For decades experts and studies have linked hearing loss to high decibel activity. Whether industrial machinery, construction worksite noise, or military personnel using firearms and being in close proximity to ordinance explosions, the research is clear, using proper hearing protection is imperative. Many people who are new to shooting or hunting do not realize how high of a decibel (dB) is produced by a gunshot noise. Many also do not consider the effects, both long and short term of exposure to gunshot noise without substantial hearing protection. Understanding the noise level and dB produced as well as how protective equipment counters the effect is critical for anyone who uses firearms.

Understanding Gunshot Noise Levels

A decibel, put simply, is a unit used to measure the intensity of a sound level. A Decibel level can be a valuable tool used to understand the degree of effect caused by loud noises on human ears, especially for gauging protection needed for a specific noise level. When it comes to firearms and the report (sound the gun makes when being fired) there are many factors that can determine the noise level. For instance, handguns have a shorter barrel length than long guns and use much less power than higher caliber rifles. This can cause most rifles to create a much louder noise. However, other variables can also come into play.

An AR-15 chambered in .223 can have an amplified report if it has a flash hider (something most ARs come equipped with) as it causes the gas to disperse in different directions, eliminating the flame (flash) that can emit as well as alter recoil (how much the rifle moves when being fired).

Common Gunshot Decibel Levels

It can be very complex comparing sound levels from firearm to firearm because of how many different considerations need to be made, however, the 9mm which is the most common caliber owned and fired in The United States, typically produces around 160 dB unsuppressed (meaning without a suppressor otherwise known as a silencer, which acts as a muffler to dampen sound substantially by redirecting gas into a tube attached to the muzzle of the firearm). 160 dB is an average, as a .22 produces around 120 to 130, which is substantially less, until considering that permanent hearing damage can occur at sound levels as low as 85 dB.

A magnum cartridge (a round that uses more powder for high velocity and ballistic effect) can exceed 180 dB and produce substantial sound waves felt by the shooter when firing. This sonic wave is determined largely by the type of ammo being fired and usually breaks down into two categories: Supersonic and subsonic.

Any bullet that is faster than 1,100 FPS (feet per second) is considered supersonic, faster than the speed of sound. Most rifle and handgun bullets are considered supersonic. Subsonic, slower than the speed of sound and less than 1,100 FPS are usually larger slower bullets, such as the .45 ACP. A well-engineered suppressor can reduce the dB of a firearm by approximately 25-50 dB and even more if using subsonic ammunition.

How Decibel Levels Affect Hearing

Knowing that 160 dB is a common level of sound from a gunshot, it’s easy to see how many hunters and shooters end up with tinnitus, permanent hearing damage, and other forms of permanent hearing loss. The impulse noise (quick sudden very loud clicks or pops) caused by firearms can be amplified, especially if on an indoor shooting range, where it is typical for multiple people to be shooting at the same time which creates a much more hazardous noise environment. It’s also of important note, that most hunting is done with rifles which create a very high dB level, commonly around 180 dB.

Immediate Effects

Being exposed to the sound of gunshots without any type of hearing protection can cause immediate tinnitus, that is, a constant ringing in the ears that can also progressively become worse anytime there is exposure to loud sounds like a motorcycle, music on a stereo, or even work equipment. Any exposure to loud noises, especially with the decibel level of a gunshot is risky and will cause immediate effects, such as temporary threshold shifts (a noticeable decrease in hearing sensitivity) combined with tinnitus-like ringing.

Long-Term Effects

At the workplace, it’s easier to institute rules and policies that can maintain occupational safety for things like hearing protection. Recreationally, however, there isn’t always mandatory protection and even less enforcement of safe practices that can protect from hazardous levels of noise. This can lead to negative long-term effects on hearing for people who participate in hunting or shooting sports. Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is the most common of these effects and can cause a premature decrease in hearing over time. Many of the older and more experienced hunters suffer from NIHL despite advancements in hearing protection technology.

