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BattlePlugs (courtesy

Looking at these BattlePlugs (which must be high tech because there’s no spacebetweenthewords) I was wondering what would happen if you forgot to close the cap on the “wash and wear” ear protection and fired off a round or two. Technically speaking you’d go from NRR 24dB to NRR 9dB. The human pain threshold is 120db. AR’s clock-in at around 140db, 12 -gauge shotguns rack-up about 150 dB and handguns can generate maybe 10db more. But a small increase in number represents a HUGE increase in loudness. And potential hearing damage. Permanent hearing damage. And yet I’ve heard [sic] of shooters who fire a gun without hearing protection “just to see what it’s like.” Better them than me. Still, it happens, mostly by accident. Has that ever happened to you? What was that like? [h/t]

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  1. Many years ago, when I was young and stupid, I fired off six rounds of .357 “just to see what it was like”. I now have some serious tinitis (constant ringing in the ears). It’s not debilitating, but it sure is annoying! I strongly discourage ANYONE from making this experiment. Among all the other things Hollywood gets wrong, all those guys firing weapons promiscuously without hearing protection and without even commenting about the hearing issue is perhaps the most dangerous and egregious image to present to young people.

    • With the exception of the hand cannons without wheeled carriages (eg, .454’s, Linebaughs and the S&W 500’s), there are no higher pressure (and therefore no louder) handguns than .357’s. They’re insanely loud.

      When you fire a .357 w/o hearing protection, your ears will ring like you’re Quasimodo.

      .40 S&W’s aren’t far behind. They’re another very high pressure (for a handgun).

      This is why I prefer heavy, slow, old cartridges for any gun I might light off without ear protection. .45 ACP, .44 Special, .45 Colt, etc. They’re loud, but they’re not .40 S&W or .357 loud.

    • When I was young and stupid I fired off a .357 Ruger Blackhawk twice and my ears rang for 2 hours. I later went on to fire 15 rounds from a Ruger P89 (9mm) and my ears didn’t ring at all, although I was completely out in the open with nothing for the sound to bounce off of. Revolvers are louder than autos. I have a bit of tinnitus now, but I think that’s mostly form work. Years of working with loud saws and power tools, not to mention stereos, probably trumps a handful of rounds shot. Anyway it’s got to be real quiet to hear it.

      If I shoot without plugs now I’ll probably have to dial 911 right afterward.

      • Ditto on the young and stupid. I often shot without hearing protection as a callow youth. I pay the price now with constant tinnitus and a hearing aid.. I’ve been diligent about wearing plugs or muffs-or both-since my 20s, but that horse has left the barn.

        I’m also careful to wear hearing protection when using power tools, lawn mowers, etc. Even a vacuum can be painful, so I always keep plugs handy.

        Moral of the story: don’t shoot without hearing protection. Ever.

  2. In the old days we didn’t wear hearing protection when we hunted. Or when we shot .22 rifles. Then came the service. we wore hearing protection on the range but we weren’t always on the range. A couple of mad minutes and some explosions and I have ringing ears and hearing loss. The ringing is the worst part. Some quiet nights it’s hard to get to sleep because of it.

    • I’m in the same boat. My ears ring all of the time. There are a lot of noises that mask it, but going to sleep at night took many years before I got used to the noise.

    • Did they issue you hearing protection in Vietnam? We didn’t get it but I wasn’t in a front line unit.

      • We got ear muffs at regular range practice in the states. But we turned them in at the end of the session. When we deployed for real I never saw any kind of ear protection.

    • My Dad was a a field artillery officer in WW2 (silver star 2 bronze stars combat type etc) he hit Omaha beach with the big red one and was a forward observer most of the time till VE Day in Pilson CZ. He was deaf as post after his Korean War service and told me they issued fibers soaked in wax for ear plugs but they were almost useless and so most would take a pair of .45 ACP cartridges and stick them bullit end first into their ears…. I have tried it and it does work after a fashion but then at 65 I also have hearing loss and I was careful after my teens to get the highest NR plugs on offer I use Howard Leight 33 these days to hold on to what I have left as long as I can.

  3. Forgotten? No, can’t say I have. Have I ever shot intentionally without hearing protection? Unfortunately, I have, back in the day, many years ago.

  4. I did, once. Forgot to put my earplugs back in after checking my target and fired one round out of my S&W .38spl. My ears were ringing for a solid minute. Did not make that mistake twice.

  5. Rarely do I wear ear protection when hunting. With the adrenaline flowing as you touch one off at a nice buck, you hardly notice the noise and recoil. Some ringing of the ears after you come back down to earth though.

    When dove hunting, shooting 50-75 rounds of 12 gauge per day isn’t uncommon at all. 12 gauge just doesn’t seem that loud to me. I know its doing damage though, and will probably start wearing my Peltor Tac-Sports this year.

    • Yep, I’m with you. When deer hunting, I have never worn ear pro. It’s been a very rare occurrence where I’ve fired more than once…and NO, not ’cause I missed the deer, there were several of them and we had lots of tags to fill. Anyway, I digress, but when I’ve been out west shooting prairie dogs, yes, I wear the ear pro. It’s just different for obvious reasons. Being in the woods, waiting on Bambi, requires your senses (all of them) to be at their peak levels, and yes, I know I could wear electronic ear pro, but…no. Shooting prairie dogs, I could fire more than 100 rounds of .223 in a single day, and I don’t have to be at my best with all of my senses. Those little dudes are going to pop their heads out of their hole a couple of hundred yards away no matter what, so I wear plugs. At the range? Always, always, always.

  6. Forgot to put plugs in before my friend fired off his 12 gauge right next to me. My left ear felt like someone had stuffed cotton in it for a while.

  7. More than a few times. Not so much forgotten though. Live fire and movement ranges required us to be able to hear our leadership, ear plugs just didn’t work well.

