Sound conditioning (pre-exposure to a moderate-level acoustic stimulus) can induce resistance to hearing loss from a subsequent traumatic exposure. Most sound conditioning experiments have utilized long-duration tones and noise at levels below 110 dB SPL as traumatic stimuli. It is important to know if sound conditioning can also provide protection from brief, high-level stimuli such as impulses produced by gunfire, and whether there are differences between females and males in the response of the ear to noise. In the present study, chinchillas were exposed to 95 dB SPL octave band noise centered at 0.5 kHz for 6 h/day for 5 days. After 5 days of recovery, they were exposed to simulated M16 rifle fire at a level of 150 dB peak SPL. Animals that were sound conditioned showed less hearing loss and smaller hair cell lesions than controls. Females showed significantly less hearing loss than males at low frequencies, but more hearing loss at 16 kHz. Cochleograms showed slightly less hair cell loss in females than in males. The results show that significant protection from impulse noise can be achieved with a 5-day conditioning regimen, and that there are consistent differences between female and male chinchillas in the response of the cochlea to impulse noise.