Importance of Hearing Protection

The availability, affordability, and quality of ear protection, specifically for shooters, has improved drastically over the last few decades. Hearing protection for anyone engaged in hunting or shooting sports is critical and should not be overlooked. Correctly using quality hearing protection can reduce or even eliminate entirely, the negative effects brought on by repeated exposure to hazardous noise.

Types of Hearing Protection

Foam earplugs have been a mainstay for years and can be quite effective. However, modern hunters and firearms aficionados have ramped up with earmuffs and electronic hearing protection becoming standard equipment on ranges around the world. This has helped protect the hearing of a new generation of marksmen and casual shooters and will help preserve ear health for future generations as well.

Gun owners can find a variety of different equipment online or at retail gun shops and sporting goods stores, with more quality options than ever before. Packaging for modern hearing protection provides critical data as well, including the noise reduction rating (NRR) which consumers can use to decide when choosing appropriate equipment accordingly. This rating can be used to determine the level of protection provided with a number that can be used to calculate the reduction in dB.

Effectiveness of Hearing Protection

Hearing protection equipment, when used properly, has been shown to protect wearers from hazardous noise exposure as well as make recreational firearms usage and training more comfortable and safe. Plugs, muffs, and buds are standard options and are effective at noise reduction and well as protecting against the potentially hazardous sound pressure level produced by a gunshot. Hearing protection equipment is required at professional ranges, but can sometimes be neglected during recreational shooting on public or private land.

Protecting Your Hearing with AXIL Products

AXIL is an established brand that has specialized in hearing protection devices for decades. From simple foam plugs to technologically advanced wireless buds, AXIL has developed the most advanced hearing protection available. With an emphasis on hunting and an active outdoor lifestyle, their range of products suit all different types of hobbyists and professionals. AXIL products not only offer the highest level of protection available, but many of their products can actually enhance and improve the experience of being in a potentially hazardous noise environment.


Innovative Features of AXIL Hearing Protection

AXIL uses a unique technology that uses digital signal processing to change loud sounds which protects users' hearing. Being on a range and exposed to loud firearm noise is a concern for both new and experienced gun owners and AXIL addresses this with a product lineup that not only protects hearing but due to sound compression can actually increase hearing simultaneously. In addition, AXIL products are durable and water-resistant for use in rugged environments and allow connectivity using Bluetooth technology. Essentially, combining the features of multiple products into one.

Preventative Measures for Hearing Health

Using proper hearing protection such as AXIL combined with regular check-ups ensures and maintains ear health even after spending decades on active shooting ranges. An important aspect of hearing protection devices is proper usage and taking small precautions such as checking the seal (coverage around the ear) of muffs, or using appropriate tips when using XCOR earbuds. This can be done by simply clapping or snapping fingers by ears after putting on hearing protection. Medical experts can also provide simple tips for caring for your long-term ear health.

The Growing Need For Hearing Protection

As the amount of gun owners in America continues to grow at a rapid pace, the need for hearing protection equipment will as well. However, the knowledge and understanding of dangerous noise levels and decibel management cannot be overlooked and relegated to just wearing protection. Understanding firearms and the noise they produce as well as the environment where shooting will take place is essential. Combined with using good equipment such as AXIL products, following medical advice and research, and sound firearms safety, gun owners can enjoy recreational activities and shooting sports without compromising their ear health for generations to come thanks to continued advances and increased knowledge.

Latest Stories

View all

Hearing Protection For Concerts and Music Festivals

Hearing Protection For Concerts and Music Festivals

Protecting your ears should be a top priority when attending concerts and music festivals. The loud sounds at these events can have a significant impact on your hearing health if you don’t take proper precautions. However, finding the right balance...

Read more

Choosing The Best Gym Headphones

Choosing The Best Gym Headphones

Choosing the right headphones for your workout routine can significantly improve your overall experience. Finding the best headphones makes it easy to pump up the volume to get motivated, and they’ll stay put during intense physical activity. AXIL offers a...

Read more

Overview of 2024’s Top Handgun Choices

Overview of 2024’s Top Handgun Choices

The question of what is the best gun is a debate that rages on in gun stores and on ranges daily, nationwide. A more specific question these days is “What are the best handguns?” It is worth noting from the...

Read more