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Ear Damage (hearing loss and ringing)

Discussion in 'General Gun Discussions' started by Greg All Calibers, Jan 4, 2008.

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  1. Greg All Calibers

    Greg All Calibers Member

    Jan 13, 2003
    I have been a member of this forum and the TFL for a long time and have been handling firearms for over 30 years. On Dec 18th 2007 I fired my beloved S&W 642 once with a Golden Saber +P load and accidentally left my ear protection on the bench. Indoor range. Next to a wall on my left. My left ear got most of it. I have never done that before.

    It is now 3 weeks later. Went to an ENT doctor today, took a hearing test. I am 20-40dB down on all frequencies above 4kHz. I have significant ringing (tinnitus) in my left ear. It is very uncomfortable.

    He said the hearing damage is likely permanent. The tinnitus may or may not subside, but will probably be there for life as well. I was prescribed the steroid Medrol which can reduce the ringing in some people. My tampanic membrane (eardrum) is not ruptured.

    Firearms are an important hobby of mine. I am sorry if this is off-topic, but I am seeking any feedback (good or bad) about anyone else that has been in this situation. I am seeking advice from my fellow shooters in a time of need.

    Thank you. Greg
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2008

    FMJMIKE Member

    Mar 3, 2007
    Copper Hill, Virginia
    I have the damn ringing in my ears. All the time. Please using hearing protection..........It ain't no fun. :(
  3. Vonderek

    Vonderek Member

    Jul 9, 2006
    I have tinnitus in my left ear which has been ringing and hissing since 1980. There isn't much you can do about it. Stress will make it worse...when my father was dying my ear was ringing so loud it almost drove me crazy. It helps to have background noise which helps mask the ringing. Try getting one of those machines that has nature sounds...forest, seaside, creek, etc. Keep it on at night when you're trying to go to sleep. It will help keep your brain from focusing on the tinnitus.
  4. sailortoo

    sailortoo Member

    Aug 5, 2007
    NW New Mexico
    Hearing loss

    Well, it is a sad story, but some (most) loud and intense sound caused hearing loss is very permanent. The nerve endings in the cochlea of the inner ear are like a tiny forest. If you have ever seen a photo of the forest areas around Mt. Saint Helens, in Washington state, after the eruption - that is a representation of your nerve endings. Certain frequencies will be permanently missing or distorted, because the nerve endings are destroyed, and can no longer pick up the sound vibrations. I lost a large part of my hearing in the Coast Guard, way too many years ago, from accidental firings of 5"/38, anti submarine rockets (Hedge Hog) and that infernal steam whistle in fog! No hearing protection was then used at the firing ranges, when qualifying with 1911 and M1, either. We are fortunate nowadays, that there are some superior hearing aids to help, but it never replaces normal hearing. The hearing and eye protection routine at a practice shooting event is a must, can't recommend it highly enough. The same types of hearing problems are being acquired by our youth, with boom boxes and MP3 units turned too high. And the tinnitus - I have had a whole bee hive buzzing around my head since I left my sea duty back in the 50's.
    Semper Paratus (also)
  5. harmonic

    harmonic member

    Aug 10, 2007
    I grew up hunting when nobody used any hearing protection. I remember that first shot (shotgun, usually) and how much my ears would ring after that. The subsequent shots didn't seem so loud.

    Dove hunting was the worst. Lots of shooting. Squirrel hunting was pretty bad, too. Ditto quail.

    Now I've got constant ringing. Stress and caffeine aggravate it.

    I post this info frequently.

    Facts on noise levels:

    Gradual hearing loss may occur after prolonged exposure to 90 decibels or above.

    Exposure to 100 decibels for more than 15 minutes can cause hearing loss.

    Exposure to 110 decibels for more than a minute can cause permanent hearing loss.

    At 140 dBA noise causes immediate injury to almost any unprotected ear.

    There is also the more extreme ‘acoustic trauma’, which is an immediate loss of hearing after a sudden, exceptionally loud noise such as an explosion.

    From: http://www.healthsystem.virginia.edu...aring-loss.cfm

    “When someone goes to a concert, cuts grass or runs a power saw, they can suffer from NIHL,” said Dr. George Hashisaki, assistant professor of otolaryngology at the University of Virginia Health System. “Afterwards, if their hearing is muffled or their ears are ringing, they have suffered NIHL. Even if their hearing comes back to what they perceive as normal, a small part of that hearing loss is permanent."

