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As I’ve mentioned here before, I was a professional musician long before I was a shooter. I’m also the son, grandson, great-grandson, etc. etc. etc. of musicians. As such, I make a part of my daily bread with my ears. And just like a dancer that needs to protect their legs or a visual artist that needs to protect their eyes, I’m fairly fanatical on protecting my ears. In fact, I carry a pair of hi-tech earplugs with me just about all the time. Unfortunately, last Saturday night, I forgot them. And that was the night I attended the reunion of a local 60s band at a downtown night spot. From 9PM ’til almost 1AM, I was in a relatively small, enclosed space, getting bombarded with loud noises. And the result of my little adventure got me to thinking about shooting and ear protection.

The human ear is a marvel of bio-engineering. It can detect everything from a whisper up to the sounds of a Space Shuttle launch and not miss a beat. But listening to loud sounds come at a cost. Every time your ears are subjected to extremely loud noises, you lose a little ability to hear. It’s not necessarily uniform. You can lose sensitivity to certain frequencies. And your ability to hear frequencies changes as you get older. If you’re an iPhone owner, head over to the iTunes store and search for “Annoy a Teenager.” There are several apps that upon command, emit a high-frequency sound that’s detectable only by someone kids, teens and twenty-somethings. Old farts need not apply. I used to drive my daughter and her friends nuts with this, when I first got my iPhone. Comedy gold.

Hearing damage is also cumulative. And impossible to self-diagnose. Case-in-point, my late father. He served in the Navy in WWII. His berth on the Battleship Missouri was right under the 16 in. big guns. Back in the day, nobody ever thought about ear protection. As a result, there were sounds (generally, high-frequency ones) that my dad had trouble hearing. Later in life, his hearing deteriorated. The VA showed us the results of his hearing tests, against the median results from people his age. The difference was like that between “lightning” and “lightning bug” – he needed hearing aids in the worst way. Which is exactly how he wore them to the day he died. He hated those things with a passion he previously reserved for SPAM and K-rations. Had they issued hearing protection during WWII, they said he likely would have had far less hearing loss and might not have needed hearing aids. Hmmm…

Hearing loss is insidious, because it’s gradual and imperceptible. When I left the club, early Sunday morning, my ears were ringing, as were everyone else’s. Someone said, “Oh, wow…wonder when my ears will stop ringing?” But I thought, “Oh, crap. I wonder how much damage I did to my ears, forgetting those damned earplugs?” For you see, the hearing you lose doesn’t really come back, at least not all the way. You just get attenuated to your new, diminished capabilities.

A friend of mine wrote a really interesting book on politics and the media. He’s an economics and political science professor at UCLA. He devised a test to detect bias in the media and rate it not just left or right, but to determine the degree. What he found is that there is bias in the media (no, DUH), but what’s interesting is that this bias has had a direct effect on how Americans think about the issues – and vote. Now you’d think that a college professor with street cred out the wazoo would be accorded some respect, and that he work might be debated, but not assaulted. And you’d be wrong.

While colleagues of his (from both sides of the political spectrum) have leapt to his defense, a number of people have attacked his book (both in the press and in academic circles). Why? They claim that his work couldn’t be accurate, because they, themselves, aren’t biased, and since they see no bias in the media, his book couldn’t be true. That’s what we call “circular logic.” You can’t justify a conclusion by saying since you perceive no bias, there’s no way your perceptions could be broken.

The same thing is true with hearing.

When FPSRussia claims he’s not damaging his hearing by shooting without protection, what he’s talking about is his perception of his hearing. He’s right – he perceives no difference. But put him in a soundproof anechoic chamber and give him a hearing test today, then do one six months from now, and I think he’d be surprised at the difference. My dad had no idea his hearing needed help. But I couldn’t stay in the same room with him when he turned on the TV. His set went from 0 to 50. 20 or so was a comfortable listening level for most people who came to visit. He couldn’t hear it if it was below 45.

Now to be fair, shooting outdoors is a little less damaging than shooting at an indoor range. All that sonic energy dissipates outdoors, whereas inside, it’s got no place else to go. But you can and will damage your hearing outdoors without protection. It’s only a matter of time.

