Injury to Middle Ear from .50 cal.


January 31, 2003, 01:28 AM
My buddy was shooting with plugs and muffs and suffered a "Vestibular Concussion". It has something to do with the parts of the middle ear and he has had dizzy spells for weeks.

Apparently it is a freak thing because something like this happened from the report of the gun and affects the middle ear through the bones of the face and skull. No one else who fired the fifty that day suffered any such malady.

The first Doctor he saw said he must give up all shooting forever. He is going for a second opinion. Any of you folks ever hear of this or have any info about it. My buddy is an avid shooter and as you can imagine he is upset.

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January 31, 2003, 01:48 AM
You need to be well behind a .50 when it fires. Just being to the side of it can ruin a lot of your parts. The danger zone is shaped like a cone from the muzzle back at a pretty steep angle. It's easy to think that you're in good shape being next to the shooter, but be just a bit wide and you may be in that cone.

January 31, 2003, 03:44 AM
:what: With plugs and earmuffs.
The first Doctor he saw said he must give up all shooting forever
Can you get silencers in NY for you pay the ATF tax like we can in IN? If not, maybe he could apply for an exemption under the Federal Disabilities Act? :D
I wonder if hear possibly had a weakness in those bones to begin with? A friend of mine has a .50 cal but we've never had a problem.

January 31, 2003, 03:57 AM
I think that never shooting again prescription is a bit pessimistic. There's some pretty lightweight calibers out there. 22lr out of a bench rest rifle for example shouldn't injure him further... Hopefully?

I've heard of detatched retinas due to excessive recoil but this ear damage through the face is a new one on me.

Sorry to hear about your friend.

(Edited to make this specific to your freind's problem)

January 31, 2003, 04:37 AM
Just a regular .50 AE with a what 6" barrel? I dunno, that sounds weird too me. The shorter the barrel the louder the noise right? With earplugs alone I've never had a problem shooting any snubnose .357 or snubnose .41 magnum. And those are the loudess guns I can ever imagine. I shot fifteen rounds out of my snubnose .41 magnum all by myself without any hearing protection (lack of foresight) and if that didn't damage my hearing, nothing will :D

Yes I had a ringing in my ears for almost a half hour later after shooting the .41 snub....:D

January 31, 2003, 04:52 AM
Just a regular .50 AE with a what 6" barrel? I think he means a .50 BMG rifle.

January 31, 2003, 07:01 AM
As I understand it, even a .22LR can damage yoyr hearing over a long period of shooting w/o protection. It would probably take years, but it would still lead to hearing loss.
I was told by Army doctors when I got out that if I didn't wear hearing protection around loud noises when I got out, I would be almost deaf by 40.
I wear ear plugs.

Kahr carrier
January 31, 2003, 09:15 AM
That sucks ,hope it works out for him.:(

Kahr carrier
January 31, 2003, 09:16 AM
Your friend might want to try to find a ear specialist .:(

Jim Watson
January 31, 2003, 10:24 AM
It doesn't look good.
We had a PPC shooter who scrambled his ears through plugs with thousands and thousands of .38 Special. On the recomendation of an ear specialist, he quit target shooting. He took up turkey hunting. You do NOT fire many shots per year at turkeys, and he is willing to take that wear and tear but no more.

50 Shooter
January 31, 2003, 10:25 AM
Sorry to hear about your friend, the problem may have been there already like Dad of 3 said.

I have made the mistake of just having plugs hanging loosly in my ears when someone else fired their 50, not good. I always wear plugs and muffs but there are a few guys that wear those ear plugs you can have made at the gun shows. They seem to do fine with them and have told me that they like wearing them as opposed to wearing plugs and muffs.

January 31, 2003, 10:42 AM
In the instruction manual that Barrett shipped with their M82A1 (semi-auto 50 BMG) they have a warning to wear ear protection and keep your mouth closed. Something to do with the pressure entering your mouth and damaging your ears.

January 31, 2003, 11:07 AM
I can understand the warning to keep your mouth closed.

