A pair of earmuffs with sound waves radiating outwards

The Hearing Protection Act: What You Need to Know

The Hearing Protection Act has been a hot topic of discussion in the United States for a few years now. This proposed legislation is designed to make firearm suppressors more accessible and less regulated. While supporters of the bill believe it will improve safety for gun owners and reduce noise-induced hearing loss, opponents argue that it could have dangerous consequences. In this article, we will examine the Hearing Protection Act, its purpose, key provisions, history, and impact on gun owners.

Understanding the Hearing Protection Act

Let’s start by getting a clear understanding of what the Hearing Protection Act is all about. Essentially, the bill seeks to make it easier for individuals to purchase and use suppressors – also known as silencers – for firearms. Currently, owning a suppressor requires a lengthy registration process with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), alongside a $200 tax fee. This has made it difficult for gun owners to access these devices. However, if the Hearing Protection Act is passed, suppressors will be treated like normal firearms, and gun owners will no longer need to go through complicated registration processes.

The Purpose of the Act

The primary aim of the Hearing Protection Act is to reduce noise-induced hearing loss among gun owners. According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over four million Americans are exposed to dangerous levels of noise every day in their workplaces and leisure activities. It’s no surprise that shooting a firearm produces an incredibly loud noise that can cause permanent hearing damage. Proponents believe that by making suppressors more accessible, it will help gun owners protect their hearing.

Key Provisions of the Act

The Hearing Protection Act contains several key provisions that would significantly impact gun owners. Firstly, instead of the complicated ATF registration process, suppressors would be treated like regular guns. This means that buyers would only need to pass a background check to own one. Additionally, the $200 tax fee would be eliminated. Secondly, the act would allow interstate transfer and sales of suppressors, which is currently prohibited under the National Firearms Act (NFA). Finally, the law would allow for refunds for those who paid the $200 tax fee since October 2015, but haven’t yet received their suppressors.

The History and Evolution of the Act

The Hearing Protection Act was first introduced to Congress in 2017, but despite receiving a lot of support, it failed to pass. However, it was reintroduced in early 2021, and it’s still waiting to be voted on by Congress. Supporters of the bill are hopeful that with the current political climate, the act will finally be enacted. But it’s important to note that it’s not the first bill of this nature to be proposed. In fact, the 1934 National Firearms Act (NFA) was the first law that regulated suppressors, alongside other firearms. This law made it difficult and costly for individuals to own suppressors, leading to the current registration process and tax fee that the Hearing Protection Act seeks to eliminate.

The Science Behind Suppressors

Suppressors, also known as silencers, are devices that attach to the end of a firearm’s barrel to reduce the amount of noise produced when the gun is fired. The device works by slowing down and cooling the gases that are released when a bullet is fired, which in turn reduces the amount of noise produced. The use of suppressors has been shown to reduce the risk of hearing damage among gun owners. In fact, a study by the University of Michigan found that the use of suppressors reduced the noise of a gunshot to a level that was below the threshold for hearing damage.

The Debate Over the Hearing Protection Act

The Hearing Protection Act has been a topic of debate among lawmakers, gun owners, and advocacy groups. Supporters argue that the act is necessary to protect the hearing of gun owners and to make it easier for them to access suppressors. They also argue that the current registration process and tax fee are unnecessary and burdensome. Opponents, on the other hand, argue that the act would make it easier for criminals to obtain suppressors, which could lead to an increase in gun violence. They also argue that the use of suppressors could make it more difficult for law enforcement officials to identify the location of gunshots in the event of a shooting.

The Importance of Hearing Protection

The dangers of noise-induced hearing loss cannot be overstated, and it’s crucial to take steps to protect our ears. According to the CDC, exposure to noise levels above 85 decibels can cause permanent hearing loss. Sadly, a gunshot produces more than 140 decibels, instantly damaging hearing. This puts gun owners at risk every time they shoot. While firearms safety training emphasizes the importance of wearing hearing protection, many gun owners neglect to do so. This is where suppressors come in – they reduce the loud noise of a gunshot, and make it easier to wear earplugs or muffs for extra protection.

The Dangers of Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

While noise-induced hearing loss is often associated with the elderly, it’s increasingly becoming prevalent among young people. According to the Air Force Medical Service, close to 50% of deployed soldiers who don’t use hearing protection experience hearing loss. And it’s not just the military – civilians who work in loud environments such as construction and entertainment industries are also at risk. The consequences of hearing loss are severe and long-lasting, including difficulty communicating, increased stress, and decreased quality of life. That’s why it’s critical to take steps to prevent it.

