I’ve been an avid hunter all of my life. I started shooting guns in the 1950s and at that time no one wore hearing protection. More recently I’ve seen other people wear hearing protection, but never thought it was for me. Today I have what my audiologist at The Hearing Professionals call a “profound” hearing loss in both of my ears. They’ve explained to me that the repeated gun shots have killed off the hair-like receptors in the middle ear. Because of this I have to wear two hearing aids and I have a constant ringing in my ears, called tinnitus.
Although the hearing aids I wear today are infinitely better then the ones I had a decade ago, I still have trouble understanding what some people are saying. If you talk too fast, too softly or mumble your words, don’t expect me to understand you.
When people start talking to me I tend to stop them, point to my ears and say, “I’m hard of hearing and point to my hearing aids.” Usually they say, “Oops, I didn’t know,” and then will start talking again the exact same way there were before – too fast, too soft or mumbling. It makes talking to people very stressful.
Last summer I finally gave in and purchased a pair of shooters hearing protection. It was pretty easy; the audiologist at The Hearing Professionals took impressions of my ears and a few weeks later I had my custom protection called Defend Ear made by a company called Westone. When I wear the hearing protection I can hear and talk to my friends just fine. But as soon as I pull the trigger, the Defend Ears suppress the gunshot and the noise doesn’t hurt my ears. At the end of the day my ears aren’t ringing and it doesn’t sound like I’m in a tunnel.
I wish I hadn’t been so stubborn all of my life and would have begin wearing hearing protection years ago. If I did I probably wouldn’t have hurt my ears and wouldn’t have to wear hearing aids. But what’s done is done and I can’t go back.
Today I enjoy teaching my grandchildren about guns and going bird hunting with them. The only difference is that all of us wear hearing protection. For me what’s done is done and I can’t go back. But I don’t want my grandchildren to suffer through life like I have.
If you’re a hunter or just enjoy shooting guns, get some good hearing protection today. Not wearing hearing protection isn’t “macho” it’s just plain dumb.