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Over the past few days some folks have been taking the defibrillator to the long gone IGOTD about FPSRussia. Much ado has been made about how you don’t need hearing protection when you’re outdoors because when you’re outside the sound doesn’t have walls to bounce against and therefore isn’t as harmful. In the interests of protecting our readers—all our readers—let’s be very clear about this . . .

You need to wear ear protection outdoors. While it’s true that enclosed spaces make the noise of gunfire worse, not being outdoors only makes it better in relative terms. In other words, gunfire outdoors can still make you go deaf. Quickly. Permanently.

Click here for an article from the National Institutes of Health called Don’t Let Gun Sports Backfire on You: Use Ear Protection and Hang Onto Your Hearing. The article highlights the experiences of one Dave Henderson, a writer and hunting expert who began shooting at 10. Outdoors. After taking an entrance physical for the military, Henderson discovered he was losing his hearing—at the ripe old age of 19

“When I walked out of the test booth, the tester said, ‘You’re a shooter. Typical pattern.'” Henderson’s hearing loss was primarily in the high-frequency range, with slight loss in the middle range. “I never used any hearing protection as a kid,” he admitted. “Nobody did . . .”

Also quoted: Dr. James Battey Jr., Director of the National Institute on Deafness and other Communicative Disorders. Dr. Battey states that “Loud noise, such as the 140-decibel blast of a rifle, can irreparably damage the specialized cells of the inner ear—called hair cells—that enable us to hear. So it is vitally important for us to protect our ears when we are repeatedly exposed to loud noise.”

A quick trip to Dangerous Decibels will tell you that any sound above 85 db can cause permanent hearing damage, dependent on exposure time. The permissible exposure time for loud noises is dramatically reduced for every 3 decibels you go above 85. The permissible time for 115 db is approximately 30 seconds.

By the time you reach around 130db, there is no permissible time limit. If you have reached that point then you will be doing damage to your hearing instantaneously.

The average 5.56/.223 round has a decibel rating of around 150; meaning that all 30 rounds you pump out of a magazine on your AR can and will do permanent damage to your hearing if you decide to shoot sans muffs.

Multiply that by all the other mags you shoot every time you hit the range and every range trip you’ve ever taken. What do you get? A hearing aid. Or worse.

We here at TTAG have long argued that silencers should be available for any gun in any state of the union without any governmental interference. And we know we can’t force you to wear hearing protection. But there’s no excuse not to. It’s part of being a responsible gun owner.

Do the research, get the facts and the next time you go out shooting do yourself a favor; wear ear protection. If you don’t, you will pay the price. As will FPSRussia.

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  1. I find the main difference between shooting indoors and outdoors is that outdoors (particularly on a pistol-only range) I can get away with just plugs or just muffs. Indoors, I definitely have to double up.

  2. That is why approximately 100% of the vets who apply for it get the 20% hearing disability.

  3. I (while not wearing ears) once stood behind my wife while she was working with her Ruger LCP…at an outdoor range. I will never do that again.

  4. The question of whether or not hearing protection is “needed” outdoors is silly. One thing that’s incontrovertible is that hearing protection can’t hurt. It’s cheap, easily available and comfortable, so why not use it? Just think of hearing protection as seat belts for your ears and strap ’em on.

  5. Yep. Several years ago, on a range trip where I was shooting a 4″ .357sig pistol, I decided to see just how loud it was. I was outside with nothing on either side of me for at least 50 feet and beyond that sparse trees. I took off my muffs, fired one shot with no hearing protection, it hurt, and both ears started ringing immediately. In one of my ears it went away after a month. The other has been bad since.

    The tinnitus is mild, but always noticeable in quieter environments…stemming from ONE unprotected loud blast.

  6. One of the things my grandma taught me was the importance of protecting your hearing… she would listen to her car radio at a level that was barely louder than the A/C at full blast. She’s 72 and has terrific hearing.

    I wear ear protection at the outdoor range, indoor range and while mowing the grass. I even double up at the indoor range because it’s more comfortable.

    I’d also like to point out that purposefully impairing your hearing by enduring that kind of abusive behavior puts you at a disadvantage in a home defense situation (especially one that awakens you). You need all of your senses to be at their best for you to be at your best.

  7. The flip side is that you should, at least once in your life, fire your carry piece sans protection to at least understand how loud it is. Chances are that when the SHTF you won’t have time to put on muffs. You don’t want that to be the first exposure to unmuffled gunfire. Otherwise, always protect.

    Secondly, this might argue for sub-sonic ammo in your carry piece, such as the old .45 acp. Just saying.

  8. Electronic earmuffs are cheaper, more effective, and more comfortable than ever. In addition to protecting your hearing, they give you a safety advantage by enhancing your natural hearing and providing greater situational awareness. This is *always* a good thing when firearms are around.

  9. FPSRussia broke his tradition of lack-o-PPE in one of his recent videos, Where he shoots a 40mm Bofors. I think he realized that they are just a tad loud. Now, as far as controlling where his shots went on his first full auto string, well lets just say that I dont wanna be 4-5 KM downrange of where he was.

    e: I also just got home from my audiologist, who yells at me every year to stop shooting guns. My response: “What?”

