The importance of ear protection – even while hunting

Having good ear protection while shooting seemed like a no-brainer after rupturing my eardrum three times – and a stern warning from my otorhinolaryngologists.  Listening to music, hunting and fishing are my favorite hobbies. What would life be like with permanent hearing loss? Good hunters are aware of their surroundings. Imagine the disadvantage a sound handicap would present.

I ruptured my eardrum twice because of terrible ear infections and once after hitting the water extremely hard while slalom water skiing. Ouch! I had a friend put a few drops of rubbing alcohol in my ear after hitting the water. Surely the rubbing alcohol would dry up the water that was sloshing around in my ear. Turns out the liquid I felt in my ear wasn’t water, it was blood. Imagine someone sticking a flaming match into your ear canal. That’s how it felt.

It takes time for hearing to be fully restored after such trauma.  Luckily, my eardrum healed fully and returned to normal after a month’s time. I also know several shooting enthusiasts who suffer from tinnitus. Having a permanent ear ringing echoing in your mind must be maddening. The eardrum is fragile; wise shooters and hunters protect their eardrums.

Sure, using inexpensive foam plugs can help, but hearing game in the woods is challenging. Talking with folks at the range is somewhat annoying. Huh? What did you say?  

Another option is using padded earmuffs. The nicely padded muffs do a great job at the range. I like them for shooting handguns, but they get in my way while shooting trap. Shouldering a shotgun can be done, but muffs tend do get in my way. That’s the same reason I find them difficult to use while hunting. Certainly there had to be another option in today’s technically advanced hunting world.

I met Lance Kraemer, product manager from SoundGear, in May while on a turkey hunt in Parsons, Kansas. He gave me a pair of SoundGear electronic hearing protection devices. The In-the-Canal style rested discreetly inside my ear and protected my eardrums from the blast of my 20-gauge. I tried them while patterning my shotgun and chasing turkeys in the woods. The protection is instant and they suppress any noise over 95dB.

The turkeys were not very vocal at the end of the season; they stopped gobbling after they hit the ground each morning that I hunted. The enhanced environmental sounds the devices offered became even more important since warning gobble were infrequent. I could hear the grass crunching under my boot with every step. My Mossy Oak prostaff hunting guide, Mike Magrew, was easy to hear as we whispered back in forth trying to track a turkey down.

I’ll admit I never used hearing protection in the past while hunting, not even in a duck blind. “It only takes ONE blast at the perfect angle for permanent damage can be done,” said Dr. Wolter.  It can also be hard to recognize hearing loss since damage is also cumulative. I finally found a solution to protect my ears and a tool to help me in the woods. Other company’s that offer this technology are SportEar, Pro Ears, and Walker’s Game Ear.

Protect your ears, not your tough image.


Categories: Bloggers on Hunting, Hunting News, WisBlogs, Wisconsin – Kristen Monroe

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