So the next time you want to wonder why we rag on FPSRussia for not wearing hearing protection, remember that he’s a role model for thousands of people online. And just like musicians that need their hearing intact, the ability to hear what might be coming is vital to your ability to use a firearm both safely and effectively. Hear me?

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  1. It’s not mandatory to wear hearing protection at a rock concert,just like it’s not mandatory to wear eye or ear protection while using a firearm. The line is becoming blurred between the “progressives” who want to enforce a nanny state on the US, and the “progressives” who want to enforce a nanny state on the interwebs. Very blurry line. It’s a slippery slope, it’s starts with ear protection at gun ranges and then spreads to rock concerts, drag strips, football games and before you know it, everyone is carrying around a decimeter and bereating anyone who speaks above a whisper lest they damage thiers or anyone else’s hearing.

    • I didn’t say a word about making hearing protection mandatory. Nor would I. If you wanna screw up your hearing, that’s your individual right. Nor do I think that the government should have the right to limit noise levels at concerts or on construction sites, for instance. The only gray area (for me, anyway) comes when you bring up noise made by a neighbor that bleeds over into my personal space/property. I think many neighborhood noise laws are reasonable. For instance, I can’t play my drums in my house after 9PM, for risk of disturbing the neighbors. I had a choice last Saturday. Several of them, in fact. I could have gone home for my earplugs. I could have left. I chose to stay. But that was my decision, and it’s my fault if I’ve screwed up my hearing. Same with FPSRussia. The only difference (and it’s an important one) is that he’s a role model for a lot of impressionable, young shooters. He needs to act responsibly, because of the position he’s in – or at least do something to encourage others to be aware that what he’s doing is not a great idea, if you want to preserve your hearing. I know a LOT of musicians who wish they’d known/understood what they were doing to their hearing back in the day. They ALL wear ear protection now.

      • I have had some personal experience in the live sound industry, as well as the recording industry.

        You talk about how you went to a concert and were bombarded by loud noise in a small room, but you decided to complain about a guy making videos with guns?

        How about you take a look at your own industry first? Remember The Who? Their concerts were regularly louder than a 747 at the BACK of the stadium. Even their modern concerts are very loud, as are many many other bands. Next lets talk about the stereo systems in some cars. Some of them can cause immediate PERMANENT hearing loss, they are so loud.

        “Same with FPSRussia. The only difference (and it’s an important one) is that he’s a role model for a lot of impressionable, young shooters.”

        No it’s NOT an important difference at all. It a phoney made-up difference so you can somehow justify your disapproval. Anyone who gets near one of those kinds of guns is going to have had a LOT more training than watching YouTube videos.

        But let’s just assume that people really are watching FPSRussia, and then without any training or licensing are running out and buying machine guns and explosives. If that is the case, hearing protection is the LEAST worrying thing about it.

        Seriously, this is so obviously a spiteful attack out of jealousy, I’m suprised you’re not too embarrased to post it or comment on it.

        • First of all, I’m a drummer (been playing since I was four, by the way), and I take protecting my hearing seriously, when playing music, listening to music, shooting, using power tools, or whatever. My point was not directed specifically at FPSRussia. It applies to everyone, because it’s way too easy to ignore volume levels and have your ears damaged – permanently – without realizing it. If you had a site that covered hearing, you could certainly nominate me for “Irresponsible Ear Owner of the Day,” and I’d be guilty as charged. I screwed up, when I left my SureFire ear protectors at home.

          You point to my “own industry” as proof that I’m somehow engaged in the “pot calling the kettle black” thing. Not so. I talked about how loud music is just as damaging as shooting, and how ear protection is essential in BOTH pursuits. Sounds like (no pun intended) you’re trying to blame me for The Who and loud car stereos? Get a grip, man.

          Most musicians I know have learned (the hard way) that ear protection is essential. Those that haven’t will be deaf soon, but that’s their choice. I’d love to see more well-known musicians talk openly about ear protection, but when you get right down to it, why not just turn it down? THERE’S the big difference in music and shooting. I can choose to play softer. I can’t choose to SHOOT softer. (At least not until the government stops treating noise suppressors like they are some kind of “evil,” black assault rifle/machine guns.)

          Okay, let’s assume that impressionable kids ARE watching FPSRussia, and are emulating his work (sans the machine gun and explosive parts, but you can just as much hearing damage with a .45 ACP as with a rifle). Sure FPSRussia does some crazy stuff. So do the guys that film Jackass. And just like with that show, kids are aping what they see on the ‘net, and paying the price. Trouble is, with hearing loss, they won’t realize the price they’ve paid until it’s too late.

