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(This post is an entry in our spring content contest. If you’d like a chance to win a Beretta APX pistol, click here for details.) 

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.

(11) Publish.

(12) Publicize.

(13) Get a company to make the products that will work.

Good luck my scientific friends. You’re gonna need it.

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  1. A study won’t fly because anti-gun people would just as soon we lose our hearing.

    Archery, my friend. The future is archery.

    • Yes, one advantage of the crossbow as a defense weapon is there is no ambiguity about whether or not it is loaded. Highly intimidating, particularly when pointed at the perp’s nether regions.

        • So you want the equivalent of a refrigerator bulb’s power output in your weapon? Enjoy the moth safari, otherwise I’d find a good backup gun…

        • Dude, 1W lasers light shit on fire. This isn’t the equivalent of a light bulb.

        • 40 watt short and weak? More energy use than 9 watts but not at strong as the 45? ?

          Fwiw I carry .40, but couldn’t help myself 😉

  2. Time to practice my google-fu a bit and see what sort of shooting range lanes could be better designed by an acoustic engineering perspective…

  3. I do understand your hearing loss from gunfire. I too had a very serious hearing injury in the Army 1967 durn RVN training and familirization fire of M16’s. A man stood behind me and fire his 16 past my head from about 5 feet behind me and missed by a couple of inches. It ruptured both of my eardrums and caused severe nerve damage. I believe I have answer to your conundrum however, one which Lewis and Clark used on their journey. An air rifle which was concurrent with the same air rifles which were being ruled illegal in Europe for use in the military because they gave unfair advantage. I believe the Austrians were the ones using them, repeater PCP’s.

  4. The best case at the moment is suppression with good electronic ear-pro on. While expensive, there are steps that could make this more feasible and we should be chasing those. I’m hoping that integrated suppressors and sub sonic rounds are the future.
    An interesting note is that people who are exposed to consistent loud noise and vibrations are more prone to both TBI and PTSD. How do we combat that?

    • A while back I read a report about loud noise from gunshots endured over time is accumulative leading to concussion symptoms which are now referred to as TBI. The higher powered the weapon, more concussion, the more damage.

      Hmmm… wonder what all those 105s firing so long ago did? And little hearing protection.

      • We’re talking out in the field today. Hi, what’s your name?

        “My name’s Bob Fliber!”

        Bob, what do you do? “I’m in artillery!”

        Thank you, Bob.

        Can we play anything for you?

        “Anything! Just play it loud! Okay?”

        “Good Morning Vietnam”

  5. “Today’s approach to hearing protection has failed. It took me a long time to reach that conclusion, but I’ve done my homework…”

    Cool, where is it? Because all I see in this article is an anecdote where you had hearing problems because you DIDN’T use ear protection and some assertions about drum-skulls and neck vibrations with no evidence to back them up.

    If this were true every long-term range worker who religiously uses hearing protection would have a significantly significant increase in hearing loss over people not exposed to gunshots while using ear-gear. This would not be impossible to build a study around, but until one is done and actual evidence is provided that current hearing protection is inadequate I think it’s putting the cart before the horse to start going to your range in a motorcycle helmet and lots of scarves.

    …unless you’re into that sort of thing I guess.

      • Plus a lot of, shall we say, “literary license”. I shot thousands of .22S out of a Ruger Bearcat(short barrel) before I was fifteen years old, plus at least a few hundred 12 gauges. Hearing protection was unheard of then. At most a little toilet paper wadded up in my ears for the shotgun.
        I got a lot of ear ringing and had to say “what” sometimes for a while after. Add in engines with no mufflers, 200 watts of stereo when that meant something, and tractor and bulldozer noise for years and I’m a worst case scenario. Most of my friends grew up the same way.
        And we can STILL hear, even now in out 60s! I’ll never believe that he lost his hearing for life from ONE incident of 4 12 ga. rounds. That’s enough to give one tinnitus for a few days, no more. But OFC he can write whatever he wants. That’s what freedom of the press, liars clubs, and all that jazz is about.

        • People are different, OK? Hearing loss is an actual thing, and some families have multigenerational cases of serious hearing loss. You don’t want it. Hearing aids and cochlear implants help, but who wants to be left with no other choice?

          Yes the article is anecdotal. But it asks some honest questions.

