A while back I finally went in for a hearing test. Since I am a lifelong shooter and hunter, you probably won't be surprised to learn I came out wearing a set of hearing aids. Truth be told, I've probably needed them for about the last five to 10 years.
Back in my younger days, you just didn't see very many people wearing hearing protection when they were shooting. When I became a peace officer, you were considered an absolute sissy if you wore any sort of hearing protection during qualifications. Finally, the police chief said we should start protecting against hearing loss, and you would see my co-workers stuffing their ears with empty cartridge cases or, believe it or not, cigarette filters. A lot of good that did.
John Wootters can tell some wonderful stories about Bill Jordan, Elmer Keith, Jack O'Connor and that generation of gun writers. Wootters is always quick to point out that, being younger, he was not a part of this inner circle of gun scribes, but he picked up all those wonderful stories by sitting across the room and listening. They were all deaf as a post!
Once I began to accept the fact my hearing was going south, I began to check out other gun writers and shooters in my age group. I was surprised at how many of them were discretely wearing the latest in hearing enhancement. One writer told me he thought he could move through the woods like a wisp of smoke until he got hearing aids. He has since had to do some serious work improving his stalking skills.
The problem with hearing loss is it is gradual and we don't take notice of what is slowly slipping away. I found I was missing out on a lot of conversations and having to ask people to repeat themselves. It got to the point some folks may have thought I was rudely ignoring them.
I can't urge you strongly enough to wear hearing protection when shooting. A number of shooters I know are even doubling up, wearing ear plugs and muffs—that's not a bad idea. And, for goodness sakes, get your hearing checked on a regular basis. There is no time like the present to begin protecting what hearing you have left.
I'd write more, but I have to go outside and work on my quiet stalking skills. The ground has recently gotten a lot noisier.