          So you think I’m jealous of FPSRussia? Hardly. In fact, I’ve only seen his videos here on TTAG, and I’ve only watched a couple of those. Not even sure I’ve watched them all the way through. I can tell you he’s got a nice following, looking at our numbers when we post about him. Good for him. I just wish he’d at least say something like “don’t try theese at home keeds…I professional” or something like it, because I’m afraid his schtick is gonna encourage some kids to damage their hearing, and there’s no good reason for it.

          I’m just not sure where you’re coming from on this. Are you an FPSRussia fanboy, and I’ve ruffled your feathers? If so, do yourself a favor – get some hearing protection before you screw up your ears. And if you choose not to (it is, after all, your choice) don’t come crying to me when you can’t hear.

          • If you’ve never heard the phrase “I do this because I’m an asshole,” you haven’t watched enough of his videos.

  2. I did a fair amount of damage to my hearing as a young man. Loud music, guns, power tools… you name it. (There’s your answer to why FPSRussia refuses eye and ear protection; Young and Dumb.) These days I’ll wear ear plugs to the movie theater.

    With all the clubbing young people do and the crazily loud car stereos, there will be fortunes made on treatments for the hearing-impaired.

  3. I wear hearing protection while doing anything very loud. The best way to make sure you do it is shop around for different protection to find what works for you. I love the Surefire EP3’s (or EP4’s, I use whichever has the higher decibel rating) and the medium size fits me perfectly. They are comfortable for an extended period of time, especially with the little plugs out for shooting. If I’m mowing my lawn or something that has continuous noise I put the little plugs into the Surefires and I’m good to go.

    My dad is similar to yours–he was in the service, he hunted, and target shot most of his life without hearing protection. As a result I now get to have pleasant screaming matches with him every day.

  4. I am a member of the growing club of people who abused their hearing with loud hobbies in their youth. My ears ring continously. I’ve tried hearing aids, but they are not glasses and while they help some, there is no miracle.

    I encourage people to shoot, to play music, to enjoy life. I warn anyone who will listen to protect their hearing. Once it goes, you will regret it. I do.

  5. I hold Pat Benetar responsible for most of the damage to the hearing in my left ear. We were sitting in the seats with the stage to our left and I had forgotten my hearing protection. Thirty years later and I am still paying for that concert.

    Speaking of hearing protection. This is a favorite passage from The Restaurant at the End of the Universe.

    The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy notes that Disaster Area, a
    plutonium rock band from the Gagrakacka Mind Zones, are generally
    held to be not only the loudest rock band in the Galaxy, but in
    fact the loudest noise of any kind at all. Regular concert goers
    judge that the best sound balance is usually to be heard from
    within large concrete bunkers some thirty-seven miles from the
    stage, whilst the musicians themselves play their instruments by
    remote control from within a heavily insulated spaceship which
    stays in orbit around the planet – or more frequently around a
    completely different planet.

    Their songs are on the whole very simple and mostly follow the
    familiar theme of boy-being meets girl-being beneath a silvery
    moon, which then explodes for no adequately explored reason.

    Many worlds have now banned their act altogether, sometimes for
    artistic reasons, but most commonly because the band’s public
    address system contravenes local strategic arms limitations

    Pat C

    • If I can attribute my hearing loss to a band, it would have to be Quicksilver Messenger Service at a college coliseum. I left the concert early and you could clearly hear them playing out at the far edge of a rather large parking lot.

  6. I used to shoot a .357 Magnum without hearing protection. I figured the ringing in my ears was supposed to happen. Later on, the newspaper I worked for at the time sent me with a reporter for an interview with Bill Jordan, one of the world’s great shooters. He wore two hearing aids and still had to have his wife nearby to help him catch the questions being asked. I think I bought some earplugs right after that.

    I was watching a rerun of an episode of “Walker, Texas Ranger” some time back. Walker had to qualify on the range with his big magnum revolver. Someone offered him a pair of ear muffs. He refused. Walker is too tough for hearing protection, you know. I changed channels on that one.

