Objective: To assess the relation between recreational firearm use and high-frequency hearing loss in a population of older adults.
Design: Cross-sectional, population-based cohort study.
Setting: The midwestern community of Beaver Dam, Wis.
Participants: A population-based sample of 3753 participants (83% of those eligible), aged 48 to 92 years, participated in the baseline phase of the Epidemiology of Hearing Loss Study.
Main outcome measures: Lifetime and past year self-reported firearm use during target shooting and hunting were assessed by interview. Hearing thresholds were measured by pure-tone audiometry.
Results: After age and other factors were adjusted for, men (n = 1538) who had ever regularly engaged in target shooting (odds ratio, 1.57; 95% confidence interval, 1.12-2.19) or who had done so in the past year (odds ratio, 2.00; 95% confidence interval, 1.15-3.46) were more likely to have a marked high-frequency hearing loss than those who had not. Risk of having a marked high-frequency hearing loss increased 7% for every 5 years the men had hunted (odds ratio, 1.07; 95% confidence interval, 1.03-1.12). Thirty-eight percent of the target shooters and 95% of the hunters reported never wearing hearing protection while shooting in the past year.
Conclusions: These results indicate that use of recreational firearms is associated with marked high-frequency hearing loss in men. There is a need for further education of users of recreational firearms regarding the risk of hearing impairment associated with firearm use and the availability and importance of appropriate hearing protection.