  8. My first experience shooting a gun with a 3 inch 12 gauge load. No hearing protection.

    It’s an absolute miracle I love shooting.

  9. Well, if I’m defending myself from a home invasion at 3am, I probably won’t stop to put on hearing protection before shooting off my 357Magnum 😉

    • as hearing loss is a chemical reaction and not a physical one, and from comments of users not suffering hearing loss in high stress situations, I guess that our body protects our hearing under certain circumstances.

      • Hearing loss is a chemical reaction? How do you figure?

        From Hearing Professionals of America:
        All of our senses involve chemical reactions except our hearing. Hearing is a mechanical response with various parts of the ear working together to make hearing possible

  10. Yes, I have fired .22,.25, .40, and.45 cal pistols, 10 & 12g shotguns, and .238,5.6 and 6.8MM AR’s without ear protection. Not lots, less than 100 rounds total. No hearing loss, but as I age I am more careful about using protection.

    • maybe not perceptible loss but I would be willing to bet if you had a hearting test done it would indicate decreased hearing…

  11. Yes, indoor range, before I got electronic muffs, was talking to my buddy so I pulled the muff off one ear. We were the only one’s there. Went back to my shooting port, hadn’t put back the muff as I was loading some mags and not shooting. Buddy fires a round from his M&P Shield. 9MM is LOUD indoors. Did physicaly hurt, ear rang for saveral minutes. Fortunately nothing permanent. Turned to my buddy yelling “OW” and said “you could’ve warned me!” His reply: “Kevin, we’re on a gun range, people might be shooting guns.” Point taken, I now have electronic muffs.

    I really can’t imagine being in a DGU in the house. Get up at night, you not even dressed never mind the safety stuff. You might get the bad guy but firing that .40 in an enclosed hallway isn’t something I’d expect you’d ever forget.

  12. I fired one round out of a .45 under a tin roof. It made me sick from the massive headache it gave me. I was out of commission for the rest of that range session.

  13. Once when I was pulling targets at the range. We were working in shifts with M1 Garands. I was crouched deep in the pit and took my ears off to wipe the sweat. A round came through my target. The supersonic crack nearly deafened me. Never made that mistake ever again. I wear Peltor electronic muffs when I hunt. The microphones pick up some really quiet noises and if I get a shot off the blanking is instantaneous.

  14. Never intentionally, but did forget once and proceeded to fire .22LR out of a rifle with no protection. Any other caliber (higher than 22LR) and I would have gone back for the hearing protection.

  15. I was working in my buddy’s field, standing even with the firing line but ~120 feet off to the left side while 3-4 guys were lighting off AR’s and Mosins, and I had no ear pro and it was no big deal at all. At one point I walked down to get some tools from the tractor which was parked 50-60 feet forward of the firing line, but still about ~100 feet off to the left. I was amazed at how much louder it got down there by the tractor, pretty near to uncomfortably so, just by virtue of being forward of the muzzles.

    Being in front of the reports was probably exacerbated by the fact that the firing line was up on a berm, and when I was by the tractor I was down in a hollow about 15 vertical feet below the line, so the sound was probably getting concentrated down there. I was only down there for two or three minutes, and by the time I walked back my ears were singing.

    It was not an experience I would choose to repeat.

    • Your position relative to the muzzle is definitely the most important factor. I shot trap competitively all through high school. I would regularly stand and watch 12-15 yards behind the firing line, with no ear protection. At no point were the reports too loud.
      I have also accidentally lit off my 12 gauge without protection. Its not something I want to repeat.

  16. me and some friends forgot hearing protection and remembered it as we got to the desert where we were shooting. We ended up taking wads of paper towels and barely wetting them down(so they would dry fast and expand and put them in our ears worked as well as those foam earplugs that expand. Shot an Ar-15, 12G shotgun, plenty of 22 rifles, and a 9mm handgun. No ringing after or anything. I had one friend that thought his headphones would be enough……..he was very very wrong complained for a bout 2 days then he said he was fine. But funny experience. When you forget something……improvise lol.

    • The pure volume may or may not result in damage, but I suspect the majority of the immediate discomfort comes from the shock wave against the eardrums. I have known people who used cigarette filters in a pinch. May be non-optimum, but probably anything that prevents that shock from directly impinging on your eardrums is better than nothing.

      On the indoor range I use muffs, since I do not shoot often enough to want to invest in the electronics, but outdoors I use Sonic Ear Valves and they seem to have done a pretty good job so far.

    • Ha, stole my response.

      These days I always wear ear protection, just a pair of basic muffs, but in my younger dumber days I lit off everything from rimfires (.22LR is tolerable, .22 Mag is NOT) to 12 gauge shotguns in open air without. Along with a few particularly loud shows at clubs, no idea how my hearing recovered but it did for the most part.

      The experience that finally made me decide on ear pro was a mag dump from a .308 Saiga sporter with a muzzle brake. My entire head felt that for days. Never again.

    • My response, too.

      I usually go without hearing protection when firing the .22 rifles — I love hearing that unique .22 *crack!* — but with anything else, the protection is definitely on. Except for last weekend when I forgot to put the earplugs back in after a conversation, and a friend started a rapid-fire drill with his H&K USP while I was reloading. No way to protect the ears without dropping magazine tube, bullets, and maybe my Henry rifle in the dust and/or lasering everyone else. Ouch. At least it was an outdoor range.

      Loud music is what’s probably going to really come back and bite me eventually. Thanks to years of playing in garage bands and semipro rock bands (they didn’t have noise-canceling wireless earbud monitors back in the ’90s), and going to dozens of way-too-loud shows that left my ears ringing, I’ve had low-level tinnitus for a long time. But you just can’t listen to a Rush concert with earplugs in. Sacrilege!

