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Either that man is deaf, or someone graffitied those words on the wall.

Joey: [running through a script] Dude, there's no need to shout.
Ross: [still shouting] There was just an explosion! My hearing would be impaired!

Guns are loud. In Real Life, hearing protection exists for a reason. Exposure to 140 decibels (the loudness of gunfire, up there with rock concerts and auto-racing) can cause pain and permanent hearing loss. That's why people at a shooting range typically are required to wear ear defenders, with frequent shooters investing a lot into top-notch protection, and that's why deafness is a real occupational hazard among soldiers. Weapon silencers are also employed for similar reasons in real life, but unlike in media, they're still very much audible.

Yet in fiction, even as badasses are using guns and explosives and outrunning explosions, they don't seem to be affected by the sound at all.

This is an acceptable break from reality, as no one wants to hear about the badass losing his hearing after diving away from an explosion or surviving a shootout. note And no one wants to see them fumbling in their pocket to find their earplugs or wearing gigantic ear defenders, either. Typically, only coward-type characters will cover their ears while anticipating an explosion.

Most "aversions" that involve a character's hearing being affected (and the effect being demonstrated on the other side of the Fourth Wall) go under Shell-Shock Silence. Note that similar to Law of Inverse Recoil, aversions that don't fall under Shell-Shock Silence are usually found in comedies.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Most of the cast of Saikano have these, but one Ordinary High-School Student was nearly deafened by an air raid.
  • Rurouni Kenshin:
    • This was averted towards the end of the first OVA, where while he chases after Tomoe, Kenshin gets pulled into a series of fights intended to wear him down; the two of these end with trap explosions that blur his vision and deafen his hearing.
    • Kenshin also takes advantage of Enishi's heightened senses by setting off the equivalent of a miniature sonic boom in close proximity to him, the resulting damage affecting Enishi's inner ear. The noise is so loud that Misao and Aoshi, standing quite a distance away, suffer slight pain (though, according to Aoshi, as ninjas they have also been trained to have better hearing than most people).
  • Averted early in Toriko — Komatsu temporarily died from the homemade firecrackers Toriko gave him for self-defense due to the volume blowing out his eardrums.
  • A Certain Scientific Railgun: Misaka's signature "Railgun" maneuver should by all logic blow out her eardrums from a single firing, but she's never affected. Presumably falls under Required Secondary Powers. Strangely enough, Kuroko is seen plugging her ears in the first episode when Misaka fires it, and never again after that (nor does anyone else standing near Misaka).
  • Fullmetal Alchemist has soldiers fire submachine guns inside a room, without everyone in the room going deaf from the noise.
  • Well and truly averted in Aldnoah.Zero, where Kataphrakt firearms are really big and really loud. In the first episode, the students observing a live-fire training exercise are shown covering their ears to the last man. Later on, Inaho has to fire at the enemy from a semi-enclosed well dock that's also harboring a number of refugees. He orders them to cover their ears, but even so, his rifle's roar sends everybody into Shell-Shock Silence.
  • In Gangsta.'s first episode a gun goes off right next to Nicholas' head and he doesn't so much as flinch. More justified than most examples in that Nicholas is, in fact, deaf, but the sheer physical force of it would still cause him pain. Next time a fire alarm goes off notice how it actually makes your eardrums buzz (precisely so deaf people can tell something's happening) and then magnify that several times to understand what being that close to a firing gun would be like.
  • Death Note
    • In an attempt to test whether or not the amnesiac Light and Misa are Kiras, Soichiro fires a blank round into Light's face at point blank range while they're all sitting in a car together. Instead of rendering them all deaf (to say nothing of the fact that Light would be dead, it just makes a dramatic bang.
    • Mello blows up a building he was standing in, with only a gas mask for protection, in order to escape the Japanese police. Mello planned to blow up the building with Rod Ross and his gang inside, from a safe distance, once they were no longer useful to his investigation of Kira. Soichiro and co. derailed that plan. Although he comes out with third-degree burns that leave him permanently scarred, his hearing is not even temporarily damaged by the explosion.

