This article explains why you may need to be using hearing aids when hunting. We'll also let you in on some of the best devices on the market.
If you’re a keen hunter, you’ll know that hunting requires razor-sharp senses and an excellent awareness of your environment.
This means your ears need to be on high alert — a struggle for those with some degree of hearing loss. If you can’t hear too well, your attention to detail is weakened and your reflexes won’t be so quick.
If this is you, you might benefit from the use of hunting hearing aids. These are devices specifically designed to amplify ambient sound when you’re hunting so that you can hear your surroundings much better than you’re able to with your naked ears.
How do Hunting Hearing Aids Work?
You’re probably thinking — hunting hearing aids? I thought I was meant to be concerned with wearing ear protection when I’m hunting — and you’d be right. Like any activity or sport involving loud noise, hunting can be extremely damaging to your hearing health due to the short bursts of extremely loud noise involved.
Whether you’re the avid hunter here or someone that often goes along for the ride, you need to be using high-quality ear protection to prevent long term damage to your hearing health, and specifically, the development of noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) down the line. You should always be wearing earplugs or earmuffs when you’re shooting or around other people who are!
However, hearing aids and ear protection are not mutually exclusive. Hunting hearing aid manufacturers are well aware of the need to allow for sufficient ear protection, and many have even gone as far as incorporating ear protection into their hearing aids. They work so that once a weapon is fired, the amplifier circuit reacts without hesitation, limiting the volume that enters your ears to a safe level, preventing a ruptured eardrum. When the loud sound is over, the hearing aids resume their task of amplifying ambient sounds.
With one gunshot ranging from 140 to 190 decibels (certainly enough to cause immediate, permanent damage to your hearing), this is an appreciated area of innovation.
If you’re after discreet hunting hearing aids that resemble earplugs more closely than they do standard hearing aids — you’re in luck. Hunting hearing aids frequently take the form of electronic earplugs that sit entirely in the ear. They are designed to have no Behind-the-Ear (BTE) piece or sound tube that you might envision when you think of hearing aids. Electronic earplugs have a compact in-ear design and can provide enhanced situational awareness. Some can even be said to rival high-end electronic shooter's earmuffs.
Of course, the extent of the features and the quality of certain products will vary. Like with any other product, there are high-budget, high-quality devices, more affordable yet effective options, and extremely low-budget, low-protection alternatives.
Why Do You Need Hunting Hearing Aids?
A study by The University of Wisconsin found that men aged 48 to 92 who were regular hunters were more likely to experience high-frequency hearing loss than non-hunters. Even more concerningly, this risk increased seven percent for every five years a man had been hunting.
Shooting is an extremely popular past-time for many people in the United States, but surprisingly, many hunters still aren’t using the proper ear protection when hunting. They are, however, putting their long-term hearing health at great risk of suffering permanent damage.
In the same study, 38 percent of the 3,753 study participants who were target shooters and 95 percent of the hunters reported never wearing hearing protection while shooting in the past year.
Many people don’t use ear protection simply because they don’t realize that it only takes one shot at the right angle to ruin your hearing and cause permanent hearing loss or tinnitus (ringing in the ears). Noise doesn’t seem as scary as other health threats such as physical risks like cars and heavy machinery.
Aside from wearing ear protection when shooting, you can also use a gun suppressor or silencer (if it is legal in your state) to reduce the volume of your gunshots. If not, take frequent breaks away from others shooting to give your ears the chance to decompress, and always wear ear protection when you’re waiting your turn at a shooting range. All of these things will help to preserve your hearing, which in turn will allow you to maintain your hunting ‘edge.’
This insight into hunting and hearing loss is important in explaining why hunters can often benefit from hearing aids. If you use a hearing aid or amplifier to better hear where the game is when hunting, then hopefully, you will be less concerned about earplugs or earmuffs limiting your hearing ability and will wear them to protect your ears from the noise. If hearing aids protect your ears and amplify sounds at the same time, then this provides even more incentive to use them.
Furthermore, as shooters (who don’t use hearing protection) are highly likely to have some degree of hearing loss from having taken part in shooting and hunting throughout their lives, they can struggle to hear game due to hearing loss and would benefit from the enhanced hearing a hearing aid provides.