    • Huh? What? Bearing protection? I use grease…. oh HEARING protection! Yeah, I use it now all the time when shooting, running power tools, chainsaws, wood chippers, etc. Have I forgotten to wear it? Yeah, when I was a kid, I shot a few times without protection. I use plugs AND muffs now. My dad has hearing aides in both ears and still can’t hear, same as his father. I have permanent ringing in both ears, sometimes so loud that I think other people can hear it too.

  17. Yes, when I was of high school age. The first time I stupidly toughed it out. The second time I cut squares out of my shirt and jammed them in my ears. Now I keep disposable plugs in every jacket, case, bag, I have.

  18. My first time on the range I go to regularly here in Sarasota I entered the outer area before putting on my ear protection. Someone opened the inner door to the range and YOWZA!!! Since then I don’t go anywhere near the outer area without my ear muffs on.

  19. I remember an instructor telling us that military personnel that are in battle don’t need hearing protection because the body protects itself from damaging noises by shutting down and blocking those noises. I asked how they could keep communicating if they couldn’t hear anything. There was no attempt at an answer. Anywho, earpro is more common in the field nowadays apparently, especially since comms can be integrated.

    • On M1a1 and a2 MBT’s it’s actually recommended/required that not only do you wear your CVC (Crewman Vehicular Communication) helmet at ALL times but that you wear earplugs, as well. And if your helmet doesn’t exactly fit, bitch, and keep bitching until you get one that does. Your supply sergeant doesn’t give a @$#%^ what you’re wearing as long as you’ve signed the hand receipt for it. Hearing loss isn’t *his* problem.

  20. It’s not that I forgot. We just didn’t wear protection when hunting when I was growing up. Dad downed a duck from a boat blind that was just crippled. I was in front of the boat, dad was in the rear. We paddled after it and when we got close enough he finished it off on the water. The only problem for me was that the duck was right in front of us, dad’s shotgun muzzle was directly beside my right ear and probably less than a foot away. My ears rang for three days, especially the right side. I attribute my extreme tinnitus and high frequency hearing loss now at age 61 to that event and the one time (lesson learned) firing of a Ruger Blackhawk 44 magnum without any hearing protection. Couldn’t hear anything for about 30 minutes after that one.

  21. Ive taken them off going out the door from the range as shot were being fired. Wont do that again.

    Otherwise, the only time I forget my ears is when I pick up a patient at the airport.

  22. I think the disposable expanding foam ear plugs (the pink bell-shaped ones) are the best single protection. Good for about 30 db. But they can take 30s or more to put in and expand fully. Some guy starts shooting his comp’d 450 Bushmaster the instant the RSO calls the range hot. Ow.

  23. When I was a kid, we never used hearing protection to shoot the .22. IIRC, we didn’t use ear protection when quail hunting either. When we shot Daddy’s Walther ppk we used the empty brass as “ear plugs”, or just our fingers, if waiting for a turn to shoot. My hearing is ok, but everyone in the older generation of the family has hearing aids. They shot for many more years than I did without hearing protection.

    Now, I’m trying to get the extended family to wear eye protection. That’s a new concept to many of them but it’s catching on.

    • I bought safety glasses and ear muffs enough to cover anyone I might bring to the range. Assume anyone you invite will be nekkid in this regard.

  24. I have hearing loss. I now wear ear plugs/muffs around any machinery or loud noises. I don’t want further damage. It is especially hard for me to hear women’s voices. I see their lips move but can’t hear a damn thing they say.

    • It is especially hard for me to hear women’s voices. I see their lips move but can’t hear a damn thing they say.

      Stop bragging.

    • Got the same thing. Caused by working around welding shops, angle grinders, running tractors with the cab open, straight stacks on irrigation engines, and guns (of course). Oh, and going to Dead shows back in the day.

      Some days, the ringing is a low background, other days it is really up there.

      Now I carry at least a set of foam earscrews everywhere I go, molded earplugs on the range and in shops, and when I’m around comp’ed rifles, I put on an additional set of muffs.

      And for those who think not being able to hear women’s voices is a feature, well, that’s true until you run into women who are telling you stuff you really need to hear. Like students on the range, women working in machine or gun shops, etc.

  25. “But a small increase in number represents a HUGE increase in loudness.” Every increase of 6, represents a DOUBLING of volume.

    So to go from 20dB to 26dB, that’s twice as loud.
    To go from 140 to 146 dB, that’s ALSO twice as loud(!) You might think it’s a little increase (because, percentage-wise, it is) but it’s still twice as loud.

    Which means, when you say: “The human pain threshold is 120db. AR’s clock-in at around 140db”, we’re saying that the AR is over 8 times louder than the threshold of pain. 120dB -> 126 = double, 126->132 = 4x, 132->138 = 8x. So 140 dB is over 8x louder than 120dB.


    “12 -gauge shotguns rack-up about 150 dB”. Sounds like a small increase over the AR at 140, but in reality it’s over 3x louder. 140 to 146 = double. 146 to 152 would be 4x. 146 to 149 would be 3x. So 150, being between 149 and 152, would probably mean the shotgun is about 3.3x louder than the AR.

    Take care of your hearing, folks!

    • It may be that a 6dB change is a doubling for voltages. For acoustic volumes roughly 3 db (rounding) is a double in volume, 10 dB is 10 times the volume.

      The result, though, is still “gunshots are extremely loud. People who use muzzle breaks on hunting rifles should have to hunt alone and only in Antarctica.”

  26. I’ve never “forgotten” it per se. I always wore earpro on the range in the Army, but when the SHTF in combat earpro wasn’t the first thing I thought of. And honestly a lot of the time you’d go from shooting the sh!t with a buddy to returning heavy amounts of fire, so walking around with it on all the time wasn’t exactly practical.