  7. Learned how to shoot a rifle at about 6 or 7. Done quite a bit over the years.
    Ear protection for most of that time? Never heard of it.
    ( Maybe at some point, might have to give OSHA at least a little credit here for establishing workspace eye and ear protection requirements that made its way into other areas. All of government can’t be all bad all the time, Right? )
    Rock and Roll drummer from the late ‘60’s through the ‘70’s. Local clubs and taverns, small-time stuff. Did the recording, made demo tapes for duos and bands, early days of crossover from analogue to digital. Used a portable frequency spectrum analyzer to measure acoustics in clubs common to the day, all bad at best, mostly horrible in general. Learned from that what I already couldn’t hear. Huh?
    BTW, Music’s a known connection with the more ethereal realms.
    ( In addition, there is a ‘Spark of Divinity’ within most all of us…and that nexus is found in Conscience…FWIW. And IMHO, it’s worth A LOT. )
    Certain patterns and frequencies help sync the brain waves and reduce the brain’s incessant white noise. Frequencies and vibratory patterns produce effects, ( like, for instance the realm we’re currently occupying as physical creatures, which is, of course, an effect. )
    Classical music is the best, ( really ) and even makes your houseplants happy.
    Music also teaches discipline, a notable commonality with the discipline involved in firearm safety, handling and proper shooting technique.
    Interesting to see how noise-gate tech has been applied to hearing protection for use by those in the shooting sports.
    “Range is clear. Ear and Eye protection required at all times. We have a Hot Line, you may now go forward and fire your weapon.”

    • I have a friend of mine, a drummer and a drum teacher. He taught daily for 30 or 40 years, thereabouts. Played nightly, in a place with a Leslie cabinet right next to his ear. One day he heard a ‘pop’ in that ear, then…nothing. Went to the doctor, and learned that he has lost all the hearing in one ear, and had about 70% loss in the other.

      Beethoven notwithstanding, deaf musicians aren’t really much in demand. Especially deaf drummers.

      You’ve probably heard his work, too. He was the drummer on the original version of “Susie Q.”

  8. Back in the eighties, I took my young son to a monster truck rally in St. Louis, since I worked on the ramp for a major airline I had many pairs of ear muffs, so I took a couple of pairs for my son and I. Needless to say, there were around 30,000 envious fans wishing they had some form of ear protection as we did, the noise level was incredible!

  9. Thanks to the fine folks at TTAG, I’m in the media, and I’m admittedly biased toward individual sovereignty, application of Conscience, adhering to simple codes of Moral thought and conduct and respect for Rights of the individual. Fancy that.
    IMHO, understanding OTC’s ( other than conservatives ) as associated with those whose thoughts and patterns of behavior qualify them as today’s ‘Liberals’ or ‘Leftists’ becomes much simpler once it’s mentioned there’s a distinction between actuality and reality. The former identifying what actually is, the latter most closely associated with perception and arrangement of information primarily within the confines of the brain/mind combination of the individual.
    Needless to say that humans are born helpless, totally dependent, devoid of certain knowledge and the natural propensity is for an individual to accept ones impressions as ‘true’ and fashion ‘beliefs’, until such a time as experience provides a basis for contrast as ’false’. The unnatural, man-made environment of our ‘advanced’ societal structure, affords many not only the luxury of maintaining ’beliefs’ but numerous avenues and institutions through which to advance their ‘beliefs’ and manipulate others in the process.
    In a Natural environment, the new-age ‘progressives’ would either become ‘conservatives’ right quick, or die off and become extinct. As it is, they represent a virus in the National Body, and as such are unfortunately not entirely ’Mostly Harmless’.
    Now, if I could only remember where I put my towel before I panic.
    See ya at Milliways,
    “Evil is an absence of Conscience, Hell a place devoid of all Reason”

  10. I hear ya.
    But we got problem here. Same with guns, by the way. Availability. Or lack thereof. Partially because outside of large cities few suppliers brought any form of “protective equipment” into their stores (you can’t get what it is not there, right?), partially – because of price (good Peltor “ears” has greater price tag than most people’s month’s salary). And it is involves not only shooting-related activity, but also building/constructing, repairs, etc.
    Some say this is all because of lack of “safety culture”, but you cannot create this safety culture on empty place, without proper tools. Same with guns – if there are no guns around, you can’t have many good shooters. And AFAIR, you have this problem growing due “urbanization” of populace.
    I haven’t seen any FPSRussia videos (I have limited traffic package, so I prefer Hickok45 :)), but from those stillshots I’ve seen – I can’t get his… behavior? But maybe he just has good insurance. 🙂