The Benefits of Suppressors in Hearing Protection

Suppressors have been demonstrated to be an effective tool in reducing noise-induced hearing loss. By reducing the decibels of a gunshot to below 140, it lessens the risk of permanent hearing loss. It’s also worth noting that suppressors can make shooting more enjoyable – without the deafening noise of a gunshot, it’s easier to concentrate on shooting accurately and safely. Additionally, it can reduce noise pollution, making it more pleasant for nearby residents.

Current Hearing Protection Options and Limitations

There are several hearing protection options available for gun owners, including earplugs and earmuffs. Electronic earmuffs are also available, which allow for ambient noise to be heard while canceling out the noise of the gunshot. While these are all valuable options, they do have their limitations. For instance, they can be bulky, making them difficult to use for prolonged periods, and they can also interfere with communication. Suppressors would provide an alternative that reduces the noise level without compromising on communication.

The Debate Surrounding the Hearing Protection Act

While the proposed legislation has received widespread support from gun rights advocates, it has also sparked contentious debate. Let’s take a closer look at the arguments for and against the Hearing Protection Act.

Arguments in Favor of the Act

The primary argument for the bill is that it will help protect gun owners from noise-induced hearing loss. With suppressors being more accessible, it’s more likely that gun owners will use them. The elimination of the $200 tax fee and complicated registration process will also make owning suppressors more affordable and convenient. Additionally, supporters argue that reducing the noise level of gunfire could reduce noise pollution, which can be especially important in rural areas where hunting is common.

Arguments Against the Act

Opponents of the Hearing Protection Act believe that it could have serious consequences. Firstly, it could lead to more gun violence by making it easier for criminals to use silenced firearms for criminal activity. Additionally, it could put law enforcement officers at risk by making it harder for them to detect gunfire. Finally, some argue that the act seeks to weaken the National Firearms Act, which has been in place for almost a century.

The Role of the National Firearms Act

The National Firearms Act, introduced in 1934, is a federal law that regulates the sale, use, and possession of certain firearms, including suppressors. The act also imposes a $200 tax on certain firearms, including suppressors. The Hearing Protection Act would eliminate the tax for such devices but would leave other firearms subject to the tax. Some argue that the Hearing Protection Act seeks to undermine the National Firearms Act, which they believe is an essential piece of legislation that protects people from firearm-related deaths and injuries.

The Impact of the Hearing Protection Act on Gun Owners

It’s essential to examine the impact of the Hearing Protection Act on gun owners. While the act has the potential to improve hearing protection, it could also have significant implications.

Changes in Suppressor Ownership and Regulation

The most significant impact of the Hearing Protection Act would be the changes it would make for suppressor ownership and regulation. As we’ve discussed, owning a suppressor currently requires registration with the ATF, as a firearms dealer would. The $200 tax fee can also be a significant barrier to entry for many gun owners. By eliminating these requirements, the Hearing Protection Act could make suppressors more accessible and affordable. Additionally, it would allow for the interstate transfer and sales of suppressors, which could significantly increase their availability.

The Effect on Hunting and Shooting Sports

Many gun owners believe that the Hearing Protection Act could significantly enhance hunting and shooting sports. Hunting can be a solitary activity, and the noise of a gunshot can be especially striking in a quiet, natural environment. With suppressors available, hunting would be less disruptive, and it might make it easier to communicate with other hunters. Similarly, in shooting sports, suppressors could make the sometimes long and loud events more comfortable to navigate.

Potential Legal Challenges and Future Legislation

Finally, we need to look at the potential legal challenges that the Hearing Protection Act could face. Some lawmakers have already voiced their opposition to the bill, and it’s possible that a filibuster or veto could stall or derail its progress. Additionally, if the act does pass, there may be legal challenges to provisions like interstate transfers or suppressor refunds. The future of firearms legislation is difficult to predict, but the Hearing Protection Act is undoubtedly a significant development in the ongoing debate.


The Hearing Protection Act is a proposal that would significantly impact gun owners by making suppressors more accessible and reducing the associated costs and registration requirements. While it’s clear that the use of suppressors can help reduce noise-induced hearing loss, their increased availability is not without controversy. The act has both passionate supporters and opponents, each arguing their side. In the end, the decision will ultimately come down to lawmakers and the public. But one thing is clear – regardless of the outcome, protecting our hearing is a critical consideration in firearms safety.