Objective: This study surveyed youth recreational firearm users (YRFUs) regarding shooting habits, reported use of hearing protection devices (HPDs), self-assessed auditory status, and attitudes about firearm noise and hearing loss.
Design: A descriptive study using a 28-item survey administered by personal interview.
Study sample: Two-hundred and ten youth aged 10 to 17 years responded.
Results: Seventy-eight percent of those surveyed began shooting before the age of ten. The majority reported using large caliber firearms capable of rapid fire for both hunting and target practice. Most youths in this study were not aware of, and therefore, were not utilizing HPDs specifically designed for the shooting sports. Ten percent of subjects reported constant tinnitus and 45% notice tinnitus occurred or worsened after shooting. Although the majority of YRFUs reported good or perfect hearing, a small percentage (4-5%) of youth reported having only 'fair" hearing.
Conclusion: YRFUs are putting themselves at risk beginning at a young age for noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) and tinnitus based on self-reported shooting habits and inconsistent use of HPDs during both target practice and hunting activities. This research highlights the need for early education and intervention efforts to minimize the risk of NIHL in youth.