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Posted on Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Hearing Alert: Winter Sports Can Damage Hearing

A river in winter is a good place for a hunter, but winter sports like hunting can cause hearing loss.

The fall hunting season is a much anticipated time of year for many avid sports enthusiasts. It’s also a time when many people unwittingly damage their hearing. Despite the rapid growth of hearing loss—which is now the third most common health problem in the United States, there is little national attention on Noise Induced Hearing Loss. Many people don’t understand how to avoid or prevent damage to hearing, especially during the dangerous cold winter sport season.

How Loud Sounds Damages Hearing

Higher levels of decibels—a measurement used to gauge sound, are dangerous and proven to damage hearing. The noise from a firearm can reach 170dB—that’s louder than a jet taking off. Some explosive sounds, like gunshots, can instantly and permanently damage hearing, but hearing loss from firearms can also take years to show up. How does both instant and long term damage happen?

Inside the ear are small, delicate hairs that help conduct the noise that constitutes your hearing. Normally a person has up to 50,000 hair cells within the inner ear that help conduct sound to the brain, but age, noise, and ototoxicity all contribute to breakage of these hair cells. Injury to these hair cells most commonly comes from exposure, sudden or prolonged, to loud noises. Noise from a firearm can damage hearing in an instant if it’s too loud and close enough to the ear. More often hunters experience a slow decline in their hearing due to repeated exposure to loud noises that damage the hair cells within the inner ear.

Preventing Hearing Loss

If you shoot a rifle, shotgun, or pistol, there are many practical solutions available for protecting your hearing, but the most important is to remember to wear protective hearing devices. A professional audiologist can measure hearing sensitivity and processing to determine if you’ve already suffered hearing damage. An audiologist can also help you find the right protective hearing devices to keep your hearing health while allowing you to hear sounds necessary to continue outdoor sports like hunting.

If you'd like to learn more, see your hearing health provider. If you need help finding a hearing health provider click HERE to be connected with the largest network of trusted hearing health professionals in the nation!

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