Actor Hugh O'Brian Discusses His Hearing Loss (gun-related)


February 27, 2003, 04:39 PM
PR Newswire

February 27, 2003, Thursday 7:46 AM Eastern Time



LENGTH: 743 words

HEADLINE: Hearing Aids & Hearing Loss: Actor Hugh O'Brian Discusses His Hearing Loss


Actor Hugh O'Brian -- star of the hit 1950's show The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp -- is just one of the 28 million Americans effected by hearing loss. He recently discussed his hearing loss, its impact on his life and career, and coping with the issue with Healthy Hearing.

The following is an excerpt from Hugh O'Brian's interview with Douglas L. Beck, Editor-in-Chief of Healthy Hearing (

HH/Beck: It's a pleasure to meet you. I used to watch your show when I was a little boy. What year did the Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp start? O'Brian: It started in 1955. The show ran for some six and a half years, and I believe we had 248 episodes.

HH/Beck: Would you please tell me a little about your hearing loss, and your experience with hearing aids?

O'Brian: Wyatt Earp was a fun show to do, and a big part of my life. However, I developed a hearing problem due to the show and I didn't do anything about it for many, many years. In film, TV or motion pictures, when you shoot off guns and explosions they involve what they called quarter loads, which is one quarter of a full 45 shot. And it was enough of a pop that the gun went off and there was smoke coming out. So the quarter load made it look, feel and sound somewhat realistic. Sometimes, they even dubbed in additional sound later. But I was a stickler for authenticity and I wanted to make the show as realistic as possible. I insisted on using full loads, so for the Wyatt Earp show, it was a full 45 going off! Of course, that made the gunfire pretty realistic, but it also impacted my hearing, and that's when the trouble started.

HH/Beck: I guess we should point out that gunfire in a TV western is not a once a day event. There's a good chance you could be firing those weapons many dozens of times daily?

O'Brian: Oh sure. We easily did, on the average, maybe 100 rounds of ammunition a day for each episode over a period of years and I gradually blew out my hearing. Thankfully, the crew and everyone behind the camera wore earmuffs. I started to develop a hearing problem, and it really didn't bother me that much until the 1960s. But I did an awful lot of action films and action television shows. And my hearing just went downhill until it was almost impossible to hear people talking.

HH/Beck: And at that point, late in the 1960s, you went to see Dr. Howard House in Los Angeles.

O'Brian: Yes. I went to see Howard House for the first time and Howard became a dear friend and a big help to me. I had my first set of hearing aids in 1968 or maybe 1969. Over the years, as the hearing aids improved, I was able to get more and more out of them.

HH/Beck: So you've been wearing hearing aids from the early days of analog technology and some fairly large units, all the way into the digital age with the really small completely-in-the-canal models?

O'Brian: Yes. I've seen lots of improvements in hearing aids over the years, and that's been great -- because I do have to wear them! I mean I do have a hearing problem, and the hearing aids don't bother me at all.

To view the full interview and photo, click below:

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El Tejon
February 27, 2003, 04:44 PM
Lesson #1: wear your ears you he-man you.

Lesson #2: the NFA is a grave public health risk. Move suppressors into Title I.

February 27, 2003, 05:05 PM
Lesson #3: if you are near a magnum firing at an indoor range, RUN away as fast as is reasonably possible. Even with 30 dB muffs, your ears are being damaged.

February 27, 2003, 05:11 PM
Too bad he did not put some wax in his ears.

It would have muffled the sound of the gunfire without being visible on the film like earplugs would be.

February 27, 2003, 06:12 PM
Yep, but it was a different time: the only people wearing their eyes were those with perscription glasses and ear protection was for a luxury the weak that consisted of half a cotton ball in each ear. I learned to shoot in as a boy the early 70s, I remember the first time I went out, my ears were ringing for a week. Second time it was only a couple days: I was told that's because I was getting tougher and stronger. :rolleyes:

Surprise surprise: I'm deaf in one ear and partially deaf in the other. I can't understand most conversations in a noisy room unless I'm watching the speaker talk.

At least my kids are learning to shoot the right way.

February 27, 2003, 06:15 PM
I was told that's because I was getting tougher and stronger.


February 27, 2003, 06:20 PM
is just one of the 28 million Americans effected by hearing loss.

And this writer is one of the millions of Americas affected by the dumbing down of our schools! :fire:

I did a little better - started shooting with at least plugs.

But you'd be amazed what firing a LAW with no protection can do to you! I couldn't hear for about two days on the right side - still have noticeably poorer hearing on that side. :(

February 27, 2003, 06:54 PM
Hearing loss is a one way ticket like some other things in life. :(

February 27, 2003, 07:09 PM
Yup, got him some realistic hearing loss. I would have much preferred being a lot less realistic & being able to hear.

February 27, 2003, 07:31 PM
I have some hearing loss but I don't attribute that to shooting because I wear hearing protection when I shoot. I think it is because I worked in construction most of my life and did not wear hearing protection at that time. Just because it wasn't as loud I thought I wasn't hurting my ears. The bad thing is it was constant. I feel shooting is safe on your hearing if you wear adequate protection. I wear Peltor Ultimate 10 muffs with ear plugs as well.