    • +1

      I got caught near a C-RAM battery and thought I was going to sh!t my pants when it went off. Otherwise, I’ve never forgotten ear or eye pro in training or on the range.

  27. I never use earpro when I am shooting .22LR in a rifle, but I use it for everything else. I did forget to put it on last time I was at the range and put 1 9×19 down range and regretted it as soon as I did. Only other time was at the 50 yard rifle range (covered outdoor range) when I was downrange during a ceasefire, when a retard decided it would be a good idea to mess with his AK-M and popped off an ND into the metal cover over the range. Rang my bell, but it didn’t stop me from having my pistol drawn and him in my sights before I assessed the situation and was sure it was an ND and not someone trying to pop a few of us in an active shooter situation. Needless to say, that man was perma-banned from the range.

  28. I wear plugs and they stay in, my two gun buddies wear muffs, on off, on off. I get them often when they forget to cover back up. My Taurus pt140 is louder than anything else we shoot.

    • I do that too. Foam in ears, electronic muffs over. Chopper engines already reduced my high-frequency sensitivity. Don’t want to lose more.

    • Me, too. When you’re in an indoor range, and the guy in the next stall over starts shooting a 12-gauge or .357, the electronic muffs aren’t enough for me. I find myself sometimes flinching at their shots and screwing up my own shooting.

    • Yep. Double or nothing for me. I’m deaf enough as it is. I almost refuse to shoot rifles indoors even with double ears. Last time I shot my M44 indoors I had a headache for a week.

  29. Yes, I did once.
    Then at the range, I was between a guy with a Desert Eagle on my right and a guy with an M44 Mosin on my left.
    I have never made that mistake again.

  30. Once while at an indoor range, I was wearing both my Surefire EP4s and HL Sports and I took the muffs off to vent my ears, and a nearby shot was a lot louder than I figured. Close as I’ve come to that.

    But a buddy of mine at a previous job…he was the unwitting blast of my old FNP-45 as I shot it off at a range. Since we were the only ones there, we were taking our protection off between shots so we could talk and enjoy ourselves. I started to shoot and he didn’t have his on, I heard him scream out after the first shot and immediately stopped. Didn’t do that again.

  31. When I was growing up ear pro wasn’t standard equipment like it is today. I’ve fire many rounds from a wide variety of guns with out it and I have some significant hearing loss to show for it. What really tipped me over the line was purchasing my first AR carbine. I’m not sure where the volume level information in the article came from but from experience the AR is louder than any pistol ever. Where pistols would make my ears ring initially and then everything would sound muffled for a day or so the AR caused actual pain, enough that after the second shot from my first one I began using ear pro. Now the only think I’ll fire unprotected are .22lr rifles, I know, I know but I swear it’s not doing any damage.

    As for forgetting ear pro I habitually use cigarette butts but if it came down to it and I simply couldn’t improvise some useful protection I’d call off the range day. It’s just not worth it.

  32. have shot a shotty, a mini 14, a 9mm, and some .22s without hearing protection. less than 10 shots of each. none were really that bad, but I’m not doing it again. the most surprising to me was the sr22! dang that thing was surprisingly loud!

  33. once. ears rung after hearing a noise for about two weeks but no worse for wear, i don’t think. Was still unpleasant.

  34. i fire SBRs with earpro AND suppressors on them.

    a few weeks ago we fired the 50 and some people were just holding their ears. seems fine to me.

  35. Yeah, I forgot. Went to the rimfire range and lit off about 50 rounds. No ringing but a little uncomfortable, especially the dude firing Mexican ammo next to me.

    Got my hearing tested, and now have 5% high end loss in the right ear. Ten years ago I had the hearing of an eighteen year old, but more sense. I’m 56 today (Happy Birthday to me!). Dad died at 57. I hope to beat his record. One day at a time…

  36. When I was in the high school rifle club in the early 1950s, we never wore hearing protection. Ditto the college rifle club. Used .22s both times. When I was in Army basic training at Ft. Dix in 1957, we didn’t use ear protection with our issue M1 Garands; only when I got on the pistol team at Ft. Belvoir was ear protection recommended. Today, my favorite word is “What?” The good news is, the ringing in my ears drowns out the voices in my head.

  37. Ok the short answer is yes. No. IT’S REALLY EFFING YES !

    Here is the story. I belonged to a club with a 24×7 access to the indoor range. This included pistol points and two rifle “tubes”. This was a 100 yard underground range. Totally impervious to weather, it was a dream, since you could shoot any time of day, any day of the year. Each point was a 4×4 ft concrete conduit down to the target. Where the shooter sat was a 8 x 8 concrete room in front of the rifle tube. You walked outside to the target area, set up the targets and walked back. The shooter room had a locked door.

    So here I was with a brand new service rifle compliant AR. I was breaking in the barrel. One shot, clean barrel. Do this 10 times, then go to 3 shots clean barrel. Do this 10 times. Then 5 shots and clean for a couple of times.

    So I put my earmuffs on. Enter the room. Get set up and shoot. Come out of the room. Take my earmuffs off. Clean the AR. At some point I FORGOT to put my earmuffs back on when I walked back into the room to shoot. BOOOOMMM. The instant the round went off I realized what I did. For 2 weeks my hearing was severely damaged. Constant ringing and it was like I had cotton in my ears. It has been years now, but I still have some lose of hearing from that one round going off. Soon afterwards, I decided that my home defense strategy had to include electronic earmuffs. So they sit right next to my home defense gun.

    • A big +1 on that. I have a pair of electronic muffs hanging from the headboard. My wife thinks it is silly but I’ve warned her that if (God forbid) we ever have a problem in the house she’d better plug her ears.

