Tetra Custom Shields

Electronic Hearing Protection Enhances Experience
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As an avid competitive shooter, I’m very frequently exposed to loud noises. I’ve always taken wearing hearing protection incredibly seriously and some people have jokingly made fun of me for it. Most will admit it’s a good idea but it’s too much work for them or hinders their ability. Tetra Hearing seeks to change that.

Tetra Co-Founder Bill Dickinson, AuD further educated me on a topic I already knew was important. Exposure to loud noises can cause all sorts of problems, including high blood pressure and hypertension. They are also tied to pre-existing conditions, like diabetes.

“Biggest reason…to protect hearing is that you owe it to your future self and loved ones in your life,” Dickinson said. “While we call it ear protection, you really are protecting your brain more than your ears. Your ears are just the gateway to the brain and with all the science behind hearing loss and health problems like dementia, it [is] simply not worth the risk.”

Speaking with Dickinson, I was fascinated by their innovative approach. While electronic hearing protection has existed for years, Tetra seeks to amplify specific sounds to give both hunters and shooters an edge. They do this through specific programs and Specialized Target Optimization (STO).

For example, range mode is intended to isolate and enhance the frequency of the clay throwing mechanism, allowing shotgun shooters to get on target faster. While I am not an avid shotgun shooter, I certainly understand how valuable this is. Other modes, for turkey, waterfowl, elk, deer, and upland isolate aid in better detection, distance judgement, and direction of game.

Eighty-six percent of hunters admit to not wearing hearing protection while hunting, claiming one shot can’t do enough damage. The truth is it can. I’ve religiously worn ear protection for years in the woods, though I will admit it has frustrated me. I’ve missed early signs of deer because I couldn’t hear them or nearly spooked them trying to insert plugs with as little movement as possible. I’ve largely stepped away from firearm hunting to hunting with a crossbow for this very reason, but am excited to return to it this fall.

This spring I had the opportunity to hunt with Kevin Paulson of HuntingLife.com on a mentored turkey hunt in Nebraska. I wanted to try a pair of Tetras, but not just anything would do for me. In fact, I think I was a company first, setting a record for the smallest pair of devices Tetra’s ever made.

When I first met Bill Dickinson at an event and began chatting about the importance of hearing protection, he asked what I used. I had relied upon Hocks Noisebreakers custom earmolds from an audiologist for years as they were the only things that would fit me.

“Mind if I take a look?” he asked me. I didn’t mind, curious as to what he had to say. I soon learned my ears have not grown since I was a baby! Lo and behold, I have the smallest adult ears he’d ever seen. I sent Tetra impressions from my local audiologist and they made a pair of Custom Shields — devices with STO custom fit to my specifications. I laughed when Dickinson told me of the commotion I caused in their facility. Whoever opened the box asked in astonishment when they started making ear protection for babies. Apparently, everyone loved my baby ears. It’s a little funny to think about, people able to see your “ears” without you physically present.

My custom shields arrived in an impressive hard case with a small carabiner linked carrier inside. The two color-coded molds (one for right, one for left) connected by a strap accept regular hearing aid batteries and came with extra wax traps. I put them in right away and they fit comfortably and perfectly. Pressing a small button on the side of each changes the mode, and there is a noticeable difference in what you hear and how loud it is in each one. A small dial on both shields adjusts the overall volume/intensity and even turns off the device if you choose.

In Nebraska I realized just how noisy tramping through a field can be. I had the dial turned all the way up on the turkey setting and heard every little sound. At times it even filtered out the voices. Changing to the clear-communication setting and turning down the volume amended this, though it took me a bit of time before I realized it. More than anything, these devices gave me more freedom while hunting. It gave me the piece of mind to focus on the hunt rather than worry about how much time I had after hearing a sound to shove a plug in my ear and saved me from spending hours in almost complete silence. I harvested my first turkey this spring, a hybrid Eastern/Merriam and forgot I was wearing hearing protection most of the time.

I also discovered the custom shields are especially well-suited for range days and competitions where you communicate with people during or after. They allow you to better hear range commands and were incredibly comfortable. While I wear ear muffs as well for higher calibers, these were perfect for .22. I must admit I’m in love with this technology. Being able to adjust the intensity and even turn them off for utmost concentration during competitions makes all the difference for me. I’m now the cool person on the range rather than the annoying one asking those without ear protection to speak louder.