Summer and fall are the perfect time to enjoy the great outdoors. But could your favorite outdoor activities be putting your hearing at risk?
How Loud Is Too Loud?
Loud noises associated with your favorite outdoor activities, while they are brief, can be very intense. Sound intensity is measured in decibels (dB). To give you an idea of scale, everyday conversation typically measures around 60 dB, while a live music performance is around 100-115 dB. But intensity isn’t the only factor, regular exposure to sounds even as low as 85 dB can also cause hearing loss over time. Whether you’re being exposed to short and intense sounds like a gunshot while hunting, or prolonged quieter sounds like the motor on a fishing boat, it’s important to remember to wear hearing protection to prevent permanent damage.
It’s easy to think that when you’re outside hunting, you don’t need to worry about hearing protection. But hunters need a fine-tuned sense of hearing to succeed, and even shooting once without hearing protection can cause irreversible damage to that vital tool.
How loud is your firearm? A small .22-caliber rifle happens to produce noise around 140 dB. Larger-caliber rifles can produce sounds of 175 dB or even higher.1 That’s why it’s important to use hearing protection no matter what sized firearm you are using for hunting. Even small-caliber target shooting should always include the use of hearing protection to make sure that you’re staying safe.
Sensorineural hearing loss is so prevalent among hunters that there is a common name for it: hunter’s ear. Hunter’s ear is an asymmetrical type of hearing loss, meaning that it is more pronounced on one side of the head than the other. This is because the side of the head closest to the muzzle takes the brunt of the impact from the sudden, loud sound of gunfire. The head creates a sort of buffer for the opposite ear, protecting it somewhat from the dangerous volume level. Though this type of hearing loss can often be treated with hearing aids, it is almost always permanent. If you’re concerned about damaging your hearing while hunting, invest in high-quality hearing protection, or try taking up bow hunting as a less damaging option.
Gliding across the water, wind whipping all around you, not having a place to be. Taking your boat out to go fishing can be one of the most relaxing, but also one of the noisiest parts of your day. At cruising speeds, boats can easily have decibel levels between 80 and 90 dBs, but some boats can reach up to 100 dB.2 For reference, in a situation where there is 80 dB of noise, most people around us would have to shout in order to hear each other.2 But you don’t need to give up fishing to take care of your hearing ̶ wear hearing protection while cruising to your favorite spot, or try a quieter alternative, like fly fishing.
4-Wheeling (UTVs, ATVs, & Side-by-sides)
4-wheelers are a fun and fast way to explore the outdoors, but did you know that decibel levels can easily range between 90 to 130 dBs depending on the style and model you have4? While 4-wheeling is a great way to explore areas off the beaten path, being exposed to decibel levels that high for prolonged periods of time can cause hearing loss. As with other loud outdoor activities, you can protect yourself by wearing hearing protection or opting to hike as a hearing healthy alternative to explore nature.
Protect your hearing while having fun outdoors
- Take breaks
Schedule some quiet time between your outdoor activities, it will give your ears a chance to decompress.
- Wear passive hearing protection
Earplugs or earmuffs can be conventional or custom-made. With many options available, it’s easy to find one that that works best for activity level and personal preference. Properly fitted earplugs or earmuffs may reduce noise by 15 to 30 dB lowering your exposure to harmful noise levels4. So as you pack your gear, make hearing protection part of your equipment checklist.
TIP: If you're hunting, fishing, or riding with a group, bring extra earplugs and offer hearing protection to the rest of your group. You can even get hearing protection for your four-legged friends.
- Try active hearing protection
Technology can be amazing. High-tech protection gives outdoor enthusiasts the best of both worlds. It's designed to let you hear soft, natural sounds and conversations, while also reducing dangerous sound levels. Some models are even equipped with microphones, so you know which direction a sound is coming from.
Take aim at hearing health and enjoy the sounds of nature for years to come. To figure out the type of hearing protection that is right for you and your budget, contact a hearing professional today.