Healthwatch: Hear What You're Missing

Hunters may not want to wear ear protection, for fear they'll miss an advantage, but audiologists at Meridian Speech and Hearing Center say there's a product available that gives the best of both worlds, protection from a gunshot blast, while being able to hear other sounds.

Audiologist Laura Hunter recommends Walker's Game Ear.

"The actually will allow the hunters to hear sound normally, as they would without anything in their ear," Hunter said. "In fact, they actually amplify so they would hear better. It's good for hunters that have a hearing loss, that already wear hearing aids or know they have a hearing loss, and yet when the gun blasts off, when it reaches the sound that would be damaging toward the ear, it closes and that's when it protects you."

Hunter says the device has been improved several times since it hit the market in 1989.

"Most hunters complain about ear plugs, saying they can't hear the deer, can't hear the animal walking up or any sound, and this actually leaves the sound open until you fire your gun. Then it protects your ear," Hunter said.

This kind would not work for someone in a factory, for instance. It's designed for those brief, loud noises, like a gunshot, but Hunter says anyone exposed to loud noise of any kind over a period of time is subject to hearing loss.

"Most hunters have probably noticed after shooting their guns a few times they have a temporary loss. Their ears feel kind of stopped up for a little bit," said Hunter. "Over time that can become permanent."

Hunter advises people interested in protecting their ears for the long haul to have an audiologist fit them with ear protection. That can make it more effective and more comfortable.

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