    "People who are most in jeopardy of losing their hearing are those who use firearms regularly without ear protection or who are in the military and unable to wear hearing protection, such as those on the frontlines, Hashisaki said. The noise level of gunshots can reach 170 dB and is capable of immediate damage. Hashisaki recommends wearing both earplugs and earmuffs to protect hearing while target shooting."

    Comparative noise levels for specified length of time and corresponding damage

    12 gauge shotgun 165 dB Instant damage
    Jet engine taking off 140 dB Instant damage
    Thunder/Ambulance siren 119 dB 3 minutes
    Hammer drill 113 dB 15 minutes
    Chain saw/Earphones/Concert 110 dB 30 minutes
    Bull Dozer 105 dB 1 hour
    Tractor/Power tools 96 dB 4 hour
    Hairdryer/lawnmower 90 dB 8 hours

    Here are some examples of noise levels:

    Video arcades - (110 dB).

    Firecrackers - (125-155 dB at a distance of 10 feet).

    Live music concerts - (120 dB and above).

    Movie theatres - (118 dB).

    Health clubs and aerobic studios (120 dB).

    Sporting events (127 dB).

    Motorboats - (85-115 dB).

    Motorcycles - (95-120 dB).

    Snowmobiles - (99 dB).

    "Boom cars" - (140 dB and above).

    Here are noise levels of firearms:

    .223, 55GR. Commercial load 18" barrel 155.5dB

    .243 in 22" barrel 155.9dB

    .30-30 in 20" barrel 156.0dB.

    7mm Magnum in 20" barrel 157.5dB.

    .308 in 24" barrel 156.2dB.

    .30-06 in 24" barrel 158.5dB. In 18" barrel 163.2dB.

    .375 18" barrel with muzzle brake 170 dB.

    .410 Bore 28" barrel 150dB. 26" barrel 150.25dB. 18" barrel 156.30dB.

    20 Gauge 28" barrel 152.50dB. 22" barrel 154.75dB.

    12 Gauge 28" barrel 151.50dB. 26" barrel 156.10dB. 18" barrel 161.50dB.

    .25 ACP 155.0 dB.

    .32 LONG 152.4 dB.

    .32 ACP 153.5 dB.

    .380 157.7 dB.

    9mm 159.8 dB.

    .38 S&W 153.5 dB.

    .38 Spl 156.3 dB.

    .357 Magnum 164.3 dB.

    .41 Magnum 163.2 dB.

    .44 Spl 155.9 dB.

    .45 ACP 157.0 dB.

    .45 COLT 154.7 dB.


    Properly fitted earplugs or muffs reduce noise 15 to 30 dB. The better earplugs and muffs are approximately equal in sound reductions, although earplugs are better for low frequency noise and earmuffs for high frequency noise.

    All of us should be trying to get the greatest Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) that can be put together. NRR 30 plugs with NRR 20 muffs will give you an effective NRR 45 (add plugs and muffs, then subtract 5). If noise levels are 160 dB this gives you an exposure with plugs and muffs of 115 dB. The acceptable exposure time for this is 15 minutes total for the day. If the noise levels are 150 dB the resultant acceptable exposure time with the given plugs and muffs is 1 hour and 4 hours if the noise level is 140 dB. You're not going to find unsuppressed noise levels below 140dB with gunfire.

    (Note: some question the credibility of the above formula. They say instead you take the higher of the two and add 5 dB to that. 30 plug with 20 muff gives an effective NRR of 35 not 45.)

    If you are shooting by yourself, roughly 100 rounds of 140 dB instantaneous noise in a day should not produce hearing damage. Put your plugs and muffs on and you get to shoot up to a thousand rounds without damage (louder ammo/gun and the allowable drops by a factor of 5). Shoot with other people and you have to add all the rounds shot cumulatively (10 people shoot 100 rounds and everybody's done for the day; toss a handcannon or 30 cal rifle in and you're back down to 200 rounds cumulative). If you shoot on an indoor range then all the rounds fired while you are on the range go into your total. So you can see that it doesn't take very long on a range to have a thousand rounds popped off around you.


