My hearing is probably one of my most valued senses. It wasn’t always that way, but you tend to appreciate the things you lose more than when you had it. If I had the technology that is available today during the years I was exposed to thousands of gunshots, I probably wouldn’t have the permanent hearing damage I do now. Today though, we’re talking about solutions. The SoundGear line of high definition hearing protection by Starkey Hearing Technologies is that solution.
Starkey is a world-renowned hearing aid designer and manufacturer based out of Eden Prarie, Minnesota. After 50+ years of dominating the industry, Starkey decided to go into preventative care with their line of digital hearing protection. The SoundGear line of products draws on Starkey’s years of experience in enhancing ambient audio and their extensive understanding of how the ear works and it’s vulnerabilities.
With that know-how, the SoundGear line uses Starkey technology to deliver high definition hearing protection and sound enhancement. The two chassis that this technology is delivered in varies primarily in fit. SoundGear Custom Fit is custom molded to your individual ear, guaranteeing a consistent fit and full seal around the canal. Instant Fit devices are about the size of regular ear plugs and come with 4 different sized sleeves to ensure that consistent seal as well. Instant Fit have the same technology, they just don’t have the volume control and custom fit of the more expensive SoundGear Custom Fit devices.
I came across SoundGear within the first 6 to 9 months that I had started Atlas Defense. I liked the concept of the electronic ear muffs that are more prevalent on the range today, but they had some serious shortcomings as well. Most electronic ear muffs simply block everything out once a sound is detected that is above a safe threshold. The time between that detection and blocking is called attack. The time between the blocking and returning to normal levels is called release.
Attack and release times are usually a matter of less than a second but even then, the analog technology has it’s speed limitations. Aside from that, the gunshot was still causing the same problem it was without the protection. Any gun shout meant the complete halt of any surrounding audio. Additionally, I knew hunters wouldn’t be too interested in the earmuffs because they completely cut off your directional hearing. With a microphone mounted arbitrarily on the surface of the muffs, there’s no way to be able to tell where a certain sound is coming from.
Starkey saw these issues and realized that perhaps one of the biggest reasons shooters don’t take preventative care seriously is because of those shortcomings. That is why the Instant Fit and Custom Fit devices are engineered to be the last set of hearing protection you’ll need. Utilizing the digital technological advances achieved in their hearing aid product lines, the SoundGear devices not only have substantially faster attack and release, they bring high intensity sounds to a manageable level. Once a sound crosses the threshold of safe decibel levels, it is simply reduced to safe levels. What that means is when you take a shot, the devices allow you to hear everything as if it were on a TV at medium level volume.
Due to the technology remaining small, there was no need to create massive ear muffs to house this technology. Keeping the hearing protection devices in the ear canal also preserves your directional hearing. This means that not only are the devices constantly amplifying the sounds in your surroundings, you can actually tell what direction those sounds are coming from.
Imagine being on a hunt during bow opener, probably the ultimate test in noise discipline. With your SoundGear in, you can hear the forest come to life. The first time you put those in and turn the volume controller all the way up, you’ll honestly feel like you have gained bionic ears. Animal life that you can’t even see is making a ruckus probably 150 feet to your left in some dense brush. Should the worse happen and you become disoriented, these can even help you listen for the sounds of a road or water with increased range as well.
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I myself subjected my ears audio abuse in my early twenties. The combination of loud music, deployments, and smoking culminated to the permanent tinnitus I have now. It sounds reckless now, but that was the culture I embraced as a young Marine. Similarly, all hunters don’t use hearing protection because the plugs block out too much ambient noise. That noise from your surroundings could be your prize buck snapping a twig and the last thing you want to do is scare it off as you scramble for your earplugs. This is a valid concern, and one that hasn’t been comprehensively addressed until recent technology has caught up to shooter’s lifestyles.
Once I got the Custom Fit and Instant Fit devices myself, I knew I made a positive step in halting the progression of my hearing loss. Even if you’re already at the point of experincing some kind of permanent hearing damage, it can always get worse. I used to think it couldn’t get worse until I learned more (and did make it worse through the final months of my deployment) and realized that I could do something about it. If I can leave you with anything, imagine the following scene, after you’ve received your SoundGear devices.
You’re hunting with your children in the fall. It’s deer season, and while this isn’t their first hunt, you want them to begin enjoying the sport as much as you did at their age. You stow the ATV and everyone dons their SoundGear custom fit devices. Everyone cranks the volume adjusters all the way up and all of a sudden the forest comes to life. You can hear the squirrels scurrying up and down trees, birds feeding their screeching babies 60 feet up a tree, literally every pattern of life becomes more evident with the enhanced ambient audio. In their tech-crazed world, the kids suddenly think they have bionic hearing and are just as enthralled with the sounds of the forest. Soon, you begin hiking and learn how to use the devices to your advantage by purposefully swiveling your head from side to side, amplifying your directional hearing.
Suddenly a twig snaps while your daughter is gazing left and she spots a buck 75 feet out, through some thick underbrush that would have normally camouflaged it had she not heard it’s movement that far out. Noise discipline cannot be understated when drawin ing a buck, and this is where the SoundGear shines through again. With the devices always in, you can take the shot without the added step of fumbling with hearing plugs, which is why most hunters forego hearing protection all together. Your Remington 870 goes off, but aside from the recoil, all you just heard was a gunshot that sounded like it was on a turned-down TV. Likewise, your children are also just as protected and less likely to develop hearing loss the more they use protection like this.
Scenarios like this continue to happen across the shooting community. Not only in hunting, but shooting sports like 3 gun and trap teams have begun to embrace this technology. What this all comes down to is enhancing your situational awareness. Accomplishing this is done by removing distractions and amplifying our senses. In the case of SoundGear, this device enhances your shooting experience by giving you high quality audio of your surroundings at safe levels. Visit SoundGear’s website to find an authorized retailer near you!