Hearing impairment – damage

“Firearm Noise Damages Hearing!”  Most hunters and target shooters, together with most of the public, are unaware the noise that surrounds us is one of the biggest impacts on the environment today and a major cause of health problems. When we think of noise, we often think about transport noise such as traffic, aircraft, trains, or industrial noise such as factories, machinery and air-conditioning or ventilation systems, maybe even construction noise such as building sites and road works. Probably the most common noise we think about is loud music. Some of us might even think about our work place as being noisy. But what about firearm noise?  For us hunters and target shots there is an added danger of noise every time we pull the trigger.

Firearms Noise Damages Hearing!

In 2012 the German social security paid in excess of 150 Million Euro for the treatment of noise induced illness. The social security department responsible for Agriculture & Forestry paid out more than 4 Million Euro in pensions for work related hearing damage and an additional 600000 Euro for treatment.

Illness caused by noise costs in excess of 90 Billion Euro within Europe alone.

What is noise? Noise is unwanted sound, and sound  is a varying pressure wave traveling through a medium. When sound travels through air, the atmospheric pressure varies periodically. The number of pressure variations per second is called the frequency which is measured in Hertz(Hz). The higher the frequency, the more high pitched a sound is perceived. The response of the human ear to sound depends on the frequency of the sound with the peak response being between 2500 to 3000Hz. Loudness of a sound or noise is another property. A loud noise has a larger pressure variation than a quiet one. Pressure and pressure variations are expressed in Pascal (Pa). To express noise in terms of Pa is, however, quite inconvenient due to the huge scale of numbers involved, hence the most common and far simpler way is to use a logarithmic scale and as such loudness is usually referred to in decibel (dB). The response of the human ear to sound is dependent on the frequency and this has led to the concept of weighting scales. In the ‘A’ weighting scale, the sound pressure levels for the lower frequencies and higher frequencies are reduced by a certain amount before they are combined together to give a single sound pressure level value. This value is designated as dB(A). The dB(A) is often used as it reflects more accurately the response of the human ear. A perceived loud noise has a higher dB or dB(A) value than a quieter one. A noise problem starts with a noise source,  such as the discharge of a firearm. The noise is then transmitted via a noise path, which is the main directional travel of the sound waves and/or in a general radiated direction of 360° from the source.  The severity of the problem depends on the strength of the noise source and the length of the path it travels, that is the length of the distance between noise source and, in the case of shooting noise, the shooter’s or bystander’s ear. The primary and most effective control measure for noise is to reduce noise at source. The secondary control measure is to reduce noise along the transmission path. The third control measure is to provide protection at the receiving end; the ear. Shooting noise from hunting or sporting, as well as military and police weapons, is a highly intense, very loud noise that is harmful to hearing. The shock waves of noise bombard the shooter’s (or by stander’s) ears. The human hearing organ is one of the most complicated and sensitive organs in the body, and bombarding the human ear with shooting noise causes detrimental effects to health in several well documented ways.

An unexpected firearm discharge creates an instantaneous energy wave which bombards the hearing system with a chaotic mass of frequencies and creates a state of shock.  Meanwhile, the noise also triggers the ‘fight or flight’ mechanism within both humans and animals. The whole physical being is instantaneously in a state of alarm. Expected firearms noise creates the same effects but has a lesser alarm and shock function.

Neither humans or animals ever become completely used to firearm noise.

The ability to hear is important in all areas of life, we can see young children and babies listening, we listen when we talk with other people and make phone calls. Communication with our families and friends, as well as participation in public life and enjoyment of so many recreational activities is very dependent on our ability to hear, and because hearing loss is insidious, all too often it is noticed too late and the damage is by then done.

A dog’s hearing is well known to be very efficient. Even though the dog ear is very similar to that of a human, dogs can perceive a much wider frequency range. Abwohl a hearing loss diagnosis in dogs is serious Riger than in man, our hounds can known from human medicine limits are taken as provisional value for the noise strength.

Those people and animals exposed to shooting noise equal or greater than 140dB over long periods, suffer physical and mental injury. Every single shot of a large caliber hunting or sporting weapon reaches a noise level of about 150dB and is immediately harmful to hearing. The health of hunters, target shooters and hunting dogs is destroyed shot after shot.

From this viewpoint, permitting the use of firearms without a dedicated silencer or “sound moderator” is both incomprehensible and unacceptable. By that token the use of unmoderated firearms is actually against the German and European Emissions Law and Regulation for the Protection of Workers.
Medically, impulse noise above 140dB is classified as extremely harmful.  As such Directive 10/2003 EC, sets the exposure limit for impulse noise at 140 dB (Article 3). Article 5 of the Directive states that the noise, where ever technically possible, must be reduced at source if at all reasonable to do so.

With modern sound moderators this is both technically and reasonably possible. Thus, Article 6 does not apply, where personal ear protection should only be required in cases where the risks associated with the explosion of noise can not be avoided by other means.

The EC Directive was implemented into national law by way of regulation to protect workers from exposure to noise and vibration (Noise and Vibration OSH Ordinance – “LärmVibrationsArbSchV”). The limit value for impulse noise was even reduced from 140 dB to 137 dB. Again, with the priority that noise emissions must be prevented or reduced as far as possible at source. Technical measures take precedence over organisational measures. Thus, sound moderators have priority over the use of ear protectors.
Long guns in large calibers cause an impulse noise of 150-165 dB and are thus beyond the permissible limits. With an effective sound moderator this level may be reduced by approximately 20 to 30 dB (<137 dB) and would then meet the legal standards.

The hunting or sporting use of a silencer or “sound moderator” is not about the silent shot, such as in James Bond movies, it’s not about making poaching easier, or to shooting of the ‘boundary buck’ without the knowledge of hunting neighbours, it is solely to reduce noise to protect human and animal hearing. Or, in other words, the exercise of Health & Safety in hunting and sport shooting. This is technically simple and inexpensive to implement. The relevant authorities seem unable to recognise these facts and refuse to allow sound moderators for firearms in general, even though they cannot adequately explain their reasoning for such refusal.

As Germany’s leading sound moderator manufacturer, we are very proud of our products and would like to contribute to the preservation of the health of our colleagues, fellow hunters, our target shooting brothers and sisters, as well as our four-legged friends.

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