    Comic Books 
  • Black Canary has this as a Required Secondary Power; without it, her Super-Scream would render herself deaf.
  • Hawkeye: Averted when Hawkeye deliberately deafened himself in order to protect himself from a supervillain who was using a sound-based mind control device. He wore hearing aids for years after that, though eventually writers stopped referencing it.
  • Averted in The New Universe series Justice: After John Tensen rescues a baby from an explosion (caused by the events of The Pitt) that wipes out a city park, he sadly points out that although he saved the child's life, the baby is now deaf; he snaps his fingers next to the infant to demonstrate its lack of reaction.
  • Tintin: Pops up here and there, but notably the sequence in Land of Black Gold where Tintin is exposed point blank to the detonation of a room full of fireworks and suffers no damage.
  • X-Men: Kitty Pryde must have these as she's stood at ground zero during everything short of a nuclear blast. You'd think being intangible would really remove any sense of hearing in the first place since sound waves have to strike your eardrums before you can hear anything. But her tangibility is controllable; assuming she remembers to do so, she could simply make her eardrums intangible right before the explosion, and solidify them right after.

    Fan Works 
  • Averted in The Fall: Louise has to fire a modern gun for the first time in order to better protect herself in the wasteland. She drops the gun in shock and pain the first time she fires it.
  • Averted in Contract Labor. One of the mercenaries is left temporarily deaf from firing his rifle inside a cave.
  • Averted with a vengeance in Experimenting Fear. When the nameless Mad Scientist torturing Nando fires a gun twice right next to his head to destroy his eardrums and make him go deaf, we are treated to a graphic description of Nando screaming in pain as blood gushes out of his ears.
  • Zigzagged in The Others. The Clint Barton from the other Earth is deaf due to a flash grenade going off next to his head. Later, he fires a flashbang arrow at the Rogue Avengers in a dark room and no one seems bothered for more than a few seconds.
  • Class of Bun-A: Averted. After Bakugou hits Izuku in the face with his Quirk, Recovery Girl informs Izuku he'll likely have some level of hearing loss on that side.
  • Remnant Inferis: DOOM averts this trope multiple times.
    • While atop an AFV, Ruby's ears are left ringing after being too close to the roof-mounted cannon while it's firing. She is able to adjust though.
    • Both a White Fang mook and Roman have their eardrums burst by close shotgun blasts.
    • When the Slayer lets off a shotgun blast in the elevator to shut the music off, Qrow experiences pain from the loud noise and wonders if he'll eventually start going deaf.
  • Averted in the Daredevil fanfic The Sins of the Father. Matt is rendered disoriented when Bullseye fires a sniper rifle not too far from his head. In a later confrontation, when Matt confronts Bullseye while he and Elektra are crashing Fisk's wedding, Bullseye shoots his rifle at a giant church bell, the loud ringing sound further disorienting Matt. In the subsequent showdown between Matt, Elektra, Fisk, and Bullseye, Bullseye kicks things off by taking Matt as a human shield and uses Matt's left ear to stabilize his pistol as he kills Fisk's bodyguards. This renders Matt partially deaf as he subsequently takes on Fisk in a one-on-one fight, and it is several days before he gets his hearing back.
    • In the climax, Fisk abducts Matt and Elektra with the intention of killing them. While Matt fights Fisk, Elektra gets ahold of a gun from one of Fisk's guards that Matt had just disarmed. At one point, Fisk throws Matt at Elektra, and they pile up in a heap. As Fisk advances on them, Elektra uses one hand to cover Matt's right ear while using the other hand to shoot at Fisk. Fisk's suit is bulletproof though, so the bullets only slow him down briefly before he's able to get within range to disarm her.
  • Averted in Vow of the King. Bambietta's own explosions give her tinnitus, which also makes her immune to Tosen's sound-based shikai.

