Like many people, I suffer from hearing loss. Within the last year, I finally decided that I’d had enough and purchased a couple of hearing aids. I had a lot of questions about hearing aids - the first of which was why are the darned things so expensive. But after learning more about them, I see why. These are not just amplifiers; modern hearing aids are micro-computers that adjust sound levels based on computerized frequency mapping of the individual’s hearing. I can’t tell you the impact of hearing sounds that I had not heard in years (truthfully decades). It was striking and a bit overwhelming at first. It seems that a person doesn’t notice gradual declines in hearing - the daily losses are so small that you grow used to them. Then one day you realize that you’re not hearing bits of conversation and nuances of speech. You start missing out on conversations and compensating for it, then you figure out that something has to change.
Also see: Getting Old and Still Seeing the Sights
A significant concern was the potential impact of a hearing aid on shooting, since it is one of my most cherished activities. I searched the internet for information on hearing aid use with electronic hearing protectors. I was hoping to find good information but was disappointed. There’s not much out there other than a lot of questions being asked about it. I even asked the audiologists that I know. They didn’t have information either. I’m guessing that either most shooters haven’t realized yet that they are going deaf or if they have, they haven’t seen a specialist to do anything about it. Which leads us to this short article. I wanted to start a discussion on the topic or at least share my limited experiences with others who might be in the same situation.
First, let’s talk about safety!
If you are shooting, you MUST use hearing and eye protection PERIOD! Do not risk causing yourself harm. This is just as important for you hunters out there. The 30-06 report is a significant event and has negative consequences to your hearing - even if it only rarely happens. Even rimfire ammunition causes hearing loss when your ears are unprotected. Don’t risk it. There are too many good devices available not to find one that fits your need. In fact, they might even help you hear things that you wouldn’t ordinarily hear, since many have amplification built right in.
For those who have never used amplified hearing protection, I have one question, “Why the heck not?”
I’ve used a set of Peltor amplified hearing protectors for years. They helped me to hear conversations on the firing line while providing hearing protection against the loud noises. In my opinion, wearing amplified hearing protection is mandatory. I recently purchased a set of Howard Leight Impact Pro muffs and couldn’t be happier. I now use my Peltor set (still great muffs) as backups or for anyone shooting with me. It’s nice being able to hear everything around you and to hold normal conversations with friends at the range.
But back to the hearing aids…
Most electronic ear muffs will automatically cut out when noise levels exceed 85db. Most modern hearing aids now do the same. But some hearing aids also have the ability automatically to adjust sound levels, where muffs must be manually adjusted. The concern that I had was how the two would work together - or if they would work together. I knew that both would cut out loud noises, but wondered if the amplifiers in the hearing aids would amplify the other noises. I assumed that everything would work fine, but I just had no idea. And when I asked the professionals, they didn’t know either. They agreed that it should work but didn’t have any reports to back up those thoughts. The only thing they seemed worried about was buildup of moisture inside the earmuffs. I was repeatedly warned that moisture is the enemy of microelectronic devices. “Try it and let us know,” was the response I received. So, I did.
I’m happy to report that the experiment was a success. I have worn my hearing aids underneath the muffs on several occasions and have experienced the benefits of being able to hear better than I ever have in the past. Both devices have worked flawlessly together, and I’ve had no issues to report. This shooter couldn’t be happier with the results. I do want to emphasize that I do take periodic breaks at the range, to allow the hearing aids to breath, and I also place them in a moisture control device at night while I sleep. So far, so good!
So if you’ve been suffering from hearing loss and have waited to get help, wait no more! Being able to hear again is a life-changing experience. In addition, it now makes one of my favorite hobbies more enjoyable as well. What could be better than that?
Check it out for yourself - the test is free.
Note: For those interested, I purchased my hearing aids at Costco. They are the behind-the-ear style (my choice since I don’t like anything in my ear). Several types are offered; I chose the Bernafon Acriva with the optional remote “Soundgate.” I have nothing but good things to say about the products or the services I've received to date.