    They would prefer I stop shooting, but they realize I wont, so they just grab a handful of foamies and hand them to me :3

  10. It is a simple matter of the 1st Rule in Gun Life: SAFETY FIRST!

    Sound does not diminish just because you are outside, it is just not reflected off of a surface as with indoor ranges. great article for increasing awareness!

  11. Would this mean that every serviceman for the last 100 years or so that has regularly used a rifle ended up with some degree of permanent hearing loss?

  12. So much for the “train like you fight” mentality around here. The few times I went to an indoor range I used ear protection. The outdoor range I go to also requires ear & eye protection. Here is my 2 cents. Realistically. How many people are going to wear ear protection when confronted with a home intruder situtation? Hopefully no one is that dumb. Your eyes are not the only senses to use in combat situations. So in some ways I feel that, for me, training without ear protection is sometimes necessary. We didn’t use ear protection while training,live fire,exercises at Camp Pendleton. How many soldiers or marines do you see using ear protection while on patrol,or in a firefight. That would be ZERO. And why do you think that is? How many people are going to tell a ‘bad guy’, “hey wait a second so I can put on my ear protection,okay?” WTF? When I’m out hunting, my hearing is one of the senses I use to sometimes “hear” game instead of/before I actually see it. How can you do that with ear protection on. Admittedly I’ve never used super expensive passive hearing earmuffs,but then again I don’t have $150 to by the best out there. They advertise them as being able to hear just as good or better than normal. Maybe so. I guess I’ll never know. I guess what I’m trying to get to is that I believe we all need to be accustomed to the sound of full on, non ear protected,shooting experiences. I guess I’m just really ‘old school’. BTW. I just completed my latest physical and my hearing is perfect.

    • The reason you shouldn’t “train the way you fight” in this case is that most people who train with guns will never actually be in a gunfight, and it’s even less likely they’ll be in multiple gunfights. And those gunfights probably won’t involve hundreds of rounds fired. Same goes for hunting. You stalk your prey and fire what? One shot? Two? Long-term damage to one’s hearing from that situation is unlikley.

      On the other hand it’s not unusual for people around here to go to the range and fire more than a hundred rounds weekly. Fifty+ trips to the range each year at a hundred rounds per trip will certainly not do your hearing any good.

      If you’ve been fortunate enough not to have lost any hearing that’s fortunate and I’m glad to hear it, but it doesn’t make the advice to wear ears at the range any less sound.

  13. Reaganmarine,
    Yeah, not a lot of soldiers and marines have worn ear pro in the past. i don’t know when you were in, however, todays (at least in the Army) training SOPs REQUIRE ear protection for live fires. You can get away with not having it for blank fire (in open spaces) but shooting live rounds you will be required to wear at least plugs.

    Also, todays military is starting to wear much more ear protection than in the past. One trend I’ve been seeing pick up (albeit very slowly) is the use of elctronic ear pro. With all the radio gear we’re being forced to carry, electronic ear pro with radio hookups is becoming more and more valid. My Pel-tor comtacs pick up quiet sounds much better than unaided ears, but keep me from killing my hearing when I pull the trigger.

    These types of hearing protection are also being marketed more and more towards hunters. I don’t see a downside to having better hearing to listen for prey when it’s quiet, and blocking sound when you shoot your at your target.

    I’ve fired shotguns, handguns, and ARs without hearing protection (accidentally). Could I do it if need be? Yes. Should I shoot regularly without earpro just to adjustmyself? No. Doing that is as foolish as practicing those martial arts that just consist of getting hit in the gonads over and over, except hearing damage is detrimental.

    A note on the price of electronic ear pro. My Peltor Com-Tac IIs go for over $250 (without a radio package). However my Peltor Tactical 6s go for $65. They both attenuate sound the same. You don’t need to spend a fortune for quality electronic ear pro. However, my hearing is worth more than $250.

  14. He lost most of his hearing in the First Chechen War during a daring raid saving sea urchins from the enemy, Having successfully taken out 3 enemy tanks with his gold ak he was totally overwhelmed by the secret sonic weapon that the chechens we’re developing: a deadly bomb consisting of gaga|bieber|ke$ha music all blasted simultaneously all the way up to 11
    But you are right he should wear hearing protections to promote safety
    That professional russian dude is one of my favourite gun youtubers for the simple reason that he is the one thing that the anti-gun lobbyists hate to see: a young goofy guy donning a fake accent using guns in a (mostly) responsible way making fun videos that are very popular across the demographic.

  15. I actually told this guy in the comments that he needed hearing protection or he’d be deaf by 30. My Grandpa is profoundly deaf (he can barely carry a conversation WITH his hearing aids) and he attributes his deafness to a single instance with a Ruger Blackhawk.

  16. Your argument for allowing silencers is that you don’t want to wear hearing protection?

    ‘Tis a dangerous path you tread.. Segueing into self advertisement isn’t for the weak

    • No one can “close their ears.” FPSRussia is going deaf. If you want to join him, that is your right.

    • Trout, good god, did I fucking bust out laughing. Nice work and even better work getting someone to bite. HAHAHAHAHAH

  17. It’s been 20 years since I fired a rifle. I brought my M&P 15 out to the hunting club today and fired off 20 rounds in rapid succession after sighting the rifle in with a previous 20. Sitting here right now I can barely hear, and anything that makes a noise at all is killing my ears.

    Wear hearing protection. Don’t be stupid.

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