Autumn in the Adirondacks is a time truly unlike any other, and the fall foliage is captivating, to say the least.

For many people, the changing of the seasons means football, crisp autumn weather, and pumpkin-flavored everything. Another favorite pastime for many North Country residents is hunting the forests of Clinton, Essex, and Franklin counties. Prior to hunting season, there are also the customary trips to the shooting range to ensure a safe and accurate firearm. In an earlier blog, we discussed the impact of loud noise exposure. Shotguns and rifles were among the list that caused permanent hearing damage.

A University of Wisconsin study revealed just how pervasive hearing loss is among hunters. The study, which included men between the ages of 48 and 92 who hunted on a regular basis, found that these individuals were much more likely to experience high-frequency hearing loss. In fact, the risk of hearing loss increased by 7 percent for every 5 years a man had been hunting. The study also found that, of the 3,753 participants, 38 percent of target shooters and 95 percent of hunters did not wear hearing protection at all during the previous season.

Some hunters claim that using hearing protection can interfere with the noise they actually want to hear, like the rustling of a deer or the flapping of a duck’s wings. What they fail to understand is that a gunshot can reach between 140 and 190 decibels, which is enough to cause immediate hearing damage.

The good news is that there are two main types of hearing protection available for outdoor enthusiasts. The first is passive noise protection, such as earplugs or earmuffs. These muffle the noise, thus reducing the damaging decibel levels to the inner ears. Passive noise protection is ideal for the target range, where listening for wildlife is not an issue.

The second is active hearing protection, or electronic hearing protection, which does allow a hunter the best of both worlds. The process is called destructive interference, and it counters an incoming sound wave with an inverse sound wave produced by the headphones. This subdues the harmful noise to the inner ears. The headphones block noise above 85 decibels but will enhance regular sounds.

The key to maximizing the enjoyment of outdoor sports is to work diligently to protect your hearing. Remember, this type of hearing loss can be prevented! Statistics taken from the following: Packer, Lisa. Study shows risk of hearing loss for hunters. Healthy Hearing. Feb. 17, 2016.