Jim Hall

Standing Wolf
February 27, 2003, 09:22 PM
I have about a 70% hearing loss. It's not quite as much fun as you may have heard; it still, however, beats a 70% sight loss.

February 27, 2003, 09:34 PM
when I first learned to shoot in the late '60's I never met anyone who wore hearing protection. My father wouldn't have been caught dead wearing them and he was a WWII vet. Then when I went into the Army in the mid 70's they were REALLY pushing hearing protection on the range. It's probably because the Army made such a big deal of it that I discovered it was okay for a guy to use earplugs - that it wasn't wimpy - and that's the ONLY reason I don't have hearing loss today. *whew*

February 27, 2003, 11:03 PM
Had some similar experience. My father was a small arms instructor in WW2, taught us young, but didn't think anything about hearing (though he had some loss from lying next to the .50's) It was later that he realised it may have give him the problem. I started using hearing protection in the mid 70's sorry to admit.

Actually my brother and I met Hugh O'Brian at a tent theater production of Destry Rides Again back in the early 60's. I think he may have been using full loads even there.

Sleeping Dog
February 28, 2003, 07:36 AM
so the army pushed ear protection in the mid '70's?

I was in in the mid '60's and nobody heard of ear or eye protection. Those M14's were just LOUD.

I had some USGI eyeglasses, but didn't wear them at the range because the bolt on the M14 would splash oil on my glasses and I couldn't see. Dumb me, never figured out that the oil was splashing in my eye, no harm so far.


February 28, 2003, 08:13 AM
Yeah, 'Dog, I did Basic in the summer of '74 and we did the full drill with earplugs. No eye protection, though.

They did warn lefties to button the top button of their shirt, though! :D

Kentucky Rifle
February 28, 2003, 09:58 AM
I can't blame the entire loss on the military, but in the 60's nobody said anything to me about hearing or eye protection, and I practiced every single day. And before that, I practiced every single day in Miltary School. My right ear is dead, gone , fini. But my left ear is still pretty good. Last week, I went to an audiologist to have a custom plug for my left ear made. I hope it works, but I'll STILL use my Pro-Ears...PLUS the custom plug. Once your hearing is's gone for GOOD. Even though I can still hear well from my left ear, one of the most irritating things is, with only one working ear you can't tell from which quarter noises are coming. It's frustrating as he**! Plus, incredibly from my deaf right ear, I hear a constant white noise. A SHHHHHUUUUUSSSHHH type of noise. I've been told that I'm LUCKY. A lot of guys hear a high-pitched "whine" in their deaf ear. I think THAT would drive me nuttier.


February 28, 2003, 10:32 AM
KR, It's called tinitus and I've had it since the early '70's. After a while you don't hear it unless someone reminds you (thanks for that :rolleyes: ). Mine came along as a result of chainsaws, firearms and jet turbines. It is cumulative. Fortunately, it has only affected (or has had an effect on) the higher frequencies (~6000 Hz); I hear voices just fine.

February 28, 2003, 10:44 AM
What a damn shame for Hugh! That was one of my favorite TV shows. Never missed as episode. I, too started shooting in 1952 and never thought about hearing protection. Now I have a constant ringing in my ears. Listen close younguns, lest the same happen to you. Quantrill

Shooter 2.5
February 28, 2003, 01:54 PM
HH/Beck: What else do you do to stay in shape?

O'Brian: I have a very, very active lady that I live with.


Robby from Long Island
February 28, 2003, 02:47 PM
While in the U.S. Navy, was sent for gunnery training aboard a destroyer escort for two weeks. This was in 1960.

We spent those 2 weeks firing twin 20's, 40's and 3" 50's. The entire time we were never allowed any type of hearing or eye protection. We had a few gunners mates training us who said they wanted us to hear their commands and we couldn't do that with cotton or gum in our ears.

I remember the first day finishing up on the 3" 50, had all my eyebrows burned off, my face looked like a bad sunburn from the muzzle flash that wrapped around the open gun mount and I could barely hear a thing.

We went through a couple hundred rounds of 3" during that 2 weeks and probably a couple thousand rounds of 20 and 40 mm anti-aircraft fire.

When my hitch was up, my girlfriend got tired of me always saying "WHAT" to everything she said, and insisted I get my hearing checked. Turned out I had lost about 20% of my hearing.

I never again fired a gun without a pair of Clark's Straightaways and always considered myself lucky that my hearin never got worse.

Safe shooting.

February 28, 2003, 04:31 PM
I always use ear protection and look for ways to improve that. I have moderate to severe loss in both ears (German Measles) so I wear hearing aids in both ears. First time at the range, I thought I was safe turing the aids off and using ear protection. WRONG! :what: I heard everything very clearly....too clearly. My audiologoist told me recently that with people who have nerve deafness, they are more sensitive to loud noise as your average hearing person. In other words, if I was standing next to someone with average hearing, and we were exposed to the same loud noise, it'd hurt me twice as much.:uhoh: Kind of explains why I turn my aids off at the train stations and when walking though the streets of Boston. Obviously, I do what I can to protect myself. What I do hear is a gift that I don't take for granted. However, I love guns, I want to continue to enjoy this hobby for a long time to come -- safely.:D

February 28, 2003, 04:39 PM
"And this writer is one of the millions of Americas affected by the dumbing down of our schools! "

Are you inferring that we are semi liturat?

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