By Jay Anglin

Waterfowl hunters are known for patience and optimism, often convincing themselves that a few more minutes tacked onto the end of a hunt will finally bring the birds. While our perseverance is occasionally rewarded when a late morning flight suddenly appears overhead, one thing that cannot be wished into reality is gaining back your hearing. Once it is gone, its gone, and it aint coming back.

It is hard to imagine something as consistently damaging to ones hearing as salvos of shotgun fire at close range, yet recent research suggests 86 percent of hunters do not wear hearing protection. Lifelong outdoorsmen, audiologists, and Tetra Hearing co-founders Bill Dickinson and Dr. David Gnewikow are all too familiar with what noise exposure from shooting can do to an individuals hearing and how it can impact the lives of their patients. When most people think of ear issues, impaired hearing and loss of balance immediately come to mind. But Dickinson and Gnewikow note that recent studies indicate there is much more at stake than simply having to bump up the volume on the TV or even wear a hearing aid.

You dont need a PhD to realize shooting a box of shells in a confined space such as a blind or metal pit is bad for your hearing. Nobody thinks thats okay, Dickinson says. But there is growing evidence that hearing statusin particular among those in the 35- to 55-year-old rangecan influence the likelihood of neurologic disorders such as Alzheimers disease. The overall healthcare implications are diverse when it comes to hearing loss.

Taking into consideration the need for hearing protection and the importance of communication while hunting, Dickinson and Gnewikow took the cutting-edge science used in hearing aids and applied the same advanced technology to create a pursuit-based hearing system that maximizes hearing while also protecting the wearers ears from the sound of gun blasts. This was done by digitizing the most prevalent frequencies heard during different hunting scenarios.

We took the science that we had been using to fit hearing aids, and instead of simply amplifying speech, we targeted sounds such as duck and goose calls and digitized those specific frequencies, Dickinson explains. For waterfowl, we sat in the blind with Harold Knight for two days. We placed a microphone in his ear and ended up with hundreds of recordings that identified the frequencies most prominent in waterfowling. By isolating these frequencies, we can allow those sounds to pass through the device, so it sounds completely normal and natural.

The Tetra crew also digitized the frequencies of different types of gun blasts, including a variety of shotgun ammunition such as magnum waterfowl and turkey loads as well as lighter target loads. Once those sounds were identified, the device could be programmed to shut down the appropriate frequencies, but still allow desirable sounds through so environmental awareness is maintained. Tetra refers to this technology as Specialized Target Optimization (STO).

According to Dickinson, frequencies can be programmed for not only the type of hunting but also the environment and individual hearing loss. This second layer of optimization allows hunters to manage background noises such as wind and the sound of an ATV or boat motor. For example, Waterfowl Magnum Mode isolates the most important frequencies needed to blow a duck call or hear soft speech. Even if an individual has a 50-decibel hearing loss in the mid-frequency range, the device can be programmed to correct it and make those frequencies normal, which provides natural hearing to the wearer.

Hearing matters, and we can now start having the conversation that it should be unacceptable to bring a new waterfowl hunter or a youth into a hunting situation without hearing protection, Dickinson says. They should be able to look down the blind and see mentors who are all wearing hearing protection that works without ruining the experience. Applying premium technology to a comfortable device gives hunters natural hearing ability while still providing protection to the ear from gun blasts. Our goal at Tetra is to create an awesome listening experience so you will choose to wear it.

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