    • Actually, the orange, disposable foam earplugs they sell at Walmart for next-to-nothing work surprisingly well, especially outdoors. The best in-ear plugs I’ve found are the custom-made ones you can make yourself. If you search, they offer a kit that contains a two-part silicone mix (comes in a variety of colors). That’s pretty cheap as well. For cans, try Midway USA – they offer the kind with battery-powered microphones/noise gates in ’em, far cheaper than any else I’ve seen.

      The point is, money and access shouldn’t be impediments to saving your hearing. And all the insurance in the world won’t bring it back, once it’s gone.

  11. Anyone here use electronic hearing protection? I won’t bother asking what brand/version you like: what version would you tell me to *avoid*?

    • Yeah. We’re all wealthy land barons, living the Life o’ Reilly on our 150′ motor yatch, the “Saucy Sue,” currently off the Côte d’Azur, where we’re entertaining Pope Gregory and a bevy of naughty nuns. We just do this as a lark, in-between knitting humorous cummerbunds that we donate to raise money to build mosaic handball courts for over-privileged children.

      All seriousness aside, you seem to be doing a land-office business on YouTube. Congratulations! Anybody who can figure out how to earn an income on the Interwebz has my admiration, if not respect. However, as a professional musician, I can tell you, without a doubt, you are seriously screwing up if you don’t wear ear protection. If you want to suffer serious hearing loss before you’re 50, that’s your business and your choice, but I really wish you’d either set a good example for your admirers/followers, or at least have the decency to tell them “don’t do what I do.” This Pied Piper act is gonna hurt a lot of people. My dad’s deafness in his final years was directly caused by his exposure to guns in WWII. I have other musician friends who’ve lost their ability to play (not to mention their livelihood) because they’ve gone deaf. Join them if you like, but at least don’t invite all your fans to go with you on your trip to HearingImpairmentLand.

      Oh, and in America, we use the “?” symbol to indicate when we’re asking a question.

      • Maybe if you actually watched his videos, you’d know that he does warn us against doing the dangerous things he does with guns. Fucking asshole…

        • Dear Love_Bullets:

          We’re glad you love bullets. And we’re thrilled you love FPS Russia’s work. Unlike Jackass, where all the stunts are carefully planned, and nobody on the show ever gets hurt (oh…wait…) Here at TTAG we believe that guns “take things up a notch,” and it’s frankly not enough to say “kids, don’t try this at home,” especially when it comes to your hearing. We have the same beef with movies that show cops shooting from inside their cars and suffering no ill-effects. Seriously, we’re all convinced here at TTAG World HQ that if FPS Russia is not already deaf, he will be in short order. That’s fine. Watching some guy on a video with a fake Russian accent say “WHAT? DID YOU SAY SOMETHINK?” over and over again will be very entertaining. Oh, and when he can’t hear anything BUT gunfire and ends up in a wrong place/wrong time scenario, I hope he gets it on film. If he lives through it, of course. Snuff films just don’t have that comic edge that FPS Russia is known for.

          As to his fans, we sincerely hope they are entertained by FPS Russia’s antics. Nobody likes a good gun video more than we do here at TTAG World HQ. But we temper our enthusiasm with concern that his antics will end up being emulated by his hordes of fans, who will either end up with severe hearing damage, or loss of life and/or limb. And there’s nothing funny about that.

          One more thing – there are plenty of sites that offer online dictionaries, and at least one really well done Thesaurus. If you’re going to insult someone here (i.e.: “Me,” do me the courtesy of coming up with something a little more original than your latest sobriquet. You don’t wanna get banned for flaming, and have no place to spew your fanboy man-love of FPS Russia and your forum for telling the world about your budding bromance.

          But then, come to think about it, maybe “flaming” is the way you roll.

          • “TTAG World HQ”
            Are you feeding some sort of delusional hallucination that your site is something other than the insignifacant little hate-mongering operation that it is? And really, calling me gay? How old are you? Twelve? I think that it’s time you grow up and stop spreading lies about FPSRussia just to get traffic.

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