          One not asked: Is doubling up on hearing protection any real help? (Foam twists plus electronic over-the-ears devices.)
          Another: When will there finally be some human trials of stem cell therapies to heal hearing loss? They recreated hearing in a pig with a stem cell experiment a decade ago! They regenerated an auditory nerve and its neural pathway to the brain.

        • “Another: When will there finally be some human trials of stem cell therapies to heal hearing loss?”

          That is an area that must be explored *very* carefully. Read what happened to some people when their own stem cells were injected into them.

          The quick version – There is no FDA control over these ‘procedures’, since no drugs are used, just your own stem cells:

          “Patients Lose Sight After Stem Cells Are Injected Into Their Eyes”

        • “This guys whole article is anecdotal evidence, and is totally wrong. See, I can disprove it by recounting my OWN anecdotal evidence!!”

          While a LOT of what this guy says is supposition, there are SOME verified, validated, experimentally objectively proven scientific facts on the subject. And that is that all hearing loss is cumulative, and I GUARANTEE you that you suffered some amount of permanent hearing damage from your childhood excesses with firearms. Any time you are exposed to a sound that is loud enough to be uncomfortable (whether thats a gunshot, really loud lawn equipment, a hammer striking metal, or your kid screaming in your ear at the top of his lungs), you’ve done a small amount of permanent damage, and it all adds up. Had you NOT done that in your youth, or worn hearing protection at the time, I can guarantee you that you’d have measurably better hearing than you do now. I’m very glad that your hearing wasn’t degraded to the point it is negatively effecting your life, but it certainly was degraded.

          This guy’s theories about acoustic energy input into the ears via skull/neck, and the impact of helmets and scarfs on it are just that… theories. He’s right in that there’s been very little scientific study of that aspect of acoustic health/safety, especially with regards to gunshots. And from what I know of acoustics (which is quite a fair bit) is maybe a little off-base, as the attenuation imparted by interfacial transitions (from air to body), and by the damping of the soft tissues of the body before getting to the ears, would be significant. That being said, it’s VERY plausible that even a few reports from a 12 ga shotgun, fired from inside a car, would cause significant permanent degradation of hearing. Especially if that damage was on top of a few decades of normal to heavy sound exposure (it sounds like he was working on a construction site or something?). And your assertions that hearing protection is unnecessary and that you suffered no hearing damage from being exposed to completely unattenuated gunshot reports is scientifically provably wrong.

          Source: I run an environmental test lab in the Space and Defense industry, including an acoustics test facility where we simulate exposure to acoustic events such as rocket motor firings, artillery reports, pyrotechnic shock events, etc

    • I have to agree. I have a fair amount of hearing loss and tinnitus from my service. 4 shot gun blasts is simply not enough to ruin your hearing to the point where you can’t “enjoy music anymore.” I garuntee you I have WAY more hearing loss than this dude and I enjoy music just fine. Shot guns aren’t even that loud without ear pro. Infact their quieter than most handguns.

  6. If you look up the actual equations used to get an idea how much sound is reduced with ear protection you see that guns are so loud there’s really nothing you can do to be completely safe from hearing damage, and this includes earplugs WITH muffs WITH a suppressor.

    When you double up on ear muffs (say a 30dB model) with plugs (30dB), the result ISN’T 60 dB, it’s only 35 dB. You don’t add the two, you only add 5 to the one with the higher rating. And when a 9mm can easily be in the 160 dB range you’re still well in dangerous territory. It doesn’t sound loud because comparatively it isn’t. But the high pressure is still there doing damage.

    Adding a 30 dB suppressor is different, it’s deadening the source. That 160 dB is now 130 dB and now with doubling hearing protection you’re at 95 dB. This is STILL too high. Damage is STILL being done. The difference being the rate of damage is now drastically lower and hopefully wouldn’t present itself until a far older age.

    • You could perhaps mention that dB ratings are calculated with the natural log, meaning that each decibel is exponentially higher, meaning that the scale isn’t linear, as your said for your 30 + 30 =/= 60.

      I remember having to do the math in learning how much sound energy would increase if dB would increase by x amount in engineering calculus for college.

  7. Re motorcycle helmets, good helmets are quiet. Cheap helmets are designed to meet DOT and / or Snell standards for impact, and may not do much for your hearing. Also, in my experience full-faced helmets (with a chin bar) give the best noise reduction, but good luck getting a decent cheek weld with those.

