Hearing Protection Hints

By John Taffin

I live in a mostly silent world. The man who said silence is golden was right, most of the time. Silence is very pleasant when sitting in a deer stand or at the edge of the woods in the mountains overlooking an open space and watching for game to appear. However most people, once they leave these areas, are no longer in a silent world, but I am back in my mostly silent world. I did not choose this, but then maybe I did through negligence.

I first started as a very young boy shooting in the late 1940’s. By the time the mid-’50’s arrived I was shooting not just .22’s but .45’s and .357’s. I shot a .357 Magnum Blackhawk for the first time on a Sunday afternoon and my ears were still ringing on Thursday. No one I knew at the time had ever seen protective earmuffs, and some simply stuffed cotton or empty cartridge cases in their ears to help muffle the noise. I didn’t have to — I was in my invincible period.

By the time I discovered hearing protection the damage had already started and it was all downhill after that. Today my world is mostly silent due to the fact my right ear is totally dead and my left ear has 26 percent hearing left. A hearing aid cannot do anything for my right ear, however I can get my left ear up to 50 percent with a hearing aid. That’s not much! On one of my phones I have Caption Call with a reader board attached to the side of the phone so I can “hear” what callers are saying. Another phone allows me to turn the volume way up so everyone in the room hears what the caller is saying.

I am mostly okay in conversations one-on-one, however in a group with background noise it becomes a real problem. I don’t go to any meetings, movies or performances as I can’t hear what’s going on anyway. Diamond Dot usually understands, however even she forgets sometimes and instead of talking directly to me will talk in the opposite direction or try to talk in the car over the road noise. Putting up with hearing loss can be a real problem.

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The size of the cup on these Peltor Hearing Protectors indicates the NRR, which
in this case is 24 dB, 30 dB and 27 dB (L-R). Note the cut-out on the first one
to clear a long gun stock.

It’s No Joke

Jokes are often made about those who are deaf or simply hard of hearing. Believe me, it is not a laughing matter. From a very early age I’ve always insisted the kids, and then the following grandkids, always wear hearing and eye protection when shooting. Not only have I given each of them ear protection I keep extra hearing protectors and shooting glasses in the pickup at all times should they forget theirs. Quite often I have also run into shooters who were shooting without protection and have been able to loan them what they should’ve had. Recently, I have been testing some new hearing protection from several manufacturers to see how new technology might help shooters avoid what has happened to me!

Oh, and don’t forget, your eyes are even more precious, so take care to protect them too!

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The three legs of Personal Shooting Protection are hearing protection, eye protection,
and a shooting glove, like this one from Uncle Mike’s.

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SureFire offers Sonic Defenders Earplug which fit inside the ear and are offered
with an NRR of 24 to 30 decibels.

Peltor

Peltor offers a full line of regular hearing protectors and electronic hearing protectors. The Shotgunner II is a low profile set of protectors cutaway on the outside of the cup to allow easier use of long guns. In the past I’ve often had a problem with the stock of a rifle interfering with the cup on the hearing protectors. The Shotgunner II has a noise reduction rating (NRR) of 24 decibels. Moving up the line we come to the Peltor Sport Bull’s Eye Model. With a full low profile cup without the cutaway for a rifle or shotgun stock, these provide a little more protection as they have an NRR of 27 decibels. Normally, handguns are closer to the ears than rifles or shotguns hence the added protection in this model.

Ultimate Hearing Protector from Peltor is absolute top-drawer protection. With an NRR of 30 decibels, placing these over the years feels almost like being in a soundproof room. I would especially recommend these for shooting indoors where the noise is substantially enhanced. It’s easy to recognize these three different hearing protectors as the cups get larger as we go up the scale. All of these not only give the protection desired, they are also very comfortable on the ears. The headband is adjustable and also slotted to reduce heat buildup.

The first time I shot the qualifying course with the County Sheriff’s Department years ago I found I could not hear the command to start firing and simply had to wait until I heard others shooting. From that time on I started using electronic hearing protectors for most of my shooting. Peltor’s Rangeguard and Tactical 100 both provide for the ability to hear conversation because they suppress gunshot noise while they amplify voices. The Rangeguard has an NRR of 21 decibels and also the low profile cup, while the Tactical 100 is designed to reduce background noise and also echo reduction when used indoors. The NRR of this set is 22 decibels.

Life is full of trade-offs and of the five mentioned models I normally go with the Rangeguard when shooting alone or with a few others outdoors and switch to the Ultimate when more than a few people are shooting, or I am shooting a firearm with a muzzle brake, or indoors.

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Walker’s Game Ear offers traditional earmuffs as well as the Razor X Digital
Ear Bud Headset, here shown with ear buds retracted.

SureFire

SureFire offers Sonic Defenders Earplugs. Unlike muffs these fit inside the ear and are offered with an NRR of 24 to 30 decibels. They are provided with either a filtered or full block style whichever we feel we need. I’ve been using a pair of custom fit earplugs for many years. These SureFire plugs are not custom fit, however they are nearly so, with different types of stems and sizes available. These are very unobtrusive, making them especially desirable in a hunting situation and they can be used individually or attached to a very lightweight cord and worn around the neck when not in use. They also work at noisy concerts, when mowing the lawn, on construction sites, in machine shops, and the use of power tools; and they even can be left in when swimming.

To give a semi-custom fit the Sonic Defenders are made from soft hypoallergenic polymer and come with three different types of stems with varying levels of protection. These are double-flanged, triple-flanged and memory-foam Comply Canal Tips. A plastic protective case is also provided.

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The Walker’s Digital Ear Bud Headset slips around the neck and the ear buds are pulled
out and put into your ears. It offers electronic amplification and protection and
is rechargeable
.

Walker’s Game Ear

I’ve been using Walker’s Game Ear for several decades. Currently Walker’s is providing the Razor line of slim-profile electronic folding muffs. One of the best products for hunters I have seen in many years is their Razor X Digital Ear Bud Headset. This ear protection consists of a flexible rubber neckband which one hardly knows is being worn. The earpieces themselves are on two no tangle cables which are retractable so they can be pulled out to the proper length for reaching each ear, or totally retracted when not in use. They are fitted with directional microphones, high definition speakers, a USB charging port for recharging the lithium batteries, and moldable foam tips to fit the ears and help maximize NRR. They will be going with be on my next hunting trip. I thought I was done hunting, however another hunt for exotic sheep has been set up for me by good friends. This will be my third “Last Hunt”!

Many years ago I helped in the design of the Uncle Mike’s Shooting Glove. That’s why it has the heavily padded middle finger to protect against “knuckle-dusting” from the back of the trigger guard. At the time I was doing a lot of testing of the Freedom Arms .454 and found I needed to heavily tape my middle finger for protection. There is also padded protection in the palm of the hand. The trade-off is they are bulkier than the standard batters or golfers glove I normally wear making it harder to handle a sixgun or semi-automatic, at least for me.

However, lately my shooting hand has been becoming increasingly tender so I’ve started using the padded glove. Even though it is harder to use I have found it makes a tremendous difference in how my hand feels when shooting and also eases “normal” next day discomfort. One mistake I made was not recommending full padding for the little finger. This appendage takes a beating from the bottom edge of a sixgun grip so I wrap the finger with several layers of adhesive tape, helping a great deal.

All of these products which provide protection are too inexpensive and too important not to use. They will extend your shooting life and — definitely help maintain your quality of life.

For more info: www.americanhandgunner.com/index

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