Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership: Firearm Suppressors Fight Hearing Loss

In this photo taken Jan. 27, 2017, Knox Williams, president and executive director of the Georgia-based American Suppressor Association, attaches a silencer to a long gun at a range in Atlanta. They are the stuff of legend, wielded by hit men and by James Bond. For decades, buying a silencer …
AP Photo/Lisa Marie Pane

Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership (DRGO) have released a position paper explaining how firearm suppressors fight hearing loss and announcing their support for theHearing Protection Act.

The doctors contributing to the position paper include Matthew P. Branch, MD; Gerard J. Gianoli, MD, FACS; Bradford Ress, MD, FANS; and Timothy Wheeler, MD. Their paper comes as Congress moves closer to taking up the Hearing Protection Act, which was put forward by Representatives Jeff Duncan (R-SC-3) and John Carter (R-TX-31) on January 9.

According to DRGO:

Particularly harmful for firearms enthusiasts is the explosive blast (or impulse) generated when firing a handgun or rifle. This explosive blast generates 1,000 times more pressure than the actual noise of a gunshot. Such blasts can result in significant, permanent hearing loss with a single exposure of 140 decibels or more… This is the same “acoustic blast trauma” suffered by survivors of IEDs on the battlefield.

After showing that “significant, permanent hearing loss” can result from “a single exposure of 140 decibels or more,” DRGO points out that that “muzzle blast sound levels for most firearms (handguns, rifles and shotguns) range from 140 to over 170 decibels, more than sufficient to cause instant, permanent hearing damage.”

The doctors then explain the insufficiency and potential risk of using “ear plugs or ear muffs” to protect against hearing loss:

Hearing protection in the form of ear plugs or ear muffs, alone or in combination, can only reduce noise exposure by approximately 20-30 decibels. This limitation in noise reduction may still expose a firearms user to damaging levels of noise; 120 decibels is still louder than a car horn from three feet away. Thus, inside the canal and over the ear devices (i.e., ear plugs and ear muffs)—the only current generally available protection—are inadequate for impulse noise protection, and when used together they deafen the wearer to all external sound.

They point to a study conducted by Dr. Matthew Branch, who also contributed to the DRGO position paper. His study found:

All suppressors offered significantly greater noise reduction than ear-level protection, usually greater than 50% better. Noise reduction of all ear-level protectors is unable to reduce the impulse pressure below 140 dB for certain common firearms, an international standard for prevention of sensorineural hearing loss… Modern muzzle-level suppression is vastly superior to ear-level protection and the only available form of suppression capable of making certain sporting arms safe for hearing.

It is interesting to note that Gabby Giffords’ gun control group claims Americans should use “ear plugs” instead of suppressors. Giffords’ group tweeted, “You know what protects your hearing better than a silencer? Ear plugs. Don’t be fooled: the so-called ‘Hearing Protection Act’ does nothing to protect hearing.”

So it appears we must choose whom we believe: doctors trained in evaluating hearing and threats to hearing or gun control propagandists?

AWR Hawkins is the Second Amendment columnist for Breitbart News and host of Bullets with AWR Hawkins, a Breitbart News podcast. He is also the political analyst for Armed American Radio. Follow him on Twitter: @AWRHawkins. Reach him directly at


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