NOISE & SHOOTING
I hope my comments here are of assistance. I apologize for it being long winded but it is difficult to reduce it much further & still include al the info. Many people ignore hearing protection and regret it during their retirement. (particularly young men) Ignoring it will effect the quality of life during your later years.
According to the current Australian OHS/WHS regulations exposing employees to noise levels over a peak of 140db or to noise at or above an average of 85dB(A)leq for the period of an 8hr shift.
It is the “peak” of 140db that applies to shooters.
Some examples for shooters of noise levels are: (I took these measurements so they are reliable)
22Lr 132.6 dB peak
12g 151.5 dB peak
3006 158 dB peak
So every time you fire a rifle (without hearing protection) you are doing a little damage to your hearing and the damage compounds throughout your life. The loss of hearing will not become noticeable until later in life and by then it will be too late.
And when measuring noise you must remember that an increase of 3dB is double the sound power. So an increase of just 2 dB is very significant. Immediate irreversible damage is likely to occur at 140dB.
In Australia hearing protection is sold in 5 classes that are laid down in Australian Standard 1270. Class 1 being the lowest level of protection class 5 the best. Below is the minimum reduction (the technical term is attenuation) in dB required of each class of hearing protection, Muff or plug at the ear.
- 10 - 13
- 14 - 17
- 18 – 21
- 22 - 25
- 26 or greater
The above are SLC80 rated.
Muffs & Ear plugs perform differently at various frequencies further complicating which muffs to purchase. The above is essentially an average at various frequencies.
So if the noise level of a 3006 is 160dB you can expect a Class 5 muff to reduce the exposure to the ear down to at least 134dB, but perhaps not all frequencies. So the wearing of anything less than a Class 5 would be fairly useless to shooters. Even the class 5 may not completely prevent hearing loss. However it will certainly go a long way in reducing hearing loss. Continued and regular exposure to gun fire of say 130 db will still damage hearing over time.
Many retailers such as Bunnings sell ear muffs but you get what you pay for and often it is not clear what “class” they are on the packaging. As mentioned above, this is important. In addition cheaper muffs generally wear out very quickly, significantly reducing the level of protection provided and the wearer is usually unaware that they now have reduced hearing protection. So you start off with say a class 3 and a yr later it is a class 1 muff for example.
WHAT SHOULD I BUY?
Ear muffs, both standard and electronic provide the best protection and I would recommend class 5 for shooting. The down side of standard ear muffs is the effect they will have on communication and possibly not being able to hear other hazards nearby, e.g a truck heading in your direction.
Ear plugs, I cannot recommend the use of off the shelf ear plugs I rarely see them worn correctly. However if worn correctly and they fine, very effective and convenient to wear in the field. Personally fitted plugs should be a better option for most users if you prefer plugs check what the expected attenuation will be before purchasing.
NOTE: NRR class 5 is roughly equal to an SLC80 class 4
As mentioned earlier electronic muffs are great and fitted with a microphone and amplifiers that automatically switches off at 85dB. This allows you to hear normal sounds and your ears are protected from loud sounds. However quality ones are expensive & you get what you pay for.
If you are shopping around for a pair of muffs I suggest you visit a safety specialist retailer such as protector alsafe or safety equip. In my experience the staff generally know about the products they sell and will steer you in the right direction. And they also sell muffs of the less expensive brands. Stick to well known brands is always good advice. Avoid overseas purchases on ebay etc as you may not get the level of protection you need.
Here is a couple of links for two very good videos. If links do not work copy & past the line below into your browser address bar.
Here is a link to a general video about sound and hearing protection that all shooters should watch, about 18 minutes.
Here is a link to a 70 second video showing how to fit ear plugs correctly.
I hope this helps people to better understand the importance of looking after their hearing and how to do just that.