Making Noise: Hearing Protection Act Gaining Support in US Congress

WASHINGTON, DC — Last October, US Congressman Matt Salmon (R-AZ) introduced the Hearing Protection Act of 2015, HR 3799, along with 10 co-sponsors. Since that time, it has gained an additional 42 co-sponsors, including Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) and John Ratcliffe (R-TX) last week.

The bill would amend the Internal Revenue Code to: (1) eliminate the $200 transfer tax on firearm silencers, and (2) treat any person who acquires or possesses a firearm silencer as meeting any registration or licensing requirements of the National Firearms Act with respect to such silencer. The bill would also amend the federal criminal code to preempt state or local laws that tax or regulate firearm silencers.


Hearing Loss No Small Problem for Hunters, Shooters


Many types of firearms used in recreational sport shooting and hunting produce sound levels well in excess of those considered safe for listening.

Exposure to sounds greater than 140 decibels (dB), for example, is capable of causing immediate, permanent hearing loss.


gun noise


Hearing professionals can often correctly identify an individual who has a history of firearm use just by seeing their hearing test results.  The distinct pattern found on the hearing test (audiogram), an asymmetric high-frequency “notch”, is commonly referred to as “Shooter’s Ear“.

Over the years a number of published studies have demonstrated a connection between high-frequency hearing loss, and noise exposure from hunting and sport shooting. One study, highlighting the concern behind noise induced hearing loss from firearm noise exposure, found that out of approximately 1,500 Wisconsin men, 95% of those who hunt and 38% of those who target shoot had never worn ear protection during the year preceding the study (Nondahl, et al, 2000).

According to NHFD:


-Americans hunt a combined 282 million days per year. That’s an average of 21 days per hunter.

-More than 38 million Americans hunt and fish.

-Americans annually buy more than 1 billion shotshells.

-More Americans hunt and shoot than play baseball.

-According to research, 72% more women are hunting with firearms today than just 5 years ago. And 50% more women are now target shooting.


With the CDC reporting that ten million people in the US already have noise-related hearing loss, supporters of HR 3799 claim the legislation will help reduce the long term costs of hearing loss on society by preventing additional hearing loss in recreational firearm users.


Myth: Gun Silencers Will Make Guns Completely ‘Silent’


Image courtesy Cheaper Than Dirt

Contrary to popular belief and Hollywood depictions, the use of silencers (or suppressors) on gun barrels don’t actually make them silent.

A silencer works by reducing the noise from the pressure wave created by the expanding propellant gas and on average reduces noise by approximately 20-35 dB, but can vary greatly depending upon the type of bullet, length of gun barrel, etc.

With more awareness being brought to the problem of hearing loss, hunters that prefer not to wear hearing protection “to maintain situational awareness”, are opting to hunt with suppressors–when state law allows.

The American Suppressor Association (ASA) was formed in 2011 and has helped push several state’s to legalize hunting with a silencer.

According to the latest data from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms (ATF), there were nearly 800,000 silencers registered under the National Firearms Act as of February 2015, constituting a 39% increase from the previous year.


Not So Fast, Say Gun Control Advocates


Manufacturers are doing nothing more than a financial calculation by increasing access to silencers, say gun control advocates.

In an article from the Huffington Post, Ladd Everett of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence was quoted as saying:


“The NRA and gun industry view accessories like silencers as potential profit areas, with guns themselves so well-saturated throughout their existing customer base. That’s why we’ve seen this multi-state effort to weaken laws in this area, the obvious consequences for safety be damned.”