That ringing you hear ...
I enjoyed reading Patrick Sweeney's November "Handgunning" column, "Deaf by Gunshot," and would like to share my experiences. I first had my hearing professionally checked as part of a GI physical in 1963, and it was as perfect as the machine could measure. Within months I became a regular skeet and pistol shooter and since then have shot two or three times a week.
I also started wearing hearing protection early. I again had my hearing checked in my mid-40s, and it was as nearly perfect as the first time, so I felt my ear protection was adequate. Then at age 62 I retired and moved to the country where I could shoot any time, and I continued the hearing protection. Nevertheless, one day I developed tinnitus. I told my doctor about it, and he attributed it to all my years of shooting. I assumed he was right even though I had worn hearing protection. Then one day while checking out at the local Walmart, I saw a closeout on a little device called a "Boom Stick," a small noise meter intended for an automotive competition in which stereos are compared for loudness. As it was only $20, I bought one to compare the relative loudness of different things around my house--not just my guns, but machines like the lawn mowers, the chain saw and the string trimmer for weeds. To my astonishment, I found the lawn mower was as loud as a .22, the chain saw was as loud as my shotguns and the little high-pitched weed eater was as loud as a high-powered rifle. In addition, all were constant noise assaults, not the instantaneous report of a gun. I now wear hearing protection when using any of these machines.
--Marshall Williams, via email
A special "thank you" is due to Patrick Sweeney for his "Deaf by Gunshot" column. If you don't take action to protect yourself, you don't realize you've damaged your hearing until it's too late. I finally realized I had a problem some years back when I found I couldn't clearly hear the speech of our boys, due to their high-pitched young voices. As they got older, this became less of a problem, but still ... My wife has learned to talk loudly to me, but that makes it kind of hard for her to whisper words of endearment. Now I make it a habit to always carry ear plugs and use them if I find the noise level irritating. On the range and around engines, it's ear plugs and muffs for me now to keep things from getting any worse.
--Mike Mintzer, Stafford, VA
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