The Eustachian tube connects the middle ear to the throat near the back of the nose. This is how you equalize the pressure in your middle ear when you increase or decrease altitude. A sore throat for example causes swelling that seals off the end of the tube and makes it difficult to get your ears to pop by swallowing, chewing gum, yawning, etc.

The middle ear contains a series of three tiny bones that connects the ear drum to the inner ear and transfers the pressure waves(sounds) from the external ear canal to the inside of your head. Infections and loud sounds can damage these 3 little levers.

This is all I remember from an audiology class 30 years ago.

A google search should turn up lots of related sites.


January 31, 2003, 12:47 PM
I am going to asjk my buddy if he had his mouth closed when he shot. It makes sense that he could have had a concussive reaction through the eustachian tubes by leaving his mouth open.
I'm going to give him a call and see how he is doing.

January 31, 2003, 12:54 PM
So, the best time to shoot a 50BMG is when you have the beginnings of a sore throat, or a gag? ;)

Maybe a bandana over the face/mouth should help. It would help to avoid breathing in the dust that is thrown up with by the muzzle break.

January 31, 2003, 01:07 PM
I think I remember reading how those serving in artillery units open their mouths to equalize the pressure when firing.

It may have been that your friend closing the outer ear canal did more harm than had he had no plugs at all (Hard to believe, as one who was way too close to a .357 snub w/o having the ear protectors on.).

Steve Smith
January 31, 2003, 01:26 PM
The first Doctor he saw said he must give up all shooting forever

The ability to hear does not affect one's ability to wiggle his trigger finger.

Edit: Since some folks can never get the hang of understanding what I'm getting at....

Even with "weak" middle ear construction, I would find some way to continue my hobby. "You must" is awfully strong talk from someone who has no authority over me.

January 31, 2003, 01:29 PM

The problem was that his balance was severely affected. He keeps getting dizzy. He was told it would be months before everything cleared up!

Steve Smith
January 31, 2003, 01:42 PM
oh...that sucks! Hmm, gyroscopic implant.

See, I told you I wouldn't let it stop me! :D

January 31, 2003, 05:11 PM
Quick! Patent the idea about a gyroscopic implant. You'd make a billion dollars!!! :D

January 31, 2003, 11:11 PM
Just the effects of that kind of concussion on your ears can screw the nerves in your ears up. It doesn't actually have to damage the bones (hammer, anvil, and stirrup). The sudden change in pressure can really mess things up. I have a unique knowledge.
Like many other vets, I have a constant hissing noise in my ears that has been attributed to acoustic trauma. Tennitus sucks, but you get used to it. I also can't stand still anymore and just keep my balance.
Easy come, easy go.

February 1, 2003, 01:09 AM
I fired 3 rounds from My Muzzlebraked .458 Win Mag
when I shot My Cape Buffalo the ringing in my ears changed pitch each time I pulled the trigger.
I wont even clean it without ear plugs.:what:

February 1, 2003, 02:38 AM
I can understand this happening. 50s are bit outside the spectrum of your normal everyday rifle. :)

Concusion sickness is a issue with some people as well.

February 1, 2003, 03:15 AM
The English also refered to "Gun Headaches"
from Big Bore Express Rifles smaking the shooters Via the stock weld

February 1, 2003, 06:10 PM
The reason your friend is dizzy is that the damaged inner ear/nerve is sending signals that don't jive with his good ear/vision. I've a friend that suffered a similar injury when he fell oddly. He couldn't stand up straight for months without holding on to something and had to change professions to an inside job from an outside job.

The alternative to letting things heal is to just go whole hog and blow the ear completely out.:uhoh: I had vertigo from an inner ear problem but once the inner ear died (lack of blood flow), it all went away. The down side is that I'm deaf on one side and I can loose my balance if I close my eyes. But, then again, ear plugs last twice as long now.:evil:

(Of course I wear plugs and muffs on my good side and would add a third layer of protection if I could)

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