  38. A few years back I was hiking when I came across two guys firing Mosin Nagants ithe woods. We got talking guns, and they let me fire a few rounds, but I didn’t have ear pro. I did it anyway, and my head felt like I’d been kicked for half the day. No permanent issue though.

  39. I’m 45 years old and have been VERY careful about my hearing since a young age. Dad was progressive enough to make sure we wore muffs when operating just about any farm equipment, mowers, chainsaws, and firearms. In fact I just had it thoroughly tested and the doctor was amazed at how excellent my hearing was for my age group. (I may have other issues, but my hearing is fantastic)

    I keep my earplugs in my range bag, along with muffs. I also keep a package of earplugs in the glovebox of both of my vehicles (the range isn’t the only place I’ve been to that is too damn loud). So far I’ve never been without and have, in fact, loaned or given to a heck of a lot of other people.

    Had some hard core macho types at the range one time, shooting a .22 pistol under the tin roof with no ear protection. I offered them plugs a couple of times before I started shooting, they declined. Two rounds of 10mm (a strong Blue-Dot powder load behind a 200gr pill) and two of them left the area and the third said “I changed my mind, can I have a pair of plugs?”

    Just as a PSA… About hearing loss

  40. I was at the pistol house at my range this weekend and the structure itself (a plywood box) REALLY exacerbates the muzzle blasts. I was talking with a guy and the guy behind us was shooting an AK. Even with hearing protection it was physically uncomfortable to be behind him. We yelled at him to put the muzzle out the port. I actually ended up using ear plugs and ear muffs over them – quite comfortable.

    The only time I’ve shot without ear protection was when I was about 18 – we were shooting a shotgun and I had ringing for a few days, but no lasting damage…. I think.

  41. I’m pretty diligent about protecting my eyes and ears, but I used to not wear hearing protection when shooting my 22. One day I had a case blow out around the rim when shooting my ruger, basically like putting your ear a few inches away from the muzzle. Now I always wear plugs or earmuffs while at the range. I still don’t when deer hunting with my muzzleloader though, young and dumb I guess.

  42. Couple months ago I was doing dry practice draws in my bedroom. When I finished I loaded up my gun like normal and reholstered. After something else occupied my attention for a minute, I couldn’t resist the temptation to practice one more repetition and ND’d a round into the wall above my bed. That was the loudest gunshot in my life.

    • Grats, Ruun, you just volunteered for the IGOTD award. And according to mikeyb#’s that slip should be enough to ban you from firearms for life. Of course, I think mikeyb is a great steaming pile of ………..

    • Something else occupied your attention?

      That’s like making Yankee pot roast and forgetting the roast. One little ingredient… no big deal.

      BTW, I think you likely mean through the wall. What was on the other side…?

      • That’s like going to war without the French. Or going hunting without your accordion. Oh wait

    • Smooth move. I wouldn’t go around talking about ND’s but POTG should know that it is always possible and statistically more an issue of when than if. Happened to me at a friends property with a Mosin m44 I had just bought after returning from a deployment. I had the safety engaged on a chambered round, disengaged the stupid safety on the fvcking thing went off (I know). Luckily it was pointed at the ground and only scared the bejesus out of both of us…and left a 5 inch crater in the concrete slab we were shooting from…

  43. Yes, I’ll fess up.

    I have fired my 1911 without hearing pro on, and my Glock 9mm without it, just one shot out of each. It was loud, of course.

    Then, I wanted to know what it must have been like for WWII troops firing their M1 Garand without ear pro. That was … crazy loud and forever convinced me the “myth” of the Garand Ping is just that, a big myth.

    Under a high stress situation your focus is so keen on the threat to your life, you really don’t “listen” to the loud noise you are hearing. Many combat vets report that it is almost like somebody hits the mute button and when things are over the sound is turned back up.


  44. Back in ’02 I had the opportunity to fire my SIG 220 in lower Manhattan at 0430. I didn’t hear it but the thug who tried to mug myself and my 2 co-workers sure did.

  45. Never knew anyone who used hearing protection before I went to Basic. May be why I hear cicadas all winter.

  46. Noise induced haring loss is the result of physically damaged nerves deep inside the inner ear. Essentially, they move in response to noise vibration, like tree branches in a breeze, and the more intense the breeze/noise, the more they get whipped and beaten. Eventually, they break. Branches can heal and grow again, though- nerve damage does not. Want to see what it actually looks like? Kinda freaky: (the empty space in the right-side image- that used to be full of healthy nerves. Now it’s a wasteland.

    Hard to maintain situational awareness in a SHTF if you can’t hear the enemy approaching.

  47. Many years ago as a young pfc M551a1 Sheridan gunner I chanced to discover a stop sign that fell down between 2 Sheridans on a stationary tank range. Being a good little conscientious cavalryman I leaped, LEAPED I tell you! forward to stand the sign back up. Just as I was bending down the vehicles on either side of me fired. Just because the 152mm (6″) M81a2 gun/launcher is a lowish velocity weapon (40-ish lb projectile @ 800-ish meters/min) does not mean that it’s quiet. It was like sticking ice picks in both ears. Drove me to my knees. I’ve had tinnitus ever since (that was in ’75). The VA, in it’s infinite wisdom has proclaimed that I’m full of it as I never complained about tinnitus on active duty which can *only* be the result of head trauma. Verily I say unto you that my very MOS screams ‘head trauma’ (11E,11G,19G,19K, etc…)

    The M41 Walker Bulldog had a rep for ear damage as well. The high velocity 76mm had a sharp crack that absolutely defeated hearing protection of the day. Anyone that served in the Cav in the late 50’s-early 60’s can tell the tale, if they can read your lips.

  48. Not forgotten, but back when smoking was good for you, sex was private and drunk diving was legal, noone was suggesting ear protection or goggles.