  6. mekender

    mekender Member

    Oct 15, 2007
    i have permanent hearing damage from standing too close to speakers at the many concerts i attended in my younger years... it is a very real thing and shouldnt ever be taken for granted...
  7. cleardiddion

    cleardiddion Member

    Dec 4, 2007
    Yeah, I'm 18 yet I've occasionally noticed a slight ringing in my ears when it gets real quiet.
    Maybe I should cut back from my twice a week trip to the range.
  8. TimM

    TimM Member

    Oct 21, 2007
    Parker, CO
    I am 42 years old and I damaged my ears with gunfire when I was 14 (sneaked my dad's favorite target pistol out for a test shoot when he wasn't home and shot w/o ear protection). It's been 28 years and I still only have 60% of my hearing and constant ringing. They are ringing really bad right now and sometimes they ring so bad I can't concentrate or understand the person talking to me in the same room or on the phone.

    It has almost been 3 decades now and there has not been one single minute since that day that my ears have not been ringing.
  9. BamAlmighty

    BamAlmighty Member

    Jan 4, 2008
    West coast
    Indoor range is the last place you want to be without hearing protection. Indoors, I always double up and use in ear plugs with the over ear muffs.
  10. Mojo-jo-jo

    Mojo-jo-jo Member

    Jul 21, 2006
    Yikes!! I'm in a similar boat, mild (thankfully) tinnitus and moderate high frequency hearing loss. It's very difficult for me to understand someone talking to me when there is a lot of background noise of any kind.

    Mine didn't come from shooting though. I was a semi-professional percussionist with a focus on marching band. I played in and instructed various marching percussion ensembles for fifteen years. Basically, I was exposed to ~100db for several hours per day over a long period. It comes up to about 300% of the OSHA-approved exposure.

    FWIW, here's a link to an interesting paper on this (not my paper). http://www.acoustics.org/press/150th/Keefe.html

    I was young, stupid, and thought hearing protection was "sissy."

    That was dumb. I'm much more careful now, but have accidentally taken shots without protection a couple of times, thankfully not at in indoor range though.
  11. pete f

    pete f Member

    Dec 7, 2004
    Look up and get an order of the Navy Hearing pill. its not a joke, but a tested and proven way to improve damaged ears and soften the damage than can occur, I take it and the TV used to sit at 29 or 30 for me to hear it, and now its down to 22 -23.
  12. p2000sk

    p2000sk Member

    Feb 24, 2007
    Until here and now, I've never heard a group in unison tell about this trouble.
    At work, I use hearing protection with fair discretion.
    Would you believe I have co-workers who are invinceable?
    Should copy this thread and hang it on the water cooler.
    Ones experience may be anothers lesson.
  13. hoji

    hoji Member

    Jun 24, 2004
    Huh?What?Sorry didn't get that. :D Always wear your "ears" My hearing is bad from many years of working on road crews for major touring bands back in the 80's and 90's.
    Oddly enough, I always have and will wear hearing protection while at the range, I just wasn't thinking about it when I was in a giant concert venue 10-15 times per month.
  14. Standing Wolf

    Standing Wolf Member in memoriam

    Dec 24, 2002
    Idahohoho, the jolliest state
    Sad to say, you'll get used to it in due time.
  15. Bubbles

    Bubbles Member

    Apr 26, 2004
    Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia
    Tinnitis is one of the biggest reasons that suppressors should not be regulated under the NFA. A lot of hearing loss would be prevented if hunters were encouraged to put a suppressor on their hunting rifles. Fortunately I hunt in a state where doing so is legal, but it's not cheap to do so (the can cost more than the rifle).
  16. Mk VII

    Mk VII Member

    Jan 7, 2003
    All too true. I can hear the hissing in my left right now.
  17. Legionnaire
    • Contributing Member

    Legionnaire Member

    Dec 24, 2002
    Greg, I can't offer any advice. I'm sorry. I'm also sorry for your experience, and pray that you will find some relief from the ringing.

    But I also thank you for the reminder that the gift of hearing is precious and we need to protect it.

    I once fired a T/C Contender in .35 Remington with a ported barrel ONE TIME in the field. My ears rang for three days. That was on a Friday. The following Monday I bought a set of Peltor Tac-7s that I now wear whenever hunting with a handgun. I thank God that in my case, the ringing went away and my last hearing test showed only the hearing loss expected as we age. It could have been a lot worse.