    Films — Animation 
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame plays this totally straight - while in the novel Quasimodo goes deaf after long exposure to the bells of Notre Dame, in the movie, nothing stops him from bursting into song on a regular basis.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Features in both setup and payoff form in Baby Driver. The (Watsonian) reason for Baby's habit of listening to his iPod at all times is that the car crash that killed his parents also left him with permanent tinnitus. Later, in order to "take away something [he] love[s]" in revenge, Buddy fires a pistol next to each of his ears in turn, deafening him.
  • Played straight in Charlie's Angels (2000); the angels stood in front of huge explosions and get back up without hearing problems.
  • Played ludicrously straight in Double Jeopardy, when the protagonist fires a gun twice while trapped inside a coffin and shows no ill effects other than briefly wincing in pain, even though in real life, she would have been deafened by the noise.
  • In Dredd, Ma-Ma stands in the midst of several miniguns that she and her minions are firing to take down Judge Dredd, but her hearing is perfectly fine afterwards. She still maintains her intimidating whisper throughout the rest of the film.
  • Freaks (2018): Pistols are fired inside houses, and rifles are fired inside a diner. No one seems to be troubled by the noise.
  • Godzilla (2014): Ford Brody appears to be completely unfazed by Godzilla roaring right above him, even though this incarnation's roars are powerful enough to be heard for miles and he's roaring at the top of his lungs.
  • Played with in Guns Akimbo. Miles accidentally fires off a shot from his (literally) wrist-mounted .45 1911s, while struggling to maneuver them to get dressed in his apartment, whereupon he is instantly deafened and stunned to the point of nausea, even narrating how firing a gun in an enclosed space would leave most action movie protagonists talking in sign language for the rest of their film. But after that point, he engages in firefights in all manner of environments, and his hearing is none the worse for wear.
  • Heat both played this straight and averted it in different scenes.
    • In the opening robbery of the armored car, the guards are deafened and disorientated after the robbers use an explosive to blow open the rear of the truck. Cheritto is incredulous when Psycho Party Member Waingro attempts to berate and order the guards around, and finally snaps at Waingro, shouting "Hey slick, see that shit comin' outta their ears? They can't fucking hear you!"
    • The famous bank robbery shootout, which is widely and rightfully considered one of the very the best shootouts in movie history, does play this trope straight. Considering the sheer number of large guns and rifles being used, (shotguns, M16s a couple of Colt M733s, a Galil, and an FNC-80, and that's before we even get to the standard arms of the uniformed cops) and the extraordinary number of shots fired, everyone involved should have been deafened. This goes double for the robbers, who are at one point blasting away with three automatic rifles from inside the confines of a car. There's no way they should have been able to hear the instructions that they shout to each other later, or the quieter moments like when Neil McCauley pleads with his wounded friend Chris Shiherlis to get up and keep going so they can make their escape.
  • The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies: Implied aversion. Bard climbs a bell tower to shoot arrows at Smaug...and we see the bell is ringing directly over Bard's head. After a few seconds he gets a pissed off expression and cuts the inside rope, silencing the bell.
  • Inferno. Langdon is attacked in the hospital by a female assassin, and (due to a head injury) winces in pain from the gunshots as she tries to Shoot Out the Lock.
  • Iron Man:
    • Played straight during Tony Stark's escape from the prison camp at the beginning. Gun battles are noisy affairs in any case, but when you're walking around inside a metallic echo chamber... (Of course, since he's Tony Stark, he probably found the right parts in that CAVE... WITH A BOX OF SCRAPS! to build some kind of sound-damping system.)
    • Later in the film, Agent Coulson uses an explosive to open a door. Civilian Pepper Potts covers her ears while Coulson and his fellow S.H.I.E.L.D. agents do not. Though it was a small explosion, they may have simply known they wouldn't need to.
    • Indirectly supported in the sequel, which has a POV shot of a dazed Rhodey with his War Machine suit shut down accompanied by very muffled audio.
  • James Bond:
    • Averted in Thunderball, as an exploding grenade, sent after diving Bond, makes him put his hands on his ears due to pain caused by the noise.
    • In Moonraker, Bond and Dr. Goodhead escape from underneath a space shuttle. They're only inches away, running through an air vent, yet are completely unaffected by the noise. In real life, not only would they have been left deaf, the noise would probably have been enough to kill them.
    • Die Another Day: During Q's demonstration of the glass-shattering ring, he casually shoots at a plate of bulletproof glass at point-blank range without giving himself or Bond any ear protection.