    Add to that a few (none of ’em mine) negligent discharges — including a Mosin with military ammo going off vertically less than a foot from my schnoz — and my hearing and eyesight are likely in better shape than they should be.

  49. Sure did. After shooting skeet we decided to plink a bit with a .357 and I forgot to put the plugs back in before firing the first shot. Ears rang for two days.

  50. On purpose no, however, while shooting a shot gun and trying to get a cheek weld, the ear muff came up and I shot the gun with the ear muff half off. Since then, I double up — always!

  51. Never. I’ve always worn full cover ear protection. You can’t miss not packing those to the range like you might with foam inserts. I lost my hearing as a child from a serious double ear infection brought on by a bad head cold. It was 3 days of total silence that I’ll never forget. I have never taken my hearing OR my eyesight for granted. Foam plugs are not adequate hearing protection, they are the bare minimum, at best. They’re one step up from jamming cotton balls in your ears.
    The bone around you ear needs protecting too.

  52. My dad has some permanent hearing damage from shooting without ear protection. As for myself, I once (stupidly) took off my ears when my Security Six had a hang fire. You don’t forget that loudness and that ringing in your ears.

  53. Verified we were G2G and called the range hot. Let one go from my 91/30 and my brother unleashed a volley of profanity. Standing just to my left with his plugs in his pocket when the Russian boomstick went “boom” was apparently unpleasant. Would have been crazier if it had gone “stick,” though…

  54. I never shoot without eye or ear pro. I did get caught under a CRAM battery in Iraq; I thought I was going to crap my pants.

  55. When I was 18 me and my friends habitually neglected to use ear and eye pro. Usually when we weren’t shooting we’d just cover our ears and if we were shooting something we felt was too loud we’d improvise with whatever was lying around. 40 S&W cases fit pretty well.

  56. I lifted one side of my headset once just to see what it was like at an indoor range. One 9mm round later and I switched my home defense rifle from an M4 to a suppressed Tavor because I figured it was worth hoping to maintain some semblance of situational awareness if I ever had to use it. The can on the AR just made it feel too long to use indoors.

  57. Those of you that think you had “no permanent damage” from exposure to gunshot noise, including firing .22’s, are wrong. Even a .22 exceeds the levels for safe noise exposure, and a single gunshot heard w/o hearing protection can cause some small amount of permanent damage, as can loud music, engines, and many other loud noises. ARs are not 140 dB, most of them are 160 dB+, as are most centerfire rifles. Indoor ranges amplify noise level even higher because the sound reflects back and does not dissipate as it would outdoors.

    As any skilled shooter knows, the #1 we miss is because we yank the trigger in anticipation of the noise and recoil of the shot – even experienced shooters that like noise and recoil have that basic brain function that tells us to blink and flinch in response to the overpressure event.

  58. I’ve fired rounds from 9mm, 40 S&W (my defensive handguns), as well as 22lr and .308 (hunting) without protection. For the defensive handguns, I wanted to know what it would be like if I had to fire them should the need arise. As for the 308, it’s hard to hunt and hear all you need to hear while wearing protection.

  59. Ah, my days in the Scouts when we shot .22s and 20ga and the range master made us take off our ear pro to demonstrate why we need it. It wasn’t bad for me, but I already have enough hearing loss for it not to matter, being in marching band myself.
    The second time was also on purpose, 10 rds from my 7.62×39 AK to see how it actually sounded. I thought the ringing was the AKM…

  60. I’m going to bookmark this and use it if I ever need to explain to a jury why I have a suppressor on my HD AR.

  61. I’m that weird neighbor who wears my peltors when mowing the lawn, roto tilling the garden and double up when shooting.
    I take my chances with the OSP bulls when hunting with my electronic muffs. Technically, they are illegal when hunting.

  62. A friend and I loaded up our respective carry guns, grabbed whatever ammo we had, and headed out to an isolated spot about thirty miles from home where we heard there was a high berm set up and the only other people you might run into would be other shooters who didn’t own much land. The makeshift range turned out to be all the was promised and more, but at the last minute we took his car instead of mine. My car (at the time) had a center console full of disposable ear plugs I, er, borrowed from work. Since we were already away from home, the former F-16 technician and former Private from an artillery unit decided to go ahead anyway. I know we burned through at least 200 rounds of 10mm, of various strengths and flavors, and probably around 500-600 of 9mm. Several times firing in tandem at two different targets.

    After six years around fighter jets and many heavy metal concerts, I’d say our couple hours in the woods was pretty close to being in the pit for Motorhead, but not as bad as chasing a headset that got knocked off and accidentally dragged away next to a GE 110 in afterburner. As much as I have abused my ears, any signs of tinnitus are infrequent and mild, so I’m lucky thus far. I will say my hearing is probably worse than the average thirty-year-old, and even though I may never wear ear plugs at a concert despite constantly saying I will at the next one (yet, as of the Black Sabbath show last week, still hasn’t happened), I’ll never forget them shooting again. All my pistol cases have a pair of Peltor Combat Arms, and another pair hanging in the safe in a way I won’t miss them when I go to grab a long gun.

  63. Only a couple of shots, all outdoors, without protection. However, my in my college days I used to do quite a bit of work with the local stagehand union. The ringing in my ears right now has been sponsored by AC/DC, Guns & Roses, Metallica, etc. Oh well, I have become pretty good at my puzzled inquisitive look when I can’t hear someone speaking.

  64. Last time I went shooting, my hearing protection was… balled up toilet paper. And we were shooting a snub-nosed .38. Needless to say my ears were ringing for the rest of the day.

  65. Luckily never. Though I already have Tinnitus, pretty much my whole life. Too much loud music at family celebrations when I was a baby. It recently got worse because I used to blast music on my headphones like an idiot while jogging. I always make sure I have protective ear gear when at the range.