    God bless.
  18. hso

    hso Moderator Staff Member

    Jan 3, 2003
    0 hrs east of TN
    Greg All Calibers,

    We've discussed hearing protection issues several times so your post is very much on topic and your experience should serve as a warning for all of us to wear plugs and muffs at any time we're on the range or around shooting.

    I suffer from tinnitus (I "hear" the ringing right now.) also. You might have your ENT refer you to a hearing and speech pathologist, more specialized than ENTs who mostly deal with stuffy noses, and see if the hearing specialist has any advice.

    Steroids are a standard treatment, but should have been started right away for greatest benefit.

    Unsurprisingly, the military has a huge problem with hearing damage and they've put a lot of money into research in prevention and treatment. The last time I looked, they don't have much more than prompt steroid treatment.

    Use plugs and electronic muffs from hear on out and preserve the hearing you have left.
  19. Grizzly Adams

    Grizzly Adams Member

    Oct 19, 2007
    Central Alabama
    I've had ringing for years. Between shooting, working on a flight line, and loud music I guess I'm lucky I have any hearing left.

    Always wear hearing protection! Even when shooting .22s.

    For you younger shooters, believe it or not they can be the worst on your hearing.
  20. RKBABob

    RKBABob Member

    Sep 11, 2007
    Pennsylvania - Where we cling to guns and religion
    I feel bad for you Greg... especially after only one shot...
    and seeing your hearing protection lying on the bench afterward. :banghead:

    I have Pulsatile Tinnitus... I hear my own blood flowing about 25% ot the day.
    woosch, woosch, woosch
    Its really annoying, I don't know why I have it, and 3 ENT's have been no help.

    I wouldn't wish any form of Tinnitus on my worst enemy.

    Needless to say, I don't want another form of Tinnitus on top of it!
    Double layers of hearing protection for me... always.
  21. jestertoo

    jestertoo Member

    Mar 29, 2007
    I vote for a tack. The anecdotal story and Harmonic's post make this worthy.
  22. weisse52

    weisse52 Member

    Dec 5, 2007
    Bountiful, Utah
    I hate to disagree, but you never get use to it. As I sat here and read this the ringing has come back to forefront of my mind. You learn to push it back, you learn to ignore, but you never get use to it.
    This is the one thing I wish I could convince everyone on the need for proper hearing protection. When I go to the range to shoot, I always wear form ear protectors with ear muffs over that. I hope everyone will do the same.
    We can describe, we can try to "paint a mental image", but unless you are cursed with this you will never understand.
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2008
  23. PaulTX

    PaulTX Member

    May 2, 2003
    A few years ago I developed tinnitus in my left ear. At first I thought I was going to go crazy and my case is not as bad as it could be. I found that the sound of water running hides the tinnitus. I have gotten used to it and much of the time I don't notice the ringing. I really notice now due to this topic! Thanks! :)

    Growing up I never used any hearing protection. The biggest firearm I shot regularly was a .22 rifle. I wouldn't be surprised if my tinnitus comes from a few days plowing (helping a friend) using an old John Deere 2-cylinder "Popping Johnny"! That was one loud tractor!!

    I've been shooting pistols and rifles heavy since 1996 and I've worn hearing protection from that point on.

  24. Z_Infidel

    Z_Infidel Member

    Jan 16, 2003
    Mild tinnitus in my left ear from a .44Special round -- outdoors! That was several years ago, so I'd say it is permanent. I always take steps to protect my hearing.
  25. silverking

    silverking Member

    Nov 4, 2006
    S.E. Michigan
    I believe my hearing loss is both hereditary and helped along by not wearing noise reduction gear while working. The hereditary part stems from the fact that my dad and his brother both lost their hearing when they were approx. 60 years of age. My uncle eventually went completely deaf while my dad (he's 89 now) still has some hearing with the help of analog hearing aids.
    I'll be 66 yrs old in a couple days and I have gone through the analog hearing aids and am now using the digital completly in the canal hearing aids.
    It's difficult to shoot while wearing the devices so I generally double up with the foam plugs and the "mickeymouse ears".
    Solid advice to all the young and not so young---if you work or play in a noisey environment----protect your hearing.
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