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Ear Protection is No Joke

By Bernie Kuntz, The Jamestown Sun 4/20/2012

There is an old joke about two aged hunters in a duck blind, and the first is telling the second about how good his new hearing aids are working. The second hunter asks, “What kind are they?” The first hunter looks at his watch and replies, “Nine o’clock.”
The reality is that hearing loss is not so funny. My Marine Corps service records show that I had a hearing loss when discharged at age 22, more than 41 years ago. (Interestingly, it took the Veterans’ Administration 35 years to finally accept my hearing loss claim, and supply me with hearing aids.)
I had spent a lot of time flying in helicopters on recon missions, and was exposed to rifle fire, hand grenades, mortars … all with no sort of hearing protection. Incredibly, in boot camp we recruits were given pieces of cotton to stick in our ears — substandard protection at best.
I had an increasingly difficult time in “sorting out the sounds” when in a conversation with a lot of background sounds, like trying to converse in a restaurant or in a room where a number of people are talking. The hearing aids have helped me a great deal.
I suspect I am not alone. Since the 1960s countless young people have been exposed to blaring music at rock concerts, and they certainly have suffered hearing loss. People who work around noisy machinery also are at risk. Nowadays, when you see a young man or woman operating a riding lawnmower, they usually are wearing ear protection.
One of the reasons I still have some semblance of hearing ability, is that from my early 20s onward I always wore hearing protection when shooting on the range. In fact, I usually use in-the-ear protection, and wear muffs too.
I confess that while hunting I never wear ear protection. My excuse is that I usually do a lot more hunting than shooting; thus, it is unnecessary. I might be wrong.