Shooter’s Ear: What It Is and How to Prevent It
Hunters, competitive shooters, law enforcement, veterans, and other people who frequently use firearms are more likely to develop hearing problems. One of the most common hearing issues seen among these gun users is Shooter’s Ear.
What is Shooter’s Ear, what does it feel like, what causes it, and is it reversible? We’ll answer all these questions before the end of this article and recommend ways to enjoy shooting without damaging your invaluable hearing.
What Is Shooter’s Ear?
Shooter’s Ear occurs when you shoot, and the gunfire noise leads to losing hearing in one ear (asymmetrical hearing loss). The hearing loss typically occurs in the ear opposite your dominant shooting arm.
Depending on several factors, loss of hearing can be instant and short- or long-term. In other cases, Shooter’s Ear starts as mild and worsens after continuously exposing the affected ear to gunfire.
What Causes Shooter’s Ear?
Decibel is the unit of measurement for rating the intensity of a sound. Gunfire noise registers at over 140 decibels, and some calibers register as high as 175 decibels. According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), exposure to sounds over 140 decibels can cause long-term damage to human ears. The damage could be worse if you experience such loud sounds within a confined space.
Firearm users typically develop Shooter’s Ear after continuous and unprotected exposure to gunfire noise. In some cases, Shooter’s Ear occurs after exposure to a single loud and close-by gunshot.
The hearing issue affects the ear directly in line with the gun’s muzzle (the ear opposite your dominant shooting arm). For example, the problem will occur in the left ear of right-handed shooters, while left-handed shooters get it in the right ear.
Why doesn’t Shooter’s Ear occur in the ear over the dominant shooting arm? Gunfire noise affects the ear above your gun stock less because head shadow reduces the sound intensity. If you’ve never heard of the head shadow effect, it’s your head blocking sound waves, reducing the amount of sound that travels from the most affected ear to the ear on the other side of your head.
Exposure to loud gunfire rattles the eardrum, cochlea, and small earbones. The concussive effect can be intense enough to damage these ear parts, leading to Shooter’s Ear and other hearing troubles. Below are some of the warning signs that indicate you have or are developing Shooter’s Ear:
- Partial Deafness: You may experience some deafness in the affected ear. Sounds will feel muffled, leading to trouble hearing conversations properly. Besides partial deafness, the affected ear may feel full of fluid.
- Discomfort: You may experience a painful or aching sensation in the affected ear.
- Complete Deafness: In extreme cases, Shooter’s Ear may cause total deafness in the affected ear.
- Tinnitus: Tinnitus manifests as a ringing or buzzing sound in the inner ear. The ringing sound may be low, loud, steady, or intermittent.
These symptoms may fade with time if you don’t keep exposing the affected ear to loud noises.
How Long Does Hearing Loss Last After Shooting a Gun?
Some people go completely deaf after a single exposure to gunfire, while others exposed to the same gun sounds experience a gradual auditory decline over several years. How long hearing loss will last after exposure to close-by gunfire will depend on your hearing sensitivity and pre-existing auditory health.
If you have sensitive ears, hearing gunfire up close can impair your hearing for days or even permanently. Less delicate ears exposed to the same noise may fully recover within a day or two.
Individuals with pre-existing hearing injuries may see their condition worsen after exposure to gunfire noise, leading to a longer recovery period. If you do not have permanent hearing damage and avoid further injury to your ears, the affected ear should eventually recover.
How to Prevent Shooter’s Ear
Giving up your favorite shooting-related hobby should not be your only option for avoiding Shooter’s Ear. Below are less drastic but effective measures you can take:
Use a Suppressor
Your best option for preventing Shooter’s Ear is attaching a suppressor to your firearm’s muzzle. Suppressors, also called silencers, minimize gunfire noise, allowing you to shoot without worrying about going deaf.
You can find high-quality suppressors that reduce gunfire noise by 25 to 35 decibels, and options for pistols, rifles, and shotguns of different calibers are available. Besides reducing gunfire noise, suppressors reduce recoil, allowing you to shoot with greater accuracy and comfort.
Wear Proper Ear Protection When Shooting
Another solution for preventing Shooter’s Ear is wearing ear protection, such as ear plugs or muffs. Ear muffs go over the ears to minimize the amount of sound that gets inside. Ear plugs perform the same function but go inside instead of over the ears.
Both options can reduce gunfire noise by about 20 to 30 decibels. If you want even better results, wear ear plugs under ear muffs. Some shooters take hearing protection to an even higher level by wearing ear plugs or ear muffs while shooting with a suppressor.
However, using ear muffs or ear plugs is only ideal during match shooting or target practice in a secure environment. Wearing ear plugs or ear muffs while hunting or during combat is less than ideal because it will compromise your situational awareness and ability to hear warnings or signs of danger.WOMEN’S HEARING PROTECTION FOR SHOOTING
Can You Regain Your Hearing After Suffering Hearing Loss?
Whether you can recover from hearing loss caused by gunfire will depend on the severity of the damage to your ears and the measures you take to recover. If your hearing damage is partial, you can likely recover if you avoid further exposure to loud noises. Should you continue exposing your injured ear to loud gunfire, the condition could worsen and become permanent.
There are also shooters who develop lasting partial or complete deafness in one or both ears after a single unprotected exposure to gunfire noise. Unfortunately, no treatment currently exists for reversing a loss of hearing, but you can regain the use of the affected ear with the help of hearing aids.
You Can Avoid Shooting-Related Hearing Loss
The fear of losing your hearing should not haunt and distract you while hunting, sport shooting, plinking, or protecting yourself or your home. While wearing hearing protection can prevent Shooter’s Ear, it is not convenient or feasible in many scenarios.
Your best option is to attach a suppressor to your firearm. As long as a suppressor stays on your gun, you can relax, knowing your gunfire noise will not reach deafening levels.
At Silencer Central, we offer rifle, shotgun, and pistol suppressors for guns of various calibers. Shopping for suppressors at our online store is hassle-free because we have options for different budgets and handle the paperwork on your behalf. We also offer a free NFA Gun Trust that allows you to add unlimited co-trustees who can use your purchased silencer.
Visit us today to browse our state-of-the-art suppressors and place an order to have your selection shipped to your doorstep.PROTECT YOUR HEARING TODAY