avoiding ear damage with powerful rifles

Discussion in 'Rifle Country' started by mainecoon, Apr 12, 2012.

  1. mainecoon

    mainecoon Member

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    I would love to shoot a .50 cal, a 338 or similar muzzle-braked rifle. But I don't know if my ears could take it. Obviously I would use ear protection. But is that enough for these guns? Is there a limit to how many times you can fire a .50 or similar really loud rifle before it's time to call it quits for the day?

    Moderator Note - Since this thread is getting some attention I thought this summary would be useful to new readers.

    Electronic muffs are simply hearing protection muffs with a mic, some electronics, and speakers in the ear cups. They are just standard hearing protection ear muffs that insulate against noise with the added electronics. All they do is shut the speakers off in the ear cup when the electronics detects the rapid rise in sound pressure level. They do nothing to the sound itself that isn't happening with passive muffs. They are not "noise canceling".

    There are no active hearing protection devices that actively protects from gunfire. Active noise suppression (canceling) works with continuous noise by analyzing the waveform of the sound and applying a counter waveform so they cancel each other out. Great for shop/equipment noise, but they do nothing for high volume fast rise times of gunshots. To my knowledge there is nothing out there (or nothing affordable) that can actively cancel gunshot noise with the rapid rise times on the sound pressure level. The rise times are just too fast to analyze and produce a counter waveform in any useful time.

    Many of you have noted that cheap yellow foam plugs seem to work better than custom molded plugs. This is the case when the foam plugs are properly inserted. The custom molded plugs allow for ease of insertion, but fundamentally lack the ability to expand into the ear canal as well as the foam plugs when they're properly used. It is a tradeoff between convenience and NRR.

    For those that say that foam plugs won't fit, watch the use videos on rolling these up very small and inserting them properly. If they still pop out, you can buy foam plugs in a smaller size for small ear canals.

    High NRR foam plugs under muffs are the most effective personal protective equipment you can use to reduce exposure to noise from gunfire. You only gain 5db in equivalent hearing protection because plugs and muffs are effective over different sound frequencies. Their ranges overlap, but not across the entire hearing range. That's why you only credit 5 more dB on top of your plugs. Because few people are adequately trained to roll up and insert foam plugs some recommendations are to halve your final NRR for making meaningful decisions about noise exposure. This highlights the importance of learning how and being consistent in properly rolling and inserting foam ear plugs.

    Another point - I've been a Health & Safety Professional for 30 years and the only hearing protection that I put my trust in comes from the major manufacturers of industrial hearing protection equipment. Other brands do not get my trust because unless I know that they're using the same testing and quality control required of the PPE manufacturers like 3M/Peltor, Howard Leight, Moldex, Sordin I don't know what standards other manufacturers are producing to, but I do know that 3M,HL,Moldex, Sordin are following the strictest requirments.

    Lastly, I've bought hearing protection over the years just to test them. I've never found the major hearing PPE companies to overstate the performance of their muffs or plugs. I have almost always been disappointed about the test results of other manufactures.

    Rant- If our government cared about our hearing they'd make suppressors readily and inexpensively available like Europe instead of causing the price to be artificially inflated and adding a $200 burden on top of it (along with months of delays). If you can, file an E-Form 1 and pay your $200 good guy tax and build your own suppressor when you get the permission back from the Fed. THIS with plugs and muffs will provide the best protection against hearing damage.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 12, 2021
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  2. taliv

    taliv Moderator Staff Member

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    i always double up with plugs and muffs when i shoot 50s.

    the noise doesn't bother me that way, but the concussion still gives me a headache after more than 20 rounds or so
     
  3. SilentStalker

    SilentStalker Member

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    Yep, I double up as well. In all honesty, my ears are shot after the second round of 5.56 with regular ear plugs as I cannot ever get them to seat in my ear correctly. So, I definitely double up for the larger stuff.
     
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  4. jnoble87

    jnoble87 Member

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    Yep. I double up my ears with plugs and noise canceling muffs. It doesn't really hurt me, but my .30-06 is LOUD! It's enough to wake the neighbors.....
     
