’t like it. Why? Gunshots are loud enough to leave your ears ringing and hurting, and frequent exposure to such explosive sounds can cause long-term damage to your hearing. Keep reading to learn more about the dangers of shooting without ear protection and discover the best hearing protection for shooters.

Shooting Without Hearing Protection Can Cause Permanent Hearing Loss

Shooting is fun, but the sound of gunfire isn’t healthy for your ears. The bang is an impact noise (sudden burst of sound) that hits your eardrums and cochlea with concussive force. The impact can leave your ears ringing and temporarily dull your hearing. Continuous exposure to such noise can lead to permanent hearing loss in one or both ears.

In worst-case scenarios, individuals have developed tinnitus and other long-term hearing problems after hearing a single gunshot at close range. Sadly, once permanent hearing loss occurs, it’s usually irreversible. Such dangers are why you should always use hearing protection while shooting.

How Loud Is a Gunshot?

According to the NIDCD (National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders), continuous exposure to noise above 85 decibels is enough to cause hearing damage. How loud is a gunshot? Gunfire loudness varies between different weapon types and calibers, but gunshots are typically between 140 and 190 decibels.

For example, the bang from a .22 caliber rifle with standard velocity ammo is around 140 decibels, while the blast from a 9mm pistol is about 159 decibels. Most 12 gauge shotguns are between 159 and 161 decibels. If 85 decibels is enough to cause hearing problems, you can imagine how devastating anything over 140 decibels must be to your ear.

Signs of Shooting-Related Hearing Loss

The effects of exposure to loud gunfire can vary between individuals and their environment. For instance, shots fired indoors will have a more devastating effect on the ears than gunfire in an open space. Below are some hearing loss signs you may experience if you shoot without ear protection:


Tinnitus manifests as a ringing or buzzing sound in your inner ear. Depending on the severity of the condition, the ringing sound may be low, loud, steady, or intermittent. Some patients report feeling like their ears are full and having trouble focusing due to the ringing.

Shooter’s Ear

Shooter’s ear is when you lose hearing in the ear opposite where you place your cheek weld or stock. The asymmetrical hearing loss can occur after firing a single round, and the damage can be long-term, especially if you keep exposing the affected ear to gunfire.

Temporary Full Hearing Loss

Temporary full hearing loss involves losing hearing in both ears. Depending on the severity, it may take up to 48 hours for your hearing to fully return.

How to Prevent Hearing Damage While Hunting and Sport Shooting

Since hearing loss is irreversible for many people, it is best to avoid experiencing it at all costs. Below are your best options for protecting your ears before engaging in your favorite shooting activities:

Use a Suppressor

A suppressor or silencer is an attachment placed on the muzzle of a firearm to muffle gunfire. You can reduce gunfire noise by 20 to 35 decibels with a quality suppressor. For example, if your rifle that shoots 9mm caliber rounds registers 159 decibels, attaching a suppressor will reduce the noise to 129 decibels or less, which is far less dangerous.

Suppressors are available for many calibers and firearm types, including shotguns and big bore rifles. Most gun owners prefer suppressors for hearing protection because they are hassle-free. Once you attach one to your firearm, you can leave it on and count on it to protect your ears whenever you shoot. For instance, if you experience a home invasion or other emergencies, you can fire your suppressed weapon without hesitation or delay and without worrying about deafening gunfire.

Wear Hearing Protection

If your state does not permit owning a silencer, you can still stay safe by using hearing protection. The most popular types of hearing protection are ear muffs, ear plugs, and active ear protection. Ear muffs resemble thick headphones. You place them over your ears, and the thick padding minimizes the amount of noise that reaches your ears.

Ear plugs perform the same function as ear muffs, but instead of going over your ears, they go inside, sealing your ear canal to minimize sound penetration. Both options offer effective ear protection but are also a double-edged sword. Since they dull all noises, you cannot hear your surroundings until you take them off, which is unideal for hunters and other shooters that need full situational awareness.

Active ear protection devices fix this problem by amplifying surrounding sounds but minimizing specific noises, such as gunshots, to protect your ears. The main downside of using these products is they can be uncomfortable and require frequently checking if they are in place before shooting.

Advantages of Using a Suppressor for Hunting

Compared to other ear protection solutions, shooting with a suppressor is the most suitable for all shooting activities. Below is a breakdown of the advantages suppressors have over other hearing protection options:

Protect Your Hearing

Ear muffs and ear plugs effectively dull noise, but they are not 100% reliable. Imagine pulling the trigger after your ear muffs have shifted or ear plugs have fallen out without your knowledge. The shock and concussive effect of the gunfire will likely be overwhelming.

Once you put a suppressor on your gun, you are ready to go and can do all your shooting without fear of a loud bang catching you unawares. Also, with a quality suppressor, you can avoid the discomfort of carrying clunky ear muffs or losing your ear plugs on the forest floor.

Hear Your Surroundings

Hunting requires being fully aware of your surroundings. You cannot call turkeys if you cannot hear them gobbling, and you will have trouble tracking other prey if you cannot hear their movement. Awareness of your surroundings while hunting can also save your life because you will hear if predators or other dangers are approaching. Hearing such things is impossible while wearing ear muffs or ear plugs.

With a suppressor, you can fully utilize your ears and shoot without worrying about going temporarily or permanently deaf.

Reduce Recoil

Besides muffling gunfire, suppressors reduce recoil. Less recoil leads to reduced muzzle rise, allowing you to shoot more accurately. Another benefit of reduced recoil is your gun will jerk into your shoulder less violently, reducing the risk of being sore after firing rounds.


If you shoot at prey and miss, the animal will hear your gunshot and run off before you can take another shot. With a silencer, the animal won’t know where you are, and that moment of hesitation will give you time to make a follow-up shot that seals the deal. Also, a suppressor makes you a considerate hunter. Without a suppressor, your gunfire could scare off prey nearby hunters are tracking.

Bottom Line: Hearing Protection Is Worth It

Shooting without hearing protection is not worth the risk. On the other hand, protecting your ears will allow you to maintain your sense of hearing and live life to the fullest. Whether hunting, plinking, or protecting your home, self, or country, your best ear protection option is a suppressor. It is more convenient and reliable than wearing ear muffs or earplugs.

However, not all suppressors are equal. If you want a high-quality suppressor that stands the test of time and enhances the performance and aesthetics of your firearm, look no further than Silencer Central. We offer state-of-the-art suppressors for rifles, pistols, shotguns, and other firearms, and you can find options for your favorite calibers.

Visit us today to browse our suppressors and order your favorite one.