One of the most common types of hearing loss is caused by excess exposure to loud noises. You can prevent this type of damage to your hearing by limiting your contact to noise, but what if your career or hobbies involves being exposed to high decibel levels?
We recently sat down with Mike Miller, an avid hunter and the host of the show Angler & Hunting TV to talk about the importance of hearing protection and the consequences of hearing loss caused by noise.
What kind of hearing protection have you used throughout your years of hunting?
In all my years of hunting, especially in the early years, I never wore hearing protection. I was too cool for it. But in the last 10 to 15 years, all I ever used is the little orange foam earplugs. And they're more of an inconvenience than anything else.
Now, my daughter, she's 12 and she's just started hunting. She has an affinity towards archery and bow hunting because she doesn't like the loud gunfire. And when we do use firearms, she always wears the big clunky earmuffs which are great for sound protection, but they're not good in the field.
In your experience, how important do you feel it is to wear hearing protection while hunting?
The importance of hearing protection is obviously very high. I've noticed hearing loss and I've had muzzle blasts in my ear several times, to the point where I've now developed really bad tinnitus.
I'm not going to generalize, but when people are young, they're not concerned about stuff like that. For example, going to a rock concert or working a chainsaw, doesn't matter what it is. You think you’re invincible but looking back, I would probably have a lot less irritation from the tinnitus and the hearing damage that I've accumulated over the years if I had a just worn hearing protection.
In your own words, can you describe how it physically feels when you hear a loud sound like a gunshot without wearing any sort of hearing protection?
So, over all the years of shooting trap or waterfowl hunting, you're taking a lot of shots. Sometimes you'll shoot 50 to 150 rounds, and 150 rounds from a shotgun is going to have an effect on you. If we were hunting in a group in a blind and someone discharges and they’re at level with you, that's almost like a firecracker going off and it's like a snap in your ear. You can feel it. It's that loud and instant ringing.
The only thing I could compare that sound to is in movies where they have an explosion, and the person falls down and they're in shock and they get up and you hear that ringing and it actually disorients the audience. That's what it feels like. It’s literally a disorienting, high pitched ringing that you can get if you hear a loud enough blast. That's what I would compare a muzzle blast to and I would have to go sit down because my ears ringing to the point where I'm disoriented
Is there any dizziness that you would experience as a result of that?
Probably five years ago, I started to get really bad bouts of vertigo. To the point where now I can't close my eyes and look up. If I try to go up and down stairs with my eyes closed, bad things are going to happen.
Even motion sickness, in a small plane or a float plane into a fishing lodge and even standing on the deck of my boat in certain conditions. If I'm not focused on the horizon, like if I'm tying a knot or putting on a fishing lure and there's waves, I get disoriented. The only thing I can sort of connect all those things to are the issues I'm having with hearing loss.
What advice would you give to a new hunter regarding hearing protection?
It's a good subject matter because we're running a promotion right now where I'm looking for an apprentice. A 12- to 14-year-old to come and be on a show and film a hunt or a fishing trip with me.
I mentioned to my daughter, she's 12 and she's sort of avid. She likes big game hunting. She likes bear and deer hunting and when we're out shooting, I'll say “You don't need to wear hearing protection for a 22.” And she's says, “it's a lot. I don't know how you don’t think that’s loud, it hurts my ears.”
So, to look at my daughter and hear her say it hurts my ears, I'm thinking obviously that I'm in the wrong and she should be wearing hearing protection regardless of it's a 22 or a shotgun or a high caliber rifle. I think if kids would get into the practice of wearing some sort of hearing protection, it could only benefit them in the long run.
You can catch Mike sporting his new pair of SoundGear hearing protection devices on his show, Angler & Hunting TV. If you are interested in in customized hearing protection, speak to your hearing health professional. If you need help finding one, you can call us at (888) 919-6824 or click here and we’ll recommend a professional near you.