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  5. CnRnut

    CnRnut Member

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    Yup, double up.
     
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  6. jem375

    jem375 Member

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    Too late for me...:)
     
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  7. TITAN308

    TITAN308 Member

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    This is because half the people I see them with fail to use them properly. People seem to think you just push them in halfway and thats that.

    You are suppose to twist them up, then reach your opposite arm over your head and lift your ear (grab the top of it) while inserting the squished up ear plug. Once all the way in you give it a few seconds and it will unsquish and create a proper barrier with no gaps.

    Hold on Ill get you some pictures to illustrate.
     
  8. TITAN308

    TITAN308 Member

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    Here you go...

    What I see commonly... (wrong wrong wrong)
    [​IMG]

    The proper way (thumbs up)
    [​IMG]

    How to insert properly... (twist it up)
    [​IMG]


    And yes, I just took the time to do all that... laugh it up lol
     
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  9. praharin

    praharin Member

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    If you have to quit shooting anything because your ears hurt, you're doing it wrong. Hearing damage is permanent and cumulative. Shoot 5 rounds of unprotected .50BMG today and you'll do a certain amount of damage. That doesn't mean the next 5 rounds won't do damage, but a 6th would.

    Every round, every time the damage is done, and once it's been done it doesn't repair.

    If you're going to be shooting anything big with a muzzle break, get GOOD plugs and GOOD muffs and wear them with every shot.
     
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  10. Float Pilot

    Float Pilot Member

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    WHAT? Type louder !
     
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  11. Buckyt

    Buckyt Member

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    I was weapons qualification Officer for our unit 1964-66 and was not given earplugs by the Army. I was told to use cotton. I can attest to how it feels to have a noise induced hearing loss (60+ decibel loss in the 4000-6000 frequencies.) I also have tinnitus that rings so loud that sometimes I can't sleep. or hear my grandkids.
    Do yourself a favor and wear your earplugs. If you are shooting the big stuff, it is wise to double up. Titan has given a good example of how to properly insert the earplugs.
    Do it!
     
  12. Sheepdog1968

    Sheepdog1968 Member

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    I got lucky in my teens. I went to the Springstein Born in the USA tour. It was loud. My ears were ringing the next day. I thought that can't be good so ever since I've worn ear plugs for loud events including vacuuming, lawn mowers, and shooting.
     
  13. beefyz

    beefyz Member

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    I wonder how our GIs had to feel who had to shoot one of those Garands all day ????? Never saw one of them with a plug or muffs on the ears. Wonder how they felt about that ?
     
  14. Z-Michigan

    Z-Michigan Member

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    Kudos to Titan for the demonstration.

    Double up. And foam earplugs have a much higher NRR than most other styles (rubber in particular). You can get NRR33 earplugs, which are exactly twice as effective as NRR30, four times better than NRR27, and 10 times better than NRR23... you can see the benefit. But only if you insert them properly, as Titan showed.

    With a little shopping you can also get muffs that are over 30db. I use Howard Leights and they only cost me $20 or so, but you have to look around for them.

    Doubling up only gets you so far - NRR33 plugs and NRR30 muffs might get you somewhere in the range of NRR36-38 maybe - but that's as good as you can do. There's an absolute limit because all of your skull can conduct sound, so some hypothetical NRR100 plugs would not protect your ears much better. But doubling up you should be fine even around a braked .50.
     
  15. redneck2

    redneck2 Member

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    This is coming from a guy that didn't use hearing protection for years. My ears ring all the time....so

    Do you have any pix or examples? How do I check the rating?? I'm around industrial machines every day, so this hits home.