  • Johnny English Strikes Again: Parodied when English and Bough are caught searching the Dot Calm and need to break themselves out. English reveals he has a secret weapon to breach the lock: a q-tip smoke grenade.
    Bough: That's quite a powerful charge for such a small space, sir.
    English: No, nonsense. [slips the charge into the door] It'll just be a slight pop.
    [The skeptical Bough covers his ears as the grenade goes off, blasting the door off its hinges and out into the hallway]
    Bough: Should we locate the hold and look for the source of that signal?
    English: [deafened by the explosion] I THINK WE SHOULD LOCATE THE HOLD AND LOOK FOR THE SOURCE OF THAT SIGNAL! [Yelling is heard as guards begin moving on their location]
  • The John Wick films play this straight most of the time, but it's rather noticeable with Caine, a blind hitman that can match John Wick himself. His hearing is not explicitly superhuman and he gets himself into many gunfights, yet his ears never get damaged to the point where it affects his fighting skills.
  • Played incredibly straight in Kick-Ass, where Dave has the superpower of "not going deaf when firing two Gatling guns on either side of his head". He could be wearing good earplugs under that cowl.
  • Zigzagged in Kingsman: The Secret Service. Gunfire never seems to bother anyone but a grenade going off indoors leaves Galahad momentarily deaf.
  • Averted in The Legend of Tarzan. León Rom puts his fingers in his ears when his mercenary friends are about to fire tons of heavy artillery at the Opar tribesmen in the film's opening.
  • Mad Max: Fury Road: Downplayed. The movie emphasizes Max going temporarily deaf every time a firearm is used in close proximity to him, but he still rolls through it without any real permanent hearing damage.
  • Averted and discussed in The Other Guys, along with other explosion tropes.
  • Averted at times in Sherlock Holmes (2009). When someone shoots too near to the titular character (and during the explosion of a gunpowder shack), the audience hears what Holmes hears (dampened noises and loud ringing in ears). The aversion doesn't work for every shot, though.
  • The baby in Shoot 'Em Up spends an entire film having guns fired around and beside him, but barely even cries- in reality, it's pretty certain that'd deafen the poor tyke for life... and maybe it has, right from the start, and that's why it doesn't seem to bother him for the rest of the movie. For what it's worth, the baby can be calmed down with extremely loud heavy metal music, which would probably be one of the few rhythmic sounds he'd be able to hear.
  • Snatch.:
    • Averted: Boris the Blade/Bullet-Dodger/Sneaky-Fucking-Russian puts earplugs in before shooting Frankie Four Fingers.
    • Also averted with Solomon's replicas: Although the guns have no bullets, the blanks are loud enough to deafen anyone nearby and break car windows.
    • But not with Bullet-Tooth Tony's sustained Desert Eagle shootout.
  • Split Second (1992): Stone fires his Hand Cannon six inches from Durkin's face to shoot at a giant rat behind him. He's not half-deaf afterwards.
  • Averted in Tears of the Sun where one of the SEALs has obviously had his eardrums burst from the gunfire.
  • Terminator 2: Judgment Day: When Sarah is freed from the hospital, she and John are unaffected by a shotgun and pistol being fired in an elevator. In Real Life, Linda Hamilton put her earplugs in incorrectly and suffered permanent hearing damage.
  • Averted in There Will Be Blood, where the hero's young son is permanently deafened by the loud noise of an out-of-control gas eruption in one of his father's derricks.
  • Tremors: Mostly played straight in Tremors, particularly in the famous rec-room barrage scene. Heather does cover her ears when Burt resorts to the elephant gun, but only to demonstrate that it's even more powerful than the rest of the Gummer arsenal. However, there was a fairly long cutaway between when the graboid breaks in and when Burt and Heather are actually shown shooting, during which they could have easily popped in some earplugs, so there's that.
  • Touched on in Tremors 2: Aftershocks as well, when Burt tells the other heroes to cover their ears when he fires off the BFG he is wielding. (He himself has earplugs.)
  • In the 2010 remake of True Grit, several characters fire their guns in the air with the cylinder only inches away from their ears.
  • In True Lies, Harry fires a bullet past his partner Gibson's face, inside of a vehicle, at a mook coming at them.
  • Under Siege. Gunfights never cause an issue, but when Tommy Lee Jones' character is walking on the deck of the ship when the heroes fire off a 16-inch main gun, he is shown to be deafened and in pain for a few minutes.
  • The Untouchables (1987):
    • The baby in the Baby Carriage sequence.
    • An aversion occurs in the movie as well, oddly enough. When Jimmy Malone is killed, you can hear a baby in the background crying afterwards.
  • Happens in Witness. Harrison Ford's character kills a corrupt cop by drowning him in grain towards the end. He blows another one away with the shotgun taken from the guy who was buried in the grain.

