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Scotty C. writes:
Today’s approach to hearing protection has failed. It took me a long time to reach that conclusion, but I’ve done my homework. The bottom line: no matter what shooters do, they’ll eventually lose their hearing, and possibly go deaf.
Why? Because everybody just covers up those two holes in the side of your skull. Well, that’s not good enough. No matter how well you block up those two holes, you’re still losing your hearing every time you pull the trigger.
Why? Because your skull is a drum. And when the shock waves from gunshots hit your drum, it vibrates. And it’s a lot louder inside a drum than it is outside a drum. When your skull vibrates, your ears vibrate. And when they vibrate too much, your ears break down.
But wait! It actually gets even worse — and for a really sneaky reason, too.
Your neck also vibrates when it’s blasted with noise. And when your neck vibrates, your spine vibrates, and when your spine vibrates, it makes your skull vibrate, and when your skull vibrates too much, your ears break down.
Here’s my solution: I don’t have one.
I don’t have one because all the information I can find on gunfire and hearing loss is third-rate information about third-rate testing. And it’s third-rate because no one spent the real money it took to keep working until the problem got fixed.
Instead, everybody republishes the same charts.
Well first, who made those charts in the first place? How was the testing done, anyway? With just a cell phone and an app? That doesn’t cut it.
Was testing done indoors, where sound get amplified and is even louder, or outdoors? Where were the microphones placed? Right beside the end of the barrel? Next to the shooter’s ears? How good was the equipment?
How long were the gun barrels? Barrel length matters a lot in directing sound away from your ears. How hot was the ammo; light, medium, or big-blast hot? Mild loads are quieter, hot loads are louder.
I think we need a completely different approach to hearing protection. I think we have to wear some kind of a device that weakens the sound waves that hit our skulls — . especially when we’re practicing.
I think we need a second, scarf-like device that does the same thing for our necks. It may even prove to be necessary to make a third thing do this for our faces.
Of course, when you go to the range as an early adopter of this new tech, some people may snicker at you. Well, they’ll snicker at you when you can’t hear, too. Think about that for a minute. I sure have.
My own gunshots took most of my hearing, in five seconds. This is what happened . . .
After five major burglaries at my rural place of business, I got a watchdog and three guns. I moved into a shipping container on the business’s construction site.
One night, my watchdog woke me, as I had trained him, by growling softly instead of barking. I could see a mini-pickup truck coming down the long, long dirt road to the site with its lights off. I went out to an ancient station wagon we had there and got in the back seat so I wouldn’t be easy to see.
[When that is happening to you…actually happening…you are disinclined to start looking around for your earmuffs, and I didn’t.]
The pickup pulled in very slowly, circled around, and stopped. I wasn’t going to let hostiles surround me, so I called out, identified myself as the watchman, and told them they were trespassing and had to leave.
By response, someone stuck a rifle barrel out of the driver’s window. From the back seat of the station wagon, I fired four shotgun blasts at their tires and definitely blew out three of them. They limped off at one mile an hour.
People may feel pretty smug in just hearing that part of the story, but I don’t.
For the next few days, there was a curious sensation that something just wasn’t quite right when I heard the world around me. Years later, I found myself hearing the words, “Hey, the phone is ringing. Aren’t you going to answer it?” and knew that it was time to pay the piper.
I’ve lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in income because I can’t do my work in two careers anymore. Music will be dead to me for the rest of my life. I’m going to spend the rest of my life saying “I can’t understand you” all day. I’m always going to have to look at subtitles to understand anything on TV.
Will suppressors save my hearing? I don’t think so.
People who carry guns all day on the job don’t carry suppressors. For another thing, suppressors aren’t silencers. They lower the volume, but they don’t silence it. In fact, many of the good suppressors only suppress about twenty of the 150 to 170 decibels of noise that most gunshots make.
That isn’t good enough. You need to block fifty to eighty decibels, not twenty. And while silencers may actually be good enough to protect your ears — when you combine them with the very best hearing protection — there are problems with suppressors.
They cost more money than most people can spend. They’re currently illegal in places where a lot of people live, and Buddy, you don’t get a slap on the wrist for owning an illegal suppressor. You get ruined.
They make your gun too long to carry. They’re too long for you to draw your gun up in some real-world gunfights. And finally, they change your aim. If you use them when you practice, then take them off when you don’t, you might miss when you fire at a killer that attacks you when you’re not at the range.
It would seem obvious that well-insulated helmets will work wonders in protecting our hearing. Well maybe they will, but you can’t use today’s earmuffs with today’s insulated helmets, so you lose your earmuff protection right off the bat.
And there is this consideration: If you always wear a helmet when you practice, you may not shoot as well when you’re not wearing one.
Motorcycle helmets are an interesting possibility. If you’ve ever put one on, you’ve immediately noticed that everything goes pretty quiet. Motorcycle helmets are heavily padded inside those hard plastic outer shells, and that padding soaks up a lot of noise.
I can’t find out how much sound they block out. That’s mainly true because they’re created to protect your brain, not your ears. Most motorcycle helmets come with ventilation holes, with and earholes to help you hear. And holes in your hearing protection are pretty much the exact things you don’t want when you’re around gunshots.
When I tried to find out if anyone’s measured noise reduction in motorcycle helmets, I found that their hearing protection is measured while the motorcycle is moving really fast, not when it’s turned off.
Why? Mainly because the helmets let hurricane-force winds get in from underneath. It’s that hurricane in your head that makes helmet-wearing riders deaf more than anything else, not just the noise from the motorcycle.
You can combine motorcycle helmets with these things called chin curtains. Some of them do a pretty nice job of blocking the wind from getting inside your helmet. Ever try to put one on? Some of them are “like trying to jam your head into a pickle jar.”
We need a large and well-funded project to find the total solution. We need a project that has a team of independent, unaffiliated scientists who have access to good laboratories. We need to have them do several things, using the Scientific Method:
(1) Look at a problem and decide that it’s important to fix it.
(2) Do a very good job…and this little step costs a heck of a lot of money… in researching the works of others who have already tried to fix that problem.
(3) If you’re not convinced that good solutions already exist, get your project together.
(4) Form your theories.
(5) Research prior work again. This time, you’re finding out how others did with your new theories.
(6) Set up laboratory-controlled testing with scientific rigor.
(7) Work on idea after idea until you come up with a successful solution.
(8) Perfect it to the best of your abilities.
(9) Invite all your worst enemies to do their very best to prove that you are wrong until it’s right.
(10) Make all necessary improvements.
(13) Get a company to make the products that will work.
Good luck my scientific friends. You’re gonna need it.