Duck Hunters, Don’t Go Deaf

By author of The Duck Blog

An essay on hearing protection by an ear with tinnitus from one too many shotgun blasts

Those earmuffs are pretty cool, because they help protect your hearing against harmful shotgun blasts. Photo © Bill Konway

Psst. Can you hear me?

That was a joke. Okay, maybe it was corny, but I’m an ear, so I’m not accustomed to telling jokes. Typically, the Duck Blogger leaves that to his mouth, which tends to operate on its own and only occasionally interacts with the brain.

Anyway, I’m the Duck Blogger’s right ear, and I’m guest-blogging this post to bring you a message: Duck hunters, wear hearing protection afield. You’ve heard that before, of course. And the Blogger harps on it from time to time. Still, I’m guessing many of you ignore that advice. Here’s why you shouldn’t.

I ring. In fact, I ring constantly — a condition doctors and other eggheads call tinnitus, which is the perception of noise or ringing in the ears, caused by damage or hearing loss. And that condition is permanent. As such, I ring in the morning when the Duck Blogger rolls out of bed, hum throughout the day as he pretends to work and continue ringing when he hits the sack at night. It never stops. Worse, the Duck Blogger could have avoided this.

The harsh ringing resulted from a muzzle blast the Blogger’s friend touched off inches from me. In fact, the concussion almost knocked ol’ DB out of the skiff. For several days, I buzzed and felt like I was underwater. Then the ringing started, and it hasn’t ceased — for 19 years.

Certainly, the Blogger’s buddy acted in an incredibly unsafe fashion that day. Still, DB could have spared me some pain by wearing earmuffs, in-ear electronic plugs or old-fashioned foam earplugs. He didn’t. In fact, for years, he wore nothing while hunting, which might explain why his left ear also rings somewhat. He wore plugs while target shooting but shunned them in the field because it seemed uncool. Meanwhile, the left ear and I absorbed blow after decibel-laden blow until I was finally dealt the haymaker two decades ago.

That taught the Duck Blogger his lesson, and he wants me to share it. Please wear something that protects your ears from shotgun blasts while hunting. I realize that in-ear electronic plugs can be expensive, but they protect your hearing while letting you experience the sounds of the hunt. And I know that exterior earmuffs are somewhat awkward and uncomfortable, but they shield you from harmful noise. Heck, if nothing else, put in those foam earplugs you wore while shooting trap.

Your buddies might poke fun at you. Let ’em. In fact, laugh along with them, but make sure to mention that protecting your ears from irreversible damage isn’t dorky. It’s pretty cool. And it’s even cooler when, after years of duck shooting, you can still hear a turkey gobble two ridges away.

OK, my speech is finished. The Duck Blogger’s mouth is getting hungry, and because I’m attached to the same bald head, I have to follow him. If you’re ever nearby, give me a ring. (See what I did there?)

Never mind. Be safe this season, and cover your ears.

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