Decibels from Gunpowder & Tinnitus Prevention

Executive summary:

  1. Hearing loss is a significant problem in the shooting sports
  2. Double up with ear plugs and muffs
  3. Get the highest noise reduction rating (NRR) rating you can that’s comfortable. NRR 33 muffs and ear plugs are available. A NRR difference of 6 means double the measurable protection.
  4. Ear plugs must be rolled very thin before inserted and allowed to expand for a tight seal or they won’t work. Skull screws are the exception to this rule.
  5. Avoid ported barrels and brakes. These dramatically increase the sound levels.
  6. Indoor shooting ranges magnify sound levels
  7. Spoggles (safety googles w/ straps) are good for your ears, Traditional temple arms break the seal on ear muffs
  8. Suppressors are the only tool that will bring firearm noises below the OSHA maximum permissible level of 115 decibels which has a federally regulated maximum time of only 15 minutes.

Supporting Data & Analysis:

According to Dr. William Clark, Ph.D. senior research scientist in charge of the NOISE LABORATORY at the Central Institute for the Deaf in St. Louis, the damage caused by one shot from a .357 magnum pistol, which can expose a shooter to 165 dB for 2msec, is equivalent to over 40 hours in a noisy workplace. Dr. Krammer, Ph.D., Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana has documented the following pressure levels.1


20 Gauge 28″ barrel 152.50dB
20 Gauge 22″ barrel 154.75dB
12 Gauge 28″ barrel 151.50dB
12 Gauge 26″ barrel 156.10dB
12 Gauge 18″ barrel 161.50dB


.22LR (in a pistol) 152 dB1
9mm 159.8 dB
.40 ????
.45 ACP 157.0 dB
.357 Magnum 164.3 dB
.38 Special 156.3 dB


.30-06 158.5dB
.30-06 163.2dB
.223, 55GR. Commercial load 18″ barrel 155.5db
.375 18″ barrel with muzzle brake 170 dB

OSHA’s regulation of industrial noise exposure

85-90dB 8 hours Lawn mower, Disco dance music, Shop tools,
Truck traffic, Noisy restaurant
100dB 2 hours Pneumatic drill, Chainsaw
110 dB Woodworking shop
115dB 15 minutes Sandblasting

The best hearing protection:

Cheap Ear Muffs – 33 NRR!

Safe (aware of surroundings) ear muffs – MAKE SURE THEY ARE 33 NRR!

Ear muff friendly safety glasses

The elastic band ensures ear muffs have a tight seal.

  • Uvex Spoggles
  • WileyX
  • 3M Enhanced Maxim 2 x 2 Goggles

Don’t believe the above? Sound Level Meters available via Amazon.


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