..."Loud noise, such as the 140-decibel blast of a rifle, can irreparably damage the specialized cells of the inner ear—called hair cells—that enable us to hear," says James F. Battey, Jr., M.D., Ph.D., director of NIDCD. "So it is vitally important for us to protect our ears when we are repeatedly exposed to loud noise."
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), recommends that hunters and shooters wear earplugs and earmuffs together when firing guns, to increase the amount of hearing protection provided.
Yet, according to a 2000 study supported by the NIH, too many male hunters and target shooters are not wearing ear protection at all. In fact, of the approximately 1,500 Wisconsin men who participated in the study, 95 percent of those who hunt and 38 percent of those who target shoot had never worn ear protection during the year preceding the study. (Women were not included in the study since few women from the study community had recently participated in either activity.)
Most notably, the study demonstrates a direct link between hunting or target shooting and high-frequency hearing loss in men. High-frequency hearing loss is the reduction of the ear's ability to hear high-frequency sounds, the sounds that are necessary for understanding speech.
Henderson, an avid outdoor sportsman who has published four books on hunting, along with thousands of newspaper and magazine articles on hunting and shooting, discovered his hearing loss at age 19 during a physical he took for the military...