  66. 1967, riding in a jeep with a pole mount right behind and between the front seats, M60 on the pole. A few shots pop off from back in the convoy, SOP is if you hear shots, everybody fire off to the sides. The guy on the M60 starts firing, with the muzzle about eight inches over my head and the end of the barrel about even with my head. Instant pain in both ears, like someone had jabbed something in them. I couldn’t hear for two days. Just buzzing and ringing. Guy who fired first shots was testing his new Swedish K. I never saw a medic or doctor, wish now I had. I didn’t seem to suffer any permanent damage, just some hearing loss in one ear at a certain range. I had a .45 go off near me a couple of years ago, when I had my muffs pulled up, seem to be about half deaf in the left ear now. Probably cumulative.

  67. I have extremely severe tinnitus, the hearing loss is bad but the ringing is almost unbearable. I preach to everyone I can to wear hearing pro around any kind of loud noises. The important thing to remember, and what I wish I knew before crossing the line, is that everyone of us has a limit of harmful noise we can handle.

    My audiologist explained it to me this way, the damage is cumulative every time you expose yourself to harmful noises you are moving closer to that line. Once the damage is done there is no cure, mother nature leaves you with a recording of the frequency you lost, the ringing. Mine is so loud it covers the tv at normal levels most of the time. Just because you can shoot this or that and you don’t seem to have any long lasting effects doesn’t mean you’re not sustaining damage. The next time the ringing that only lasted a couple of days never goes away, that is what happened to me.

  68. When I first bought my AR I didn’t have spare cash to buy protection, and though I knew it was a bad idea, I went shooting anyway, because damn I was excited. It hurt quit a bit, luckily I was at an outdoor range so it could have been worse. Got a bit disoriented. Never again will I go without it.

  69. Firing plenty of 3″ 12 gauge loads as a child & teen, along with my love of rock concerts has left me with occasional ringing in my ears. I used to hunt without ears on, and theres nothing like tracking a deer on public land while half deaf, let me tell you.

    I now have some of those fancy electronic ears and they do the trick. As someone mentioned before, I also keep a pair of muffs (not THAT kind, unfortunately) next to my HD shotgun.

    With what a full power 12 gauge load does to my ears outside, Im sure if I cracked it off in the hallway if I ever needed too, I’d prolly burst both ear drums and end up with a newfound appreciation for ASL.

  70. When I was a kid we never wore hearing protection for .22 LR or Shotgun. As a teenager I went to a lot of Rock Concerts and Clubs. After I was old enough to buy handguns and rifles I soon learned to use hearing protection religiously and never forgot. Was okay until about 28 years old and suddenly discovered I had tinnitus and pretty badly at that. However, the only time I have an issue is when I am in a room with lots of people talking at once. I have real problems sorting out voices. Ringing never keeps me awake because I am so used to it by now. There are many small sounds I don’t hear…like watches that sound a little tone when an alarm goes off and suchlike.
    One I was at a range with a cover overhead and shooting 8mm out of a Mauser K-98. There were a bunch of people there from a nearby Summer Camp, adults and children. They all had Eye and Ear Protection, but kept taking it off to hear what the Camp Counselor was saying. So, I kept yelling, “Weapon is hot! Firing will commence in five seconds!” I would count to five and begin to fire. Every damned time I’d hear little shreiks and squeals. Eventually they all got to shooting the Ruger 10/22’s the Camp provided for their “Rifle Range Adventure” and kept the muffs on. I kept announcing when I was about to commence shooting the 8mm anyway, just to be polite. So, I have not deliberately or forgetfully screwed-up my hearing, but I am sure I inflicted some hearing loss on a few Summer Campers one day in August about a dozen years ago.

  71. luckily as I work in a industrial Plant, I always have a ready supply of ear plugs and safety glasses. And usually have a half dozen or so earplugs in my car along with a pair of over ear protection.

    Last time I thought I might need both was when the guy in the shooting lane two down from me brought out a R93 in 375 H&H. And I was wrong on needing both.

  72. Once went to an indoor range, fired a few mags at the target. While reloading, one of my ear plugs came loose. Fired off a round at the target after reloading (Glock 23, .40 S&W)…. I have never had a headache as bad as the one that I had for the next 2 days.

  73. Have forgotten a few times. So I just go back home to get it. I shot once without earpro, and that quickly reaffirmed I should not be doing so. I marched in DCI, where hornlines are capable of 125db of volume or so for sustained phrases by the end of the season. We didn’t wear earpro then, and I have some degradation now. My wife loves repeating herself when across the house.

  74. Back in ’84, I travelled for a university. My companion was a Charter Arms .44 Bulldog. Most impressive on gallon water jugs, but kicked like Lou Groza. The first (and only) session left me with a bleeding trigger finger and middle finger. Just to see what it might be like to shoot in a hotel room in a life emergency, I took off my left earmuff and fired one round. I got the immediate sensation off someone ramming a sharp pencil in my ear! I retired the Bulldog and used a Model 10 S&W .38. I knew that gun wouldn’t hurt me.

  75. I don’t use hearing protection when upland bird hunting, waterfowling or deer hunting. I need all my senses working. I’m sure most folks who shoot have been present when a gun was fired and they were not wearing any hearing protection. I don’t recommend it but I don’t recommend going to a rock concert or hockey game without hearing protection either. Something I did for 30-40 years and now I have tinnitus. PROTECT YOUR HEARING whenever possible and practical.