  • Generally averted in Duumvirate but played somewhat straight for the superhuman title characters, who can regenerate hearing damage.
  • There is a simultaneous aversion and straight use of this trope in Utopia 2002 by Lincoln Child. In the end, Dr. Warne, the temporary Badass Bookworm kills a terrorist using a fireworks mortar as an improvised bazooka and stops the terrorist's armored truck by using his pet robot, which is carrying about 10 pounds of flash powder, as a suicide bomber. He is mentioned as suffering from bleeding ears afterwards but other than that, there seems to be no permanent damage. Realistically, noise of that magnitude should have rendered him permanently deaf almost instantly.
  • Averted in A Tale of Two Cities when Miss Pross goes deaf from a gunshot.
  • Averted in the Vorkosigan Saga novel Barrayar. Aral and Kou are both temporarily deafened after a near miss from a grenade in an assassination attempt.
  • Averted in the Gaunt's Ghosts novel Necropolis when a number of minor characters are permanently deafened by explosions. Oddly, in the first book in the series, a number of soldiers from the same regiment were deafened in the exact same way, also "permanently", but the medical procedure for repairing the damage was quick and simple.
  • Averted in the Artemis Fowl series, as the professional gunmen always have earplugs handy if they expect to get into a fight. Artemis picks up on this habit and equips himself and Butler with elvish technology earplugs that seal their ears from sudden loud noises (such as, say, their own sonic grenade trap).
  • Star Wars Expanded Universe:
    • Comes up in a book in the X-Wing Series. Two of the Wraiths, Wedge Antilles and Kell Tainer, kill a probe droid using explosives and are deaf/semideaf for a while afterward, although their hearing returns slowly before the mission is over. It doesn't seem to have caused them problems later on. Of course, this is the Star Wars Expanded Universe. They probably have medical technology for that.
    • Also averted in The New Rebellion. After some bombs go off in the Senate chamber, Leia is deaf for a few days, until she's had some medical treatment. During that period, she lipreads.
  • Lampshaded and justified in Without Remorse. Before he begins his Roaring Rampage of Revenge, John Kelly does some quick practice with his .45 pistol. He considers hearing protection but then decides not to... since he's just modified it with a suppressor and needs to see how well it works. Also occurs later with a suppressed CAR-15 for the same reason. He also forgoes ear protection when practicing with the pistol without the silencer, but only when outdoors and in private. After being through a couple of tours of duty in a warzone, plinking a few cans with a .45 probably won't make much difference.
  • In the Eight Worlds short story "In the Bowl", one of the main characters laments that since they were going on a trip with well-known exploding crystals in the area, they were foolish to forget to pack extra eardrums (this being the future when replacing your parts is easy).
  • Averted in A is for Alibi, the first book in the Kinsey Millhone series. The protagonist shoots someone from inside a garbage can and is temporarily deafened. Later books reveal that the ringing didn't go away for weeks, and her ears never fully recover.
  • Averted in The Hunchback of Notre Dame — Quasimodo eventually goes deaf from near-constant exposure to the huge cathedral bells. Frollo teaches him sign language so he can cope. The trope is played completely straight in the Disney movie, however.
  • Averted in The Hunger Games when the protagonist, Katniss, is deafened in one ear by an explosion and worries that it may be permanent. It's repaired after she wins the games.
  • Averted in Cursor's Fury from the