    In any case I still always wore good ear plugs (Howard Lights) under my helmet to keep the highway wind noise tolerable.

    All that said … I think Motorcycle Consumer News did a helmet noise test a while back, if there’s interest in looking at helmet noise ratings.

  8. Having dental work performed is more detrimental to hearing than shooting with muffs at the range. Even muffs wouldn’t help with the cacophonous noise from the drill rattling my skull.

    • Yep – this! I was fine, even after a relatively full life which included 105mm and then 120mm (with the standard “greenies” under my tanker beanie), more .45ACP than I can count, and LOTS of .357 and .401 magnums, which were always loaded “a little hot”. I had mild tinnitus – hell, I shoot for fun and relaxation and hunting and self-protection and “just ’cause I wanna”, so I I didn’t count myself treated too badly. ONE visit to the damned dentist, and ONE upper back molar removed, and viola – Eustachian tube got fubar’d, I’ve got tinnitus so badly I lost 40% of the PERCEPTION of sound on that side (and it always feels plugged), and all of that combined to screw with the labyrinth – the part that controls balance – and I get vertigo that comes and goes, sometimes so badly the whole room spins. DENTISTS are dangerous to your hearing, folks! The firearms are completely secondary!

    • Some of the new ultrasonic cleaning probes actually stop my tinnitus for up to about 48 hours at a clip. I’m considering buying one of these pricey little instruments just to put on my upper back molars every morning to stop the ringing.

  9. There used to be a pistol competition, the Masters I believe is what is was called. They used all sorts of wild configurations of firearms and shooting positions. Anyway, there was one competitor who used to shoot it wearing a full-face motorcycle helmet in addition to earplugs. As I recall, the shooting was under cover and each shooter had their own shooting stall, both of which amplified the sound and concussion of the gun going off. His helmet effectively reduced those effects.

  10. Sorry to hear of your hearing loss. It’s easy, in hindsight, to figure out that firing a shotgun from inside a car is a bad idea. But during the adrenaline dump of a deadly threat, that’s not what’s going through your mind.

    A silenced, short barrelled .300BLK rifle with subsonic ammo would be an excellent home defense gun. Not perfect, but a pretty good option.

    Once a week, I join a bunch of old guys aged 70+ on the trap range. These guys shoot maybe a hundred rounds of 12 gauge a week, while in close proximity to hundreds of other rounds from other shooters. I figure, if earplugs were ineffective then these guys would all be deaf by now. Amazingly, these old farts can hold conversations, even while wearing their earplugs.

    Loud noises are all around us and we can’t always be prepared for them (Balloon POP! Lawnmower engine backfires. Harley drives by.) A certain amount of progressive hearing loss is inevitable.

  11. Firing a shotgun from inside a vehicle, without hearing protection, might be an extreme risk situation for hearing damage, but it illustrates how damaging the sound of gun can be. How much different would it be to fire the same gun in your bedroom?

    David Petzal at Field and Stream had a good two-part series recently on his own deafness due to firearms.

    The last time I visited an indoor range, the guy next to me was shooting some short-barrelled 7.62x39mm and even wearing plugs and muffs I went away with a headache. I won’t be going back there.

    I have a pair of muffs with a switch to amplify normal noises while still damping gunfire noise. I keep it with my gun. When something goes bump in the night, I’m grabbing both. And if cans become legal without a stamp, my home defense gun will wear one.

  12. Scotty,

    I believe your theory is correct. My tinnitus started, like many others, while serving in the military. After a few conversations with audiologists it become clear that sound is transmitted through the skull and bones. I have experimented with cloth material in an attempt to absorb or deflect sound before it hits bone. I’ve used scarfs at the base of the neck and various hats. Its hard to determine without serious instrumentation what maybe successful. The helmet principal seems as if it is the only alternative that may work. This is going to require serious money and expertise to uncover an answer. I’m hoping with all the vets returning with tinnitus Natick Labs might start research on it.

    • I’m pretty sure his theory is correct, and I’ve done my own experimentation on bone conduction of noise.

      It’s a real issue for me, especially with high spl’s in confined spaces.

  13. I’ve got the perfect solution. Wear a space suit. And we will put the vacuum on the INside, since a vacuum doesn’t transmit sound…..I bet it will be really really quiet in there.