What to Look for in a Hunting Hearing Aid
When choosing a hunting hearing aid, look out for features such as multiple channels, background noise suppression, whistle cancellers, and custom molds. You should also be able to find out the level of noise protection a product provides.
Here are a few options:
SportEAR S412PR Select-A-Fit 412 Universal Fit ITE Hunting Hearing Aid (One Pair w/Accessories) - $1,699.99 - with five sizes of tips to choose from for a semi-custom fit, 42dB gain, four digital channels, 12 band programmable equalizer, four selectable program settings, background noise suppression, and a whistle canceller.
SportEAR MicroBlast 412 BTE Hunting Hearing Aid (One Pair w/Accessories) - $1,499.95 - featuring an AutoBlocker Digital Compression and advanced DSP sound processing, four channels, three x background noise canceller, 3x whistle canceller, and 42dB gain.
- SportEAR S210PR Select-A-Fit 210 Universal Fit ITE Hunting Hearing Aid (One Pair w/Accessories) - $999.99.
- Earasers Custom Fit BigShots Digital Hunting Hearing Aids w/ Sound Compression and Enhancement (NRR 29) (1 Pair w/Accessories) - $999.00.
Can You Use a Normal Hearing Aid for Hunting?
Although you can still use a normal hearing aid when hunting, it won’t necessarily have the same noise protection functionalities built into it. It will help you to hear clearly, but you’ll still need to use high-quality earplugs or earmuffs to protect your ears, and they might be slightly less comfortable to wear with headgear than special hunting hearing aids.
Amplifiers for Hunting
If you don’t have hearing loss but would like to benefit from hearing enhancement when hunting along with the ear protection benefits, consider using a hunting Personal Sound Amplification Product (PSAP) otherwise known as an amplifier.
Check out some options below:
- Walker's UE1001 UltraEar Economy BTE Hearing Enhancer (One Earpiece) - $10.65.
- Walker's GWP-RCHUE Rechargeable Ultra Ear BTE Hunting Hearing Aid(NRR 22) (One Earpiece) - $15.93.
- Walker's UltraEar Economy ITC Hearing Enhancer (Pair) - $24.36.
- Walker's 8993 GWPUE1001NXT2PK UltraEar Economy BTE in Next Camo Hearing Enhancer (2 Earpieces) - $33.32.
Although these are considerably cheaper than hearing aids, you still need to use a real hearing aid if you have hearing loss.
Hearing Protection for Hunting
If you don’t need a hearing aid, you can also buy protective earplugs which provide amplification.
Here are some options:
- Saf-T-Ear ERSTE-BUDS Safety Buds Electronic Hearing Protection (NRR 25) - $49.95.
- Pro Ears Stealth 28 Electronic Hearing Protection & Amplification Digital Ear Buds (NRR 28) - $59.99.
- SportEAR Axil Ghost Stryke Essential Hunting Hearing Protector and Enhancer (NRR 30/22) - $129.99.
- SoundGear by Starkey Hearing Technologies Digital Behind the Ear Electronic Hearing Protection and Enhancement Device - Platinum (One Hearing Aid with Accessories) - $169.95.
- Walker's Silencer Digital Noise Protection and Enhancement Ear Buds (NRR 25) - $173.27.
- Westone DefendEar Digital DX5 Custom Shooter's Ear Plugs (NRR 26) - $1,295.00.
Advanced Hunting Hearing Devices
When choosing a hunting hearing device, some devices are specialized for certain types of hunting, for example, waterfowl hunting. These devices that are designed for a specific purpose will be equipped to provide optimal amplification and protection in certain settings.
TETRA hearing devices are good for this. Check out a few of their products below:
- Waterfowl AlphaShield - $699.00 - an advanced hearing enhancement device for the duck hunter that also provides hearing protection from loud calling and gunshots.
- Waterfowl CustomShield - $1,099.00 - an advanced hearing device with hearing protection from loud calling and gunshots, but custom-molded for a personalized fit.
To learn more about hunting, hearing loss, and ear protection, see our other blog articles.
The information in this guide has been written using the following reliable sources: