Protect your hearing on every pull of the trigger
October is National Protect Your Hearing Month, a time to raise awareness about what all of us can do to protect our hearing. In the outdoors space, far too many wingshooters take to the field without hearing protection.
By Josh Lantz
With fall’s upland and waterfowl hunting seasons underway, wingshooters across the country are taking to the fields and wetlands to experience the joys and rewards of bird hunting. Whether lining the edge of a sunflower field with family or friends during a traditional dove hunt, following the dogs through the CRP in pursuit of flushing pheasants, or sharing coffee in a blind while waiting for decoying ducks and geese, bird hunting is unique is many respects.
These kinds of hunts offer opportunities for a lot of shooting, and volleys at birds often come from multiple shotguns. For these reasons, more waterfowl and upland hunters should wear hearing protection. Sadly, most do not, and it doesn’t make any sense. We don’t think twice about protecting our hearing at the range, but far too many hunters take to the field with no protection at all.
Most forms of bird hunting are also social affairs where communication is encouraged – whether it’s telling jokes or stories between shots, or strategic communication that improves the group’s coordination or enhances safety. This is a common excuse many bird hunters give for not wearing hearing protection in the field. Some also point out that hearing protection can interfere with their ability to hear approaching waterfowl.
“These excuses just don’t hold any water,” says Ken Perrotte, a popular outdoor writer, U.S. Air Force veteran, longtime Army civilian, and avid wingshooter. To Perrotte, the issue of hearing loss is a highly personal one. He spent years around flight lines and other field training environments with lots of live fire going on around him – everything from small arms to artillery. Throw in a lifetime of recreational and military shooting – often without hearing protection – and it becomes clear why Perrotte today suffers from tinnitus (constant ringing in the ears) and has lost about 50% of his hearing in his left ear and 30-40% in his right.
While continued exposure to dangerous noise can cause hearing loss within hours, impulse noises like those produced by a firearm can cause permanent damage instantly. This means every shot fired has the potential to damage the ears of the shooter or anyone else nearby. That said, noise-induced hearing loss usually happens gradually. Ultimately, when the specialized tissues and structures in the ear—along with related brain functions—take enough abuse, they lose their functionality for the rest of a person’s life.
The injury is largely painless and happens over time. Hunters who don’t protect their ears don’t realize the incremental damage being done until it’s too late. The good news for upland and waterfowl hunters is that hearing loss is 100% preventable through the consistent use of appropriate and properly fitted hearing protection. And today’s electronic earmuffs are a fantastic choice.
Electronic earmuffs combine passive sound attenuation with analog or digital circuitry to compress or “shave the peaks off” dangerous sounds above a certain level. These models employ external microphones, internal speakers and a gain adjustment, allowing the user to hear surrounding sounds at normal or even louder-than-normal levels, which is extremely helpful for conducting conversation or listening for approaching waterfowl.
Perrotte is a fan of the Honeywell Howard Leight Impact Sport in Olive Drab or MultiCam® Original camouflage for dove and waterfowl hunting, and Impact Sport Bolt in safety orange for upland hunting situations. “Both models are low-profile, so they don’t interfere when shouldering the gun, and are lightweight and comfortable enough to wear all day,” he says. “And because my hearing is already compromised, the fact that they offer amplification is super helpful. I can turn up the gain and easily communicate with other members of my hunting party – you know, ‘bluebills coming in from the left!’ ‘watch out for the dog!’, that kind of important communication.” Impact Sport is also available in MultiCam Alpine – an ideal choice for snow goose hunting, other late season waterfowl hunts, or predator hunts in the snow.
With today’s amplifying electronic earmuffs, bird hunters have no more excuses for not protecting their hearing in the field. Don’t wait until it’s too late. Have fun in the field, be safe, and protect your ears. It’s never been easier.
Learn more about Honeywell Howard Leight’s complete line of quality hearing- and eye-protection products at HowardLeightShootingSports.com.
Follow Ken Perrotte’s outdoor adventures at OutdoorsRambler.com.