While I was at SHOT I had a nice chat with a few places regarding hearing protection. There did not seem to be much that was entirely new, but I got some interesting insight into what seems like the best (and also the most expensive) option for hearing impaired shooters who cannot afford to become “deaf” as a result of taking out any assistive devices like hearing aids and replacing them with hearing protection.
Sport Ear (http://www.sportear.com/) had the best offering I had seen in a long time. I had known about the company and product but didn’t realize just what they were offering.
They sell what looks like hearing aids. They are marketed towards e.g. hunters as hearing enhancers. Now, I know that normal hearing aids are not hearing protection, so I asked for more details. The Sport Ear units also hearing protection. They function much like active hearing protection (with volume cutoff) but the custom molded inserts are also fully-qualified hearing protection.
It is entirely possible for the Sport Ear units to be selected and programmed to act as a medical hearing aid, as well as to serve as hearing protection. The company makes medical hearing aids as well, so it helped me feel confident they know what they are doing.
This is pretty much the bee’s knees as far as shooting hearing protection goes for the hearing impaired! Sadly, this all comes at a price: costs are comparable to those involved with hearing aids from audiologists – for me, that means as much as a very nice used car.
I’d have to think long and hard about when I’d be ready to spend that kind of money for the supreme comfort it would offer. But the search for the top end is over for now.
Until then, I’ll have to manage with Sordin Supreme Pro-X units with gel cups over top of my Vigo Pro hearing aids. They are the only solution so far that fit reasonably comfortably and allow me to hear what’s going on enough to function normally, while still providing hearing protection.