Measuring Firearm Instructors’ Exposure to Impulse Noise on Firing Ranges

FiringRange2You hear stories about active military service people damaging their hearing during combat. But, you don’t hear the stories about the firearms instructors — and they’re around gunfire, all day, every day.

NIOSH released a new study this past summer after using its NIMS software for impulsive-noise measurement at both indoor and outdoor firing ranges. The purpose of the study was to calculate the maximum amount of weapons-fire an instructor could be exposed to per day without a significant risk of hearing loss. The study was done using several different firearms and weapons systems.

Impulsive noise is significant because unprotected exposure to high-intensity impulsive noises can cause mechanical damage to ears leading to ringing (tinnitus), temporary hearing impairment, or even permanent hearing loss. It is considered more damaging to hearing than continuous exposure to loud sounds.


NIOSH recommends a ceiling limit of 140 decibels for peak sound. What the study found was that during most live-fire training exercises, instructors were exposed to peak sound pressure levels of 150 to 175 decibels.

Proper hearing protection and annual audiograms for firearm instructors are a good first step in protecting their hearing. Here are the other recommendations from the study:

What the Employer Can Do

● Monitor both area sound levels and personal noise exposure for employees.
● Install noise controls at the outdoor and indoor ranges.
● Use noise suppressors on firearms, if feasible.
● Use the most protective criterion to limit the number of daily gunfire exposures
● Require use of dual hearing protection during all live fire training exercises.
● Fit test employees for the hearing protection they use.

What Employees Can Do

● Wear dual hearing protection during all live fire training exercises.


3M Detection has the ability to fit test employees for the proper hearing protection.

Products related to noise measurement

Raeco LIC is the authorized representative of 3M Detection Solutions in the Midwest US.

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