Everything You Need to Know About Shooter’s Ear: Hearing Loss Caused by Gunfire

Hearing loss is the third most common chronic physical condition in the US, and yet many people still don’t do anything to protect their ears and hearing.  Many individuals who participate in shooting or gaming activities put themselves at risk of shooter’s ear. Hence, it’s important to wear protective gear whenever taking part in shooting sports. Learn about the risks, causes, and effects of shooter’s ear by reading more.

What Is Shooter’s Ear?

Shooter’s ear is the colloquial term for hearing loss caused by gunfire and the proximity to firearms. This is where the hearing loss occurs in the opposite ear of the shooting (where the shooter holds up their gun). The shooting arm’s shoulder helps block the ear from the blast, thus resulting in hearing loss in the opposite ear. Shooters may also experience a ringing sound or feel as if their ears are muffled or “full.” This is known as temporary threshold shift (TTS), which results in tinnitus or temporary hearing loss after shooting a firearm. Hearing loss can be caused by repeated exposure to the loud sounds of gunshots, or it can occur after one particularly loud blast.

How It Happens

According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), most firearms generate a noise level of over 140 dB (decibels). That’s the level at which damage to your hearing starts to occur. A .22 caliber rifle registers at about 140 dB, a 12 gauge shotgun can hit 155 dB, a 9mm produces 159.8 dB, and a big-bore rifle, along with other pistols, reaches noise levels of over 175 dB. A long list of other firearms can be found here. In addition, the environment where the shooting takes place can contribute to even higher noise levels, such as the gunshot bouncing off the walls or other structures. Those loud sounds produce energy waves that hit your inner ear. They rattle the eardrum, small bones, and cochlea. When those pieces get rattled enough to experience damage, you’ll most likely start losing your ability to hear.

Right now, you may just experience ringing or a temporary clogged feeling after you submit your ears to loud noise. But the more you submit your ears to that damage, the less likely that feeling is to be temporary.

What Are the Effects of Hearing Loss?

Symptoms of shooter’s ear that you’re likely to experience are high-frequency hearing loss and ringing. Your ears need all of their highly sensitive components in order to hear high frequencies, and those components are the first to get damaged by loud noises.

You’ll have trouble hearing certain speech sounds, such as s, sh, th, v, along with other high-pitched sounds like whistles, the voices of women and children, birds chirping, and certain musical instruments such as the flute. Oftentimes, the left ear is more likely to be affected because most people are right handed and the left ear is closer to the muzzle of the gun.

Even if you don’t completely lose your hearing, you’ll be frustrated by the illusion that everyone around you is mumbling because you can’t hear clearly. You can also experience tinnitus, an annoying and sometimes painful ringing in your ears that may never go away.

How to Protect Yourself Against Shooter’s Ear

The best thing to do about shooter’s ear is to prevent it before it becomes a problem. You can limit your chances of developing shooter’s ear by using protective gear whenever you’re shooting or in the area of guns.

Hearing protective devices such as earplugs and earmuffs can greatly reduce your chances of hearing damage while shooting guns. Only half of gun handlers use protective devices because they’re afraid they won’t be able to hear game approaching while they’re hunting.

Luckily, hearing protective technology has come so far that there are devices that allow you to hear soft noises such as footsteps while blocking out loud noises like gunshots.

Can Hearing Loss Be Reversed?

As of right now, there is no universally recognized treatment to reverse hearing loss. It is believed that once your ears are damaged, you’ll either have to live with reduced hearing or turn to hearing aids for help. You’ll never be able to hear the same on your own…

However, you don’t need to suffer when you have noise-induced hearing loss. With AudioCardio, you may improve your hearing health by strengthening and stimulating the cells inside your ears so that over time you can pick up on the sounds you were once able to hear. It’s important to note that you should never ever wear hearing aids while shooting because they will magnify the sound of the gunshot even more.

Preventing Shooter’s Ear

Protect your ears before it’s too late! Now is the time to start wearing protective equipment and seeking advice for shooter’s ear. Protect your ears today.

Experiencing some tinnitus from shooter’s ear? Try our app for tinnitus therapy for relief today.

Start strengthening your hearing today!

Download the AudioCardio App on the Apple App Store or Google Play Store!