  76. I forgot hearing protection once. I was picking up brass and links at a gunnery range as a member of a M163 Vulcan crew (20mm Gatling gun with a rate of fire of about 3000 rds per minute). There I was, minding my own business, picking up bucketloads of brass and links, unable to hear the Range Officer declare a hot range over the din of the generator. All of the sudden, our gunner squeezes off a 60 round burst. I was rattled to my knees, my eyes shook in their sockets, and my ears went numb. I was practically unable to control myself as my body moved on its own, out from under the cammo-netting and across the access road, on my hands and knees in some sort of involuntary mad scramble away from the pain. The second burst came as the rest of the firing line erupted with a whole platoon of Vulcans; I was fumbling to get my ear plugs on, laying half of my side and half on my knees, palms and knees scuffed and bloody from the gravel and grit. Our gunner hit the remote control target on his second burst and the rest of our crew started cheering as the styro-foam plane spiraled towards the North Sea. I didn’t really notice.

    The ears rang for days! Brutal!

  77. What the hell, man!

    45-50 years ago the use of hearing protection was the exception, not the rule. It is difficult to even find a photograph in a gun magazine of hearing protection prior to 1960.

    Alas, most old geezers like me did not use any hearing protection until well into the 1970’s.

    I can still hear – just not as well as I used to. Damage that occurred 40 years ago is the cause of ringing and loss of acuity today.

  78. In the interest of full disclosure, I work for Westone Laboratories – makers of DefendEar lab designed and manufactured custom hearing protection.

    I work on both ANSI and CSA standards development committees for hearing protection testing, qualification, etc. I’m also on the Executive Council for the National Hearing Conservation Association.

    There’s a whole lot of misinformation on when one should and shouldn’t wear hearing protection – some of it repeated in this discussion thread. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health is probably the most authoritative resource in the country as it pertains to hearing loss, and has the most concise description of the damage risk criteria for hunters and shooters. Their website addressing this topic recommends double protection (muffs over earplugs), and they don’t say that it’s o.k. to shoot a .22 without, but make sure that you wear it for everything else. NIOSH’s page states that not only is the damage potential related to the peak impulse, but it’s also related to how many shots one shoots per day.

    You should also be aware that there is pending change to the EPA ruling for the labeling of hearing protectors which includes a rating of how the protector works for impulsive noise like gunshots. I can say authoritatively, that the NRR is really pretty meaningless as it pertains to gunshot noise. If you’ve ever had your hearing tested (which I highly recommend), then you are familiar with a process similar to that used to determine the NRR – hearing is tested with an without earplugs in place and the difference between the two sets of data are used to calculate the overall protection (average attenuation and standard deviations from a group of 10 test subjects, 3 rounds of testing each are used. If you’d like to see how the NRR is calculated, it’s available as the first 2 pages of this .pdf

    These low level noises used to determine NRR are not representative of the highly impulsive nature of gunshot noise – where hearing protection behaves non-linearly from an acoustics standpoint. In 2010, ANSI released S12.42-2010 which includes a provision for measurement of impulsive noise reduction. The test data from that portion of the standard is used to calculate Impulsive Peak Insertion Loss, or IPIL. This test metric provides a much more representative measure of the potential attenuation for a hearing protector as it pertains to gunshot noises. Very few manufacturers have tested their products for this as it is a relatively new test standard and there are only a couple of locations nationwide where the test can be conducted. We have this test data for our DefendEar Digital series of products as well as our DefendEar Hunter Passive, with plans to test even more of our hearing protectors in this fashion. We should soon have an article addressing this topic on our website.

    Another topic that has reared it’s head in this discussion is that somehow one’s body protects itself against gunshot induced hearing loss. The Veteran’s Administration really wishes that these statements were correct, as they have paid out quite literally billions of dollars over the years to outfit veterans with hearing aids due to gunshot noise induced hearing loss. This report shows that hearing loss and tinnitus are some of the biggest claims that the VA has to pay, both from sheer numbers of persons suffering as well as the financial outlay. Several pages of that report address this issue.

    In the meantime:
    Don’t forget your earplugs and earmuffs and even more importantly, wear them properly. Improperly worn hearing protection is rampant. If you choose to wear a generic fit earplug, make sure to check with the manufacturer’s directions on how to fit them properly. Make sure that the product is the right size for you. I had a customer tell me his custom hearing protection was much less comfortable than his generic ‘bullet shaped’ foam earplug. Then he showed me how the foam earplug inserted without having to roll it down! He wasn’t getting any protection from that plug. Roll the foam down so there’s no fold-over to it – hold it in while it expands. To test whether it’s really working, begin talking in a normal speaking voice and slowly raise an open palm hand past your mouth while continuing to talk and toward your ear (like an old-time radio announcer). You shouldn’t be able to hear a change in the sound with a solid foam or silicone hearing protector, as you raise your hand toward your ear.

    Enjoy shooting the rest of your life – wear proper hearing protection – always.

  79. I forgot to wear plugs whilst next to a friend shooting a SCAR 17s with a compensator. That was a bad day.

  80. Ive fired probably a hundred rounds out of a mosin with no discernable effect on my hearing. Stupid to do, I know, but too late now.

  81. I recently fired a new (well, used, but new to me) .357 Magnum revolver. I’ve shot many guns before. I’ve fired different rifles and handguns without hearing protection (not often, but it’s happened). I originally planned on shooting all 6 rounds in the cylinder as a test-shoot. Well…it was FAR louder than I expected. In fact, I was practically deaf in my left ear for about 2 minutes, and my hearing was reduced for another couple of hours.

    I don’t seem to have any lasting effects, but I fired that ONE shot only, and I decided immediately not to fire any more rounds considering I didn’t have any hearing protection with me.

    The .357 is the loudest gun I’ve ever fired. I would never fire it again without hearing protection, or in an emergency situation. It was not smart to fire without hearing protection to begin with, so don’t repeat my mistake.

  82. I was on the pop up range at Ft. Lewis getting ready to qualify with my M16. Right when the time started and the targets started popping, one of my earplugs fell out of my ear. I shot the whole thing and my ear rang for a few hours, but I don’t seem to have damaged my hearing.

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