    • There might be a little pesky screaming noise transmitted through bone and body tissue but it wouldn’t last very long, about one lung-full of air on its way out.

  14. My BS meter is pinging.

    Every time I’ve been hunting, I fire some shots un-muffled.

    I still have (most) of my hearing.

    If you fired with the muzzle inside the vehicle with you, that is where most of the problem came from.

    People who live their lives around loud noises run a higher risk of hearing loss.

    I wear plugs or muffs any time Im around loud machinery – even mowing grass.

    I wear plugs or muffs when I practice shooting. Very few guns I’ve fired have made my ears ring with plugs or muffs. The 22 Jet and 30 Carbine out of handgun are the two where I wear plugs and muffs.

    Im not going to worry about losing my hearing in a defensive situation and am not going to wear muffs or plugs all day every day. On top of looking silly, it causes other problems with your ears – ask anyone who wears hearing aids – especially the covert hearing aids for the vain.

    It is what it is…you can protect your hearing pretty well with the tech we have…being around loud noises in enclosed spaces is usually self-inflicted (bars, concerts).

    Protect what you have when you can….even mowing the grass.

    • There’s one item I forgot! Live concerts. I went to Motley Crue back when they prided themselves on maintaining a minimum of 126db at all times. That was one loud MFer! At the after party I couldn’t hear nothin’. People would talk at men and I’d just see their lips move. Then they’d yell in my ear and I’d just shake my head. Couldn’t hear a word. Ears rang all the next day. But the cells do recover(most of them) and my hearing returned(most of it). But I guess not for this precious snowflake. Once melted, his eardrums are just gone for good…

    • Protect what you have when you can….even mowing the grass.

      This is why you’re able to call BS.

      Most of us who have been around guns for our whole lives haven’t been as good at protecting our hearing from repetitive sound exposure. My tinnitus is due mostly to grinder noise in shops and other loud industrial noises.

      Hearing loss is cumulative. I’m increasingly convinced that your last line is why you don’t notice the effects of taking a shot here or there without protection whilst hunting. To those of us who didn’t wear ear protection while using chainsaws, lawn mowers, who operated farm tractors for 10+ hours on end with the cab doors open, etc – those few unmuffled shots are a big deal.

  15. Not to be a negative nancy but we are all going deaf by these standards. I work with some heavy machines that are still too loud even with plugs. I would like to see the research on weapon suppression though.

  16. To Hannibal and everyone else:
    Hannibal, I do understand that you had no way of knowing this before you criticized me: I didn’t mention my own story in the original version of this article at all. TTAG told me to write it up and put it in, so I did*.
    This particular article is not supposed to be a course of study. It was written to make people question hearing protection. I’ve always felt that this article is too long as it is, so I cooled it on the tutorial stuff, but look at the end of this comment; I put some there for you.
    As to your other point: I have personally known rangemasters who’ve lost much of their hearing in their thirties, despite wearing earplugs/muffs. The too-many audiologists I’ve known.know them well, and say so.
    A final point to everybody else: As of 17:25 hours, six very good comments were added after Hannibal’s (which I don’t consider to be a bad comment, b.t.w.). I believe they independently help Hannibal get some of the corroboration he wanted.

    * Nonetheless, I like your thinking, Hannibal. Here are the two most helpful little tidbits I found:
    1) The Army wrote a SUPERB little pamphlet: “Readiness through Hearing Loss Prevention, Technical Guide 250” USAPHC
    2) And here’s a whole bunch of firsthand accounts:

  17. The hearing I was given is all the hearing I have.
    Throughout the years my hearing has normally decade.
    Now when I go to an indoor gun range, I always where double hearing protection.
    I where ear plugs and ear muffs.

    I have a bunch of old timer friends that used to shoot for fun.
    They were macho guys and only wore empty .45 shell casings as hearing protection.
    Now they are all stone deaf.
    I intend on keeping the hearing that I have now.
    Hearing Aids and Tinnitus noise maskers can cost up to $7,000.

    Once you loose you hearing or start suffering from tinnitus there is no cure.

