Combat Hearing Protection?


I have a theoretical question. I understand that in practical combat situations, theory may not hold, but never having been in a gunfight myself (hopefully I never will), I bring this question here.

My plan for if my house is broken into at night is to grab my AR and go hunting, because I have family members in the other end of the house who are counting on me. I have a pair of electronic hearing protection in my room.

If my house is broken into, is it worth taking the time to put those on and turn them on? Are they a tactical advantage or disadvantage?

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There are several opinions, so I’ll offer an example I experienced. While hunting, I had an ear plug in my right ear, and was listening for deer with my left ear. The idea was, I would put my other in, and then line up a shot. A big 8 pointer jumped up to my right, so I drew my .357 mag revolver, aimed and took a one handed shot. Since he was already headed away, it was a miss. I turned, squared up, and fired again, and a miss, since he was at about 80 yards now. Then I realized, I was holding that earplug in my teeth, and hadn’t heard either shot.

Scientists believe in a fight or flight scenario, blood run away from the bones and muscles that enable us to hear, to protect our hearing from loud noises. I know this, I have fired this very gun, without ear protection, and my ears rang for 3 days. No such reaction while I was hunting. Take that for what it’s worth.

To answer your question, no I wouldn’t stop to find my ear pro while defending my home.

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It would all depend on the situation. Personally I would not take even an extra second to don hearing protection if my family was under threat.


I’m not sure what scientists came up with that theory but there’s no factual basis for it that I have ever heard of.

When you go into shock circulation to the extremities is shunted to protect the core of the body and the brain and the ears would be part of what is being protected.

Years and years of combat veterans with damaged hearing pretty well shoots that theory in the foot.


That’s something that shows up regularly, but not universally. I don’t know if there’s any stats on how often that happens, or doesn’t. It’s a pretty cool thing though, when it does.

@WildRose Lt.Col. David Grossman covers it it in either On Killing or On Combat. It’s a real thing, but I’m not sure if we have evidence as to how it works. I’m guessing it has some relationship to the leading edge of the fight/flight response as most of the anecdotal stories I’ve heard personally have the startle or onset of adrenaline and the noise occurring in very short sequence… rather than having the noise after a sustained period of high alert adrenaline or in a non-adrenalized state.

I’ve seen it covered as a personal experience in several other books by Special Forces type authors, SEALs and such.

BTW, I had that experience recently… someone on the outdoor range forgot to say “range is hot” and I had my back to the firing line while I packed up my gear… I thought everyone was done. The shooter was no more than 5’ from me and got off probably 4 or 5 .45 rounds before I got my fingers in my ears. I figured my ears were going to be ringing all the way home but they never rang at all.

There are other factors that do result in altered brain circulation and function … for instance if your heart rate is too high, parts of your brain do not get adequate circulation or oxygen and cease to work effectively. I’m going to have to go reread Lt.Col. Grossman’s books again because I’m not recalling all the details, but adrenaline does alter what parts of your brain work and how they work. It’s not all about circulation withdrawl from extremities.

I don’t think it’s part of what is happening with the auditory exclusion though.

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Auditory exclusion is a psychological effect. There is no physiological effect capable of protecting our hearing. We may not realize in the midst of a fight that our hearing is being irrepairably damaged until days, weeks, or years later when the cumulative effects are reached but it’s happening every time we’re exposed to sudden bursts or sustained high DB sound.

Circulation to our ears is minimal anyhow and doesn’t change significantly. Eardrums and bones are damaged whether we realize it at the time or not.

I’ve been through a number of close fights where we had no HP and trust me, when we walked out of it everyone had their ears ringing and suffering varying degrees of momentary deafness.

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@wildrose Lt.Col. Grossman is a pretty reliable researcher. He says it happens… and his business is soldiers and LEOs in the fight and what happens to them after.

If he says it’s a real thing, I’m good with believing him.

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BTW, I’m also good with believing my own experience, and I’m a pretty good judge of that.

I spent most of my career as a shooter, I spent much of my education learning human and mammalian anatomy and physiology.

If he can demonstrate this effect scientifically I’d love to see him do so.

I’m not suggesting hearing protection doesn’t matter, nor does he. People do report having this experience, two of them on this thread.

I’m not going to argue with you about my experience, it is exactly what I say it is. Believe me or don’t, it doesn’t change anything for me at all.

As to LtCol Grossman, @wildrose You have the reference, feel free to check his credibility for yourself. :woman_shrugging:

Last comment on this and then I’m done. Science moves pretty fast. There are TONS of things that science of just a few years ago said couldn’t be true that have recently turned out to be true.
Or true things that turned out to be false.
Or incomplete.
Or just never conceived of.

Our biology gets more complex and remarkable every day.

Oh, right. It’s not that our bodies get more complex and remarkable… it’s that we thought we had it all figured out, and we were wrong. Just sayin’

I’m a science based and educated guy. Auditory exclusion is real, it’s a psychological effect caused by the hormone and endorphin dump we experience during a traumatic incident.

That is easily and fully documented.

To claim that there’s some protective response of our ears isn’t supported by any science I’m aware of, if anyone has evidence of it like I said, I’d be happy to review it.

Hearing tests prior to and following such events show the damage is real even if we don’t realize it at the time.

Noticeable Permanent hearing loss is almost always a cumulative effect, not due to a single event.

Unless someone can show me the science behind this protective effect I’m simply not buying it since everything we know about hearing loss from science shows the opposite.

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You know the difference between a generalized education and a specialized education?
In a generalized education we learn less and less about more and more until we eventually know practically nothing about almost everything.
In a specialized education we learn more and more about less and less until we eventually know practically everything about almost nothing.

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@Zee many strange and amazing things can happen in a high adrenaline flash. We are fearfully and wonderfully made.

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I have four years premed.

I know enough about human anatomy and physiology to know there’s no science to support the assertion there is some protective effect on our ears under stressful situations.

If there’s some actual scientific evidence to support the theory I’m “all ears”, so provide it.

I have more educaton than I can use, and still I find how much more there is to know.

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Let’s all take a step back here. It sounds like you’re all saying the same thing and talking around each other.

Auditory exclusion can happen all of the time. Sometimes it can be referred to as selective hearing - men are experts at that (sorry, I thought a little humor was called for here).

There is auditory exclusion when there is a self-defense incident. When the brain’s alarm circuits have been fired, the thalamus appears to literally halt the flow of audio signals to the cortex. You can read more about that here:

That being said, people may not have ear ringing after an incident. That doesn’t mean there wasn’t some sort of damage done. Hearing damage is usually a cumulative thing. But not always.

Everyone’s body is different. Someone may be more affected than others to the effects of gunshot noise on the physical ear when they’re brain is in auditory exclusion.


@Dawn my friend and I find (not necessarily because we’re men…well maybe) that we are excellent multitaskers. We can listen and ignore and forget all at the same time. Thus you must admit that as men we are very talented.


LOL! I was wondering where you were going with that, @Bugleboy! Thanks for the laugh!!

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I would not take the time to put on my HP (horse power?) even though hearing damage can occur.
The upside if I had plenty of time to get them on and adjusted (which I’m sure I wouldn’t) is the electronic noise cancelling phones can greatly enhance my hearing when turned up. They are really only good for the range and stalking in the woods observing wildlife. With the super hearing I get to enjoy sights I would have missed because I could detect the tiny sound. If in an emergency I stuck in some plugs, I probably won’t get them inserted right, and now I don’t get the full protection and I can’t hear the threat.
Just my thoughts. Someone may have a better idea. I’ll listen. With my phones turned up.