Bourjaily: Can You Hear Me Now?

My hearing isn't getting any better as I get older, but my friends' hearing loss is catching up to mine. I attribute that to my wearing hearing protection any time I shoot a gun on the range or in the field.

In my early 20s I went on my first dove hunt, and burned through five or six boxes of shells in my old A-5 with a vented PolyChoke. (It was loud - I'm told Cutts Compensators were even louder). At any rate, my ears rang for three days afterwards. I went to an audiologist, and tests showed a definite loss in my right ear; it's the off-side ear that takes a beating and I am left-handed. Today I have a very difficult time understanding conversation in a noisy room. Worse, I can hardly ever hear turkeys drumming.

But, since that hunt, I have worn hearing protection for everything, even shooting air rifles, and my hearing hasn't declined much more. At the range, I wear electronic muffs over plugs. On dove hunts, I wear foam earplugs. Hunting waterfowl and birds, I use those North Sonic Ear Valves, which have a mechanical valve that closes when you shoot. Some people tell you they don't work, but to me they make a real difference. With them, I can hear flushing birds yet still protect my hearing. And, on those occasions when someone thoughtlessly puts a muzzle next to my ear and shoots, I can turn calmly to them and say "Don't do that again," rather than falling to the ground in pain, clutching my ears.

Does anybody else here wear earplugs in the field? Perhaps I have to say it a little louder: DOES ANYBODY HERE WEAR EARPLUGS IN THE FIELD?