  18. Yeah, I have a really tough time believing that firing 4 12 gauge rounds ruined his hearing. When I was a little younger and a LOT dumber, I decided to find out just HOW loud gunfire is in enclosed spaces (hooray for curiosity!). I live in rural Colorado, and the area where I’d usually go to shoot was an old, dried up creek bed. The road went over part of it, with a culvert (I’m gonna guess about 7 feet in diameter and maybe 50 feet long?) underneath it. Well, my dumb ass took my 12 gauge right into the middle of the pipe, and I fired one round out of it. My friend was actually standing on top of it at the time (unbeknownst to me), and she could feel the entire timing vibrating like crazy through the soles of her shoes. I couldn’t hear for a day and a half, and my ears rang for three. No long term damage though, thank God

  19. Your introduction into the issue left me a bit skeptical of the argument you followed it with, unfortunately. I’ve not taken enough anatomy to understand how well sound might conduct through your head, but I found myself having trouble taking in your statements about the gunshot’s energy travelling through your head to your ears. This is something really interesting, however, and I’d love to read some more about it. From a little Googling about this, conduction of sound usually affects the middle ear, while loud noises affect the inner ear?

    I would think that the passage of energy through air might be lost a little as it goes into our heads and necks, since it’s so much more rigid and thus would absorb much of the energy, perhaps similar to why shock-waves tend to have trouble going through materials of different phases?

    However, like I said, I don’t know that much about this. Is there anywhere you could point where I might be able to learn more?

    Edit: After writing and before posting, I read some of the other comments. I can see I’m not the only one a bit curious at what you wrote.

    • Matthew, you are a kindred spirit; you want to think about and understand everything. As I said in an earlier comment, “The Army wrote a SUPERB little pamphlet: “Readiness through Hearing Loss Prevention, Technical Guide 250” USAPHC Put that in your netsearch box and you can read or even save it. That’s the very best place to start.
      That said, the most important things in this article are that millions of guys have wound up half-deaf or worse like me, even when wearing hearing protection…and also that training with the best hearing protection may make us miss in the real world. I wrote this article because I truly don’t know what to do, and neither do so many others. And then, just look what happened right after you commented.
      “Derringer Dave” told us all about something that seems better than everything else I’ve learned all put together. I’ll definitely be looking into the Combat Vehicle Crewman helmet he suggested (and that he told us we can get used on eBay).

  20. As a former U.S. Army tanker, I can tell you that there’s one simple solution, and it’s called a CVC helmet (Combat Vehicle Crewman helmet). The CVC helmet comes with built-in hearing protection, and I can tell you from experience that it’s absolutely the best hearing protection available anywhere! There’s a good reason for that: the 105mm and 120mm tank guns are EXTREMELY, HORRIFICALLY loud, making artillery howitzers sound like toy cap guns by comparison (yes, I’ve fired both tank guns and artillery guns, no comparison, tank guns are infinitely louder).
    I always knew the CVC helmet was the best ear protection, but I didn’t realize until reading this article that by protecting your head as well as your ears, it also provides additional protection for your hearing.

    You can buy CVC helmets on eBay complete with the communications gear (that’s the part that protects your ears).
    I have two of them myself, both the newer model called DH-132B (I recommend the DH-132B version of the CVC helmet because it has level IIIA protection capable of stopping a 44 Magnum bullet). If someone breaks into the house, I can put on my CVC helmet and have not only the BEST possible ear protection, but also excellent ballistic protection capable of stopping 44 Magnum bullets!

    The disadvantages to wearing a CVC helmet?
    1) The CVC helmet with liner gets hot, so it’s not the best for hot weather use outdoors.
    2) The hearing protection is a little too good, so it’ll be hard to hear range commands (difficult, but not impossible), and even harder to hear a burglar tiptoeing around inside your house. But I’d rather have ballistic protection combined with the BEST hearing protection than risk going deaf or getting shot in the head, wouldn’t you?
    I’ve used my CVC helmet on the civilian gun range with no problem. I might get some strange looks, but when I explain that it’s the best hearing protection available, that it will protect my head from ricochet bullet fragments, and that it’s the same type of headgear I wore as an Army tank commander, I get a lot of respect for that!

    • “Derringer Dave” told us all about something that seems better than everything else I’ve learned all put together. THANK YOU DERRINGER DAVE!
      I’ll definitely be looking into the Combat Vehicle Crewman helmet you suggested.
      This helmet, at least in new condition, comes with a microphone for communication. Take a peek:
      When I get one, I’ll see if it has enough gain to pick up quiet noises inside a house, like headsets that are sold to hunters. It it does not, that’s not the end of the world. There are electronics whizzes who can modify microphones so you get more gain, or replace that original with some ambient-noise mikes.
      A note of caution: I’ve been involved with numerous electronic component repairs and projects in the automotive and industrial worlds, and supervised many techs over the years. And I can tell you this: If you consider hiring someone to modify your headset, you should demand good proof that your solderhead will not be LEARNING how to do this job on your property, but instead doing something he’s done many times before.
      I saw one listing for $25 for one of these helmets, in broken condition. Perfect! Buy one like that, check it out, and if it must be modified, have your solderhead show what he can do on that one, not an expensive helmet.
      P.S.: Camouflage helmets can be painted to look less militaristic, if you want to make a different impression.
      P.P.S. TO DERRINGER DAVE: Trying to repay your great favor here: Since you like derringers, have you seen what Bond Arms Derringers is doing with the Boberg microgun? Bobergs were so well-engineered, one writer said it was the best and most accurate small gun he’d ever fired… and the most unreliable, too. Bond bought Boberg. We’ll see if Bond Arms can fix its problems. Bond calls it the “Bullpup”. They’re just hitting the market right now: You can see it at:

      • I actually sold my Bond Arms derringer after I learned that my local Cowboy Action Shooting club doesn’t use derringers, and my local gun range has no targets closer than 25 yards (which is a bit far for a derringer. The only barrel that could consistently hit the target at 25 yards was the 4.25″ .357 Magnum).
        Also, I’m not planning on buying a Boberg, since I live in NJ where we can’t conceal-carry anything, no CCW permits are issued to any civliians in NJ unless you happen to be the governor!

        If you want to thank me for my suggestion of the CVC helmet, please click on my link and check out my novels (including the young-adult fantasy novel “Magic Teacher’s Son” and the computer crime novelette “Millennium Bomber”).

        See my lengthy reply below about CVC helmet electronics, but repeating the first paragraph:
        Yes, the boom microphone, speakers, and coily-cord are designed to work with an M-1 tank’s communication (commo) system, so you can communicate with your crew on the intercom and communicate with your platoon on the radio. It is NOT designed for amplifying ambient sounds, and I do NOT suggest that you modify it for that purpose unless you’re an electronics expert. If you don’t have an M-1 tank (LOL), then you don’t need all the communications gear (just the earmuff portion, not the microphone).

        “Stay on the tank, death before dismount!”

        • This is interesting, and explains why that tanker helmet is so good, Bose make one.

          Dr. Bose has spent serious money researching active noise reduction, where a 180 degrees out-of phase sound effectively cancels out the offending loud noise.

          I’m not a particularly big fan of Bose loudspeakers, they sound kind of flat to me, but I have played with their ANR aviation headsets, and it’s almost like sound falls into a black hole when you switch those things on…

  21. Hey, I found brand-new Combat Vehicle Crewman helmets on eBay for $225…which is 5% of the cost of good hearing aids, and one three thousandth of the earnings I’ve lost because I can’t hear well enough to work in my former two careers.
    As to installing different microphones so you can hear that deer/ that armed intruder:
    The helmets appear to use a multi-pin connector to deliver the signal from the microphone to the earphones. It’s not a standard connector I’ve seen on computers or vehicles. It appears to be a weathertight, dustproof, screw-on threaded connector from the outside, so if you want to change to different mikes, you might want to find out what it’s called. Thatt won’t be difficult. There are a LOT of websites about these and other helmets, just netsearch (Google) “Combat Vehicle Crewman helmet” and they all pop up. One of the links directs you to the company that makes them: Gentex Inc. in Carbondale Pennsylvania Let’s not bug them yet, readers. We don’t even know if we need to modify anything until we try one out.

    • Yes, the boom microphone, speakers, and coily-cord are designed to work with an M-1 tank’s communication (commo) system, so you can communicate with your crew on the intercom and communicate with your platoon on the radio. It is NOT designed for amplifying ambient sounds, and I do NOT suggest that you modify it for that purpose unless you’re an electronics expert.
      If you don’t have an M-1 tank (LOL), then you don’t need all the communications gear, so I just detach the cable and move the boom mike out of the way, but I didn’t make any permanent changes because it would lower the collector-value of the helmet.

