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Hearing loss and preventing it

The day I was honorably discharged from the Marine Corps some 45 years ago my medical records showed that I had a hearing loss. Which was no surprise considering that during my three-year enlistment I was exposed to rifle fire (incoming and outgo...

The day I was honorably discharged from the Marine Corps some 45 years ago my medical records showed that I had a hearing loss. Which was no surprise considering that during my three-year enlistment I was exposed to rifle fire (incoming and outgoing), explosions from hand grenades and mortars, and the numbing din of helicopter rotors while on numerous recon missions.

Particularly vexing is that in boot camp while spending two weeks on the rifle range and firing the M-14 rifle, all we recruits had for ear protection was a piece of cotton to stick into each ear. About 2 1/2 years later I was a member of the Marine Rifle team at Camp Lejeune, N.C. Ear protection in the Marine Corps had not improved - it was still cotton balls stuck in one's ears.

Now, I began shooting .22 rifles before I learned to read, and I fired shotguns and high-powered rifles from the time I was about 10 years old. Jake and I made regular trips to the "gravel pit" northwest of Jamestown to fire various rifles when I was a youngster and teenager, but my memory is as faulty as Hillary Clinton's as far as hearing protection is concerned. I think we used plugs of some kind, but things were certainly primitive.

It wasn't until the 1970s or so that I got serious about hearing protection when target shooting. I acquired an array of different ear plugs and went a step further by buying "muff" type ear protection to put on over the plugs - double protection that I still employ.

Some shooters take ear protection to even greater lengths and wear some sort of protection even while hunting. I never have done so and refuse to. Think of it this way: You shoot two rounds of trap. That exposes you to 250 shotgun blasts, 50 from your own gun and the other 200 from nearby shooters. I don't know about your hunting experience, but even when I hunted every weekend of the fall, it took me years to fire 250 shotshells.

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Particularly dangerous to hearing are rifle ranges with enclosed roofs and berms, like the range I have patronized for 25 years near Logan, Montana. The blasts from rifle fire is deafening and could damage one's hearing in a single session if you weren't wearing hearing protection.

Handguns, because of their relatively short barrels, produce devastating noise levels. One time a couple decades ago I came upon a rattlesnake coiled along a county road in southwestern North Dakota. I got out with no protection and blew the head off the snake with my .357 Magnum Colt Python. My ears rang for an hour afterward.
Another very bad idea that has become commonplace is muzzle brakes. Nowadays some gunmakers even install them integrally in the barrel. Brakes may cut down on recoil but they accentuate blast to the shooter and everyone around the shooter.

My poor father had a hearing loss in middle age that grew progressively worse as he aged. I don't know if his hearing loss was caused by his Army service, shooting in general, his job with the railroad, heredity or a combination of these factors. I do know that during the last few years of his life he was reduced to lip-reading and was unable to communicate on a telephone.

I feel fortunate that my biggest problem is sorting out conversations when I am in a restaurant or at a party where a lot of people are talking at once. Since Laurie and I don't spend a lot of time in restaurants and haven't been to a party in years, my hearing aids stay in a box in the laundry room.

Still, wear your ear protection at the range. Hearing loss is something to be avoided.

Related Topics: HUNTINGFISHING
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