Exposure to noise greater than 140 dB [decibels] can permanently damage hearing, according to Dr. Michael Stewart, Professor of Audiology at Central Michigan University. Almost all firearms create noise that is over the 140-dB level. However, studies have shown that only about half of shooters wear hearing protection all the time when target practicing. Hunters are even less likely to wear hearing protection because they say they cannot hear approaching game or other noises.
A single shot from a large caliber firearm, experienced at close range, may permanently damage your hearing in an instant, writes Dr. Brian J. Fligor of Harvard Medical School. That means that most hunters likely suffer from such damage. He adds: Loud explosions (that peak for a few milliseconds at levels greater than 130140 dB) may cause immediate hearing loss (this is called acoustic trauma). While recommending hearing protection devices, he also advises to try to reduce noise at the source, such as by replacing mufflers and avoiding ineffective mufflers on tools and yard equipment. For firearms, reducing noise at the source would mean using sound moderators, otherwise known as silencers or suppressors.