      When shopping for CVC helmets on eBay, be aware that some of them come “complete” with Kevlar ballistic shell (DH-132B), CVC liner, and commo gear, others have the shell and liner but no commo gear, and others have only the shell. You can put together your own CVC helmet quite cheaply if you buy the three components separately (shell, liner, and commo gear), and even cheaper if you don’t care if the microphone and speakers are working (again, you won’t need the boom mike unless you own an M-1 tank or are an electronics expert who can modify it to fit your radio!) Also be aware that both the Kevlar ballistic shell (DH-132B) and the liner come in different sizes, so if you get a large/extra-large liner, you’ll need a large/extra-large shell.

      My suggestion for the 3 components: buy the liner NEW (you don’t want someone else’s sweaty old liner, do you?), but you can buy the ballistic shell used (as long as it has no holes, cracks, or other damage, you can repaint it), and buy the commo gear either new or used as long as the ear seals are in excellent condition.

      “Stay on the tank, death before dismount!”

      • DD-

        Aviators just LOVE tanks. We used to call them “flaming datums”…good for navigation and plinking if you had extra ordnance. In Desert Storm you could follow the trail of burning T-72’s to where the action was. (Good job by you M-1 drivers on the Republican Guard, btw!)

  22. My older shooting buddies are 13 years older than me. We are all retired. They are all stone deaf and won’t wear hearing aides. I don’t know if they didn’t wear hearing protection way back in the day or the hearing protection they did wear was insufficient. I have tinnitus but mine came on after too many hockey games in one of the loudest arenas on the planet. I should sue. I’ve started wearing foam plugs and and 29 to 33 db cans on the firing line at my 1000yd range. Lots of very loud HP rifles and more and more with brakes. We need the Hearing Protection act to pass but that is a long shot because everyone knows a suppressor/silencer is an EVIL DEADLY WEAPON COMMIE PLOT and must be stopped.

  23. An engine knock sensor would be a good way to measure the intensity of vibration within the body and to see if anything available today or developmental has any effect on reducing said vibrations.

    • As fate would have it, the two careers I lost were in auto repair and modification of engine computer management. Knock sensors are the most inexact sensors, by far in the computer “mapping” system, and often fail to react. I like your curiosity, but despite wrenching, running an engine shop, my four gigs of technical articles I’ve read and archived, and three years of Automotive Technology in college….I wouldn’t even know where to start in doing good lab work myself.

  24. I did 15 years of a 30 year career aboard aircraft carriers, where you get high and low frequency noise at industrial hazard levels, eye hazards, wind blast and all sorts of other neat challenges like burning kerosene blowing into your eyes.

    The troops who worked the flight deck got hearing exams every year (as did we aviators). The ones who used ear plugs under their “mouse ears” generally had better results than those who didn’t.

    Had a few guys who used to comment on me…why did I wear my helmet with visor down as soon as I headed up from the paraloft? More than one found out by stepping into a cat walk and hitting their heads on the bottom of an unseen hazard hanging over the exit. Likewise, you got little warning of people starting up, or aircraft being taxied for an early launch, which blew grit off the flight deck.

    I shot thousands of rounds of .22 growing up, and hundreds of 12 ga rounds without hearing protection, but no more. I wear electronic muffs at the range, and if shooting big stuff, wear plugs underneath, plus eye protection.

    My own hearing is good, but obviously, as a “senior” now, it is not as good as it once was. In particular, I seem to have developed a hearing block right in the same frequency that my wife speaks. I am told this is a very common affliction to older married men, for which there is no known cure.

    Anecdotal? For sure. Humorous? I hope.

    Be safe out there. Navy guy

  25. hikock45 said this awhile back. ive been using ear muffs ever since. but some people are just pathetically macho. ive actually had people tell me ” nah i dont need those, the ringing will stop in a couple of days”. stupid is as stupid does.

  26. Does the author have any proof, or at least evidence, for the assertions that he makes regarding hearing loss? None were given in the article.

