Got a minute for me to bend your ear? Good. I’ve got something important, that you need hear. While you still can, that is. Let’s call this one a public service announcement for your ears. Here’s the central message: WEAR HEARING PROTECTION EVERY TIME YOU SHOOT. Oh, sure. I get it. You’re thinking, “you’re not my daddy. I can do anything I want.” And you’re right. You can. But physiology is a harsh mistress, and lemme tell you, shoot without cans or plugs and you’re gonna be deaf in no time.
I’m a musician by trade. In fact, I come from a whole family of ‘em. Fifth generation, to be specific. I’m a drummer, so I’m kinda used to making noises – LOUD noises. I’ve had a lot of friends in the same boat. Fortunately, I’ve not suffered any significant hearing loss. I can’t say the same for all my friends.
I’ve a buddy that played drums professionally for decades. You’ve probably heard him – he was the drummer on the original version of the hit, Susie Q. Good guy. Worked a five-night-a-week gig at a restaurant’s bar for a couple of decades, where his ear was about two feet from a Leslie, one of those rotating speakers they hook up to a Hammond B-3 organ.
One day he was teaching and heard a pop in one ear, then nothing. Went to the doctor. Found out that he’d literally blown one ear out, and suffered about 40 percent hearing loss in the other one. The nerve was shot. Gone. Never to be heard from again, if you know what I mean. Permanently deaf. Not a good thing for anybody, least of all, a musician.
Case #2 – my own father. He served on Nimitz staff in WWII. For a time, he served on the U.S.S. Missouri. Bunked right under the 21″ guns. Let’s just say that, back in the day, nobody gave hearing protection a second thought. Sure, you might be a little hard of hearing for a while after the guns went off, but when the ringing in your ears stopped you were okay, right?
Not so much, as it turns out. Nope, you see, my dad is 84, and has some serious hearing loss. Fortunately, it can be helped with hearing aids. Unfortunately, he doesn’t like wearing them. And that makes life difficult for both of us. I don’t like shouting, and he doesn’t like me yelling.
Now most gun ranges require both hearing and eye protection. That’s a good thing. But not all guys I know that shoot outdoors bother with ear protection if they don’t have to. BIG mistake. Turns out, hearing damage is cumulative. The more you get, the greater the eventual toll on your ability to ‘bounce back’ after hearing something loud.
Of course, who can blame most people. From the way it looks on TV and in the movies, you can shoot a gun off in a phone booth and never get so much as an earache. The fact that this is completely unrealistic never gets in the way of Hollywood’s “artistic license.”
I’ve an acquaintance that told me a first-person experience story about a handgun and his car. Seems he was tooling around the Texas panhandle, when he came upon a coyote. In the panhandle, coyotes are not a protected species. They’re not cute. And they’re not cuddly. Nope, they are pests, and can do some serious damage to cattle, not to mention pets. This guy had a handgun with him. Pulled his car over, rolled down the window, took aim and let ‘er rip.
When the smoke cleared, he couldn’t hear. For three days, all he could hear was ringing in his ears. As Bill Ingvall would say, “Here’s your sign.”
Let’s put it this way. If you’re in a life-or-death situation where you have to pull a gun and use it, inside or outside, you’ve got bigger things to worry about than your hearing. Like surviving. Nobody’s gonna care if your ears work when you’re a corpse. On the other hand, you need to understand how completely unrealistic it is to think about shooting if you have no hearing protection in an other kind of situation. Period.
If you don’t own hearing protection, buy some. And use them every time you shoot, indoors or out. Hear me?