    TIA
     
  16. B!ngo

    B!ngo Member

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    I'll add to Titan's demo.
    I let the plugs stay cool before inserting. If they are warm, you cannot use the procedure (below) effectively (they will expand too quickly). So try not to carry them in your pants pocket where they will stay warm.
    Roll them in your fingers as quickly as you can so as not to warm them but to compress them in to thin plugs (about 2MM in diam) about the width of a pipe cleaner.
    In one deft move, holding the plug near the leading end (the end going in to the ear first) so as not to let it decompress, insert it in and up the ear canal. Yes, I was surprised at how relatively vertical my ear canals are, as are most people's. This directional requirement often prevents people from inserting them correctly.
    Here's the extra secret which will sounds a bit gross but is just fine. Insert them quickly, while twisting slightly until they just touch your eardrum. Yep, that deep. Then back them out however little to remove that pressure.
    'Repeat on the other side; wait for them to expand properly. If the world doesn't disappear evenly, re-do the leaky one. Then put on a pair of muffs.
    I've used this technique flying aero and long-distance, long-distance motorcycle runs, karts and race cars, and shooting. It works and is the only technique I trust.
     
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  17. peterotte

    peterotte Member

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    There's a good reason for that. Not all ears are equal. It's simply not possible for some folks to wear ear plugs 'correctly'. I know this! There are designs that can be worn by most but those are hard to find and are expensive.

    The solution for loud boomer's is a mini-suppressor, shrouded muzzle brake or full suppressor. Shrouded muzzle brakes might be legal in your country, depending on the wording of suppressor control laws.
     
  18. Slamfire

    Slamfire Member

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    Plugs and muffs are the best we have, but at some noise levels, and I don't know off the top of my head, sound transmission through your jaw bone is enough to damage your hearing.
     
  19. MachIVshooter
    • Contributing Member

    MachIVshooter Contributing Member

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    +1

    I use plugs and muffs when shooting my AR-50, but like Taliv, my head starts to throb from the concussion after 20 or 30 rounds. It's amazing how much there is when shooting a braked .50 cal., and the muzzle blast will blow things off the bench.
     
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  20. CharlieDeltaJuliet

    CharlieDeltaJuliet Member

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    I shoot my BA50 with plugs and electronic earmuffs, without either is mildly painful. It rings my ears without either.
     
  21. sixgunner455

    sixgunner455 Member

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    I have tinnitus. I plug and muff, every shot, except when hunting, when I use electronic plugs or muffs.

    I think I'm gonna invest in some suppressors.
     
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  22. Z-Michigan

    Z-Michigan Member

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    @redneck2: the best earmuffs I've found for noise reduction are passive Howard Leights. Looks like the LR3 is currently a highly rated muff:

    http://www.howardleight.com/shooting-protection/earmuffs

    and they start at $11:
    http://www.google.com/search?q=howard+leight+l3&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:eek:fficial&client=firefox-a

    Not sure what you want a photo of. Just wear earplugs in your ears and muffs over top. As for the maximum total noise reduction possible, I don't know my original source, but here's one article I found in a quick search:

    http://earplugstore.typepad.com/got_ears_get_informed/2011/09/hunting-nrr-33-protection-when-is-it-right-for-you.html

    here's a search if you want to read more:

    http://www.google.com/search?q=maximum+possible+nrr&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:eek:fficial&client=firefox-a
     
  23. Buckyt

    Buckyt Member

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    I qualified with M1 in training, and then with M14 when I was on active duty. I wish I knew how many rounds I fired with those rifles. I then was weapons qualification officer and No earplugs from the Army. No real hearing test ( whisper test) when I was discharged. They said my hearing was "normal". Now that I have tinnitus, and severe hearing loss, the VA has approved the tinnitus, but says my hearing loss was not caused by the military noise.
    Please wear your hearing protection!
     
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  24. TITAN308

    TITAN308 Member

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    I fail to see how a piece of foam is not completely and utterly universal.

    I mean, perhaps trimming the ol' ear hairs might make the room that is needed... lol
     
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  25. tundraotto

    tundraotto Member

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    just reading through this and thought of something....Does anyone else use the electronic muffs for hunting? I have used the Howard Leight amplified muffs for shooting for a couple of years and like them a lot. I want to hold on to all the hearing I have so for the last couple of hunts I have used them. I can turn them up to hear more than I would otherwise! Its been a win-win for me and was just wondering why more people didnt do it...I dont double up for the braked and Mag rifles like I should.
     
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