    I haven’t found specs on tanker noise reduction yet, but there’s an amazing amt. of good info on them; whole websites, and they’re shockingly affordable; $225 for a complete one in new condition on eBay. That’s 1/3 the cost of a noise-blocking motorcycle helmet. Some examples here, you can click on them for more info:

    I think it’s possible that new-condition…pre-1993, older-generation helmets may…MAY, POSSIBLY…be an even better choices than newer models. They don’t use noise-cancellation tech because it didn’t exist when they were made. They also use standard microphone jacks more often. That design should more easily accept microphones that amplify all noise around us, which you want in self-defense situations, instead of cancelling it out, which you want inside a tank.

    • I was a dino-tanker so I’m not 100% sure about the newest helmets used by Jedi tankers, but I’m 99% sure none of them used noise cancellation technology, because they didn’t in my day (even though it existed), because of the principle KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid), no unnecessary “smart” electronics that can fail! The pigtail cord plugs into a socket in the tank so you can connect to the tank’s intercom and radio, no need for any amplification at all, because tankers don’t need to hear any ambient sounds, only the sounds of their crewmates or the platoon radio. Your boom mike only transmits when you have it switched on. The hearing protection comes from the thick padding in the earmuffs/speakers, not from noise-cancellation technology or noise-cutoff technology (both of which can fail when you need them most, hence KISS). A “smart helmet” for tankers would make about as much sense as a “smart gun” for homeowners — it would just fail when you need it most!

      If you want fancy noise-cancellation technology, maybe some fighter-jet veterans can tell you if their flight helmets had it, as those chair-force flyboys get all the high-tech equipment that we dumb-ass tankers (DAT’s) can’t use because it’s not reliable or rugged enough for tanking!

      “Stay on the tank; death before dismount!”

  28. “I fired 4 shotgun blasts from inside of a car and I lost my hearing. I didn’t have hearing protection on, but today’s hearing protection doesn’t work and you will go deaf.”

    Got it.

    • Actually, Nikki B., you don’t “got” much at all.
      1) If any part of the article states that hearing protection doesn’t work because I have bad hearing, I’d like you to show all of us where it does that.
      2) This page explains that I did not include my own history in the article as it was submitted, but TTAG told me to put it in. (See Comments, March 15, 2017, at 18:54.)
      3) The reasons why today’s hearing protection doesn’t work are stated quite simply and clearly, but you never mentioned them.
      4) If you had been less eager to try to make yourself look smarter than other people and more eager to learn, you would find that TTAG readers posted comments which verified every point I made. Would you like to insult them, too?
      5) “Derringer Dave” actually gave us a solution that the article was written to find, and Derringer Dave’s suggestion will really help people .What did you do that will really help people, right here, on this web page?

    • D, I like it when people use their intelligence, and you are doing that, so you’re okay in my book. I’ve studied just about all the martial arts, so I’ll open my big mouth and respond.
      Boxers deal with different issues because they get pounded in localized areas by each punch to the head, whereas shooters get their entire skull blasted with a shock wave at the same time.
      Boxers take a real risk when they box because the head punch pushes the head to one side, and the brain goes with it. If the punch is hard enough, the brain hits the inside of the skull. When it does that, it bleeds, and there is brain damage. (That’s the reason boxers lose consciousness.) Then, the head rebounds, and so does the brain, and it sometimes then hits the other inside edge of the skull as well.
      Gunshot sound blasts don’t make your whole head move like that, so they don’t harm your brain.
      They have more of an effect of making you hear the inside of a drum that gets pounded over and over and over, and it’s louder inside a drum than it is outside of it. And that excessive blast wave damages your inner ear, and NOW THE REALLY TRICKY PART HAPPENS: the “hairs”, as we incorrectly call them, in your inner ear get blasted down like tall grass in a windstorm. They do right themselves thereafter…but they don’t quite grow back perfectly. And each time you make them do that, they grow back shorter and shorter, and you don’t hear quite as well. It’s usually a very slow process. And THAT is the reason why hearing damage occurs so long after the incident that caused it, in most cases.
      I’ve always felt that this subject should be addressed in a series of short articles, not one long one. I’d like to write a future series which does the subject justice. But this article merely raised a point, and was written to come up with an approach to fixing a problem…and “Derringer Dave” has given us an awfully good solution. I hope you will read his suggestion in the COMMENTS section.

      • To D.: Oh yeah….since you asked about boxers….boxers, and MMA fighters…who get cauliflower ears do lose a lot of their hearing if they don’t get reconstructive surgery on the cauliflowers. That’s the reason why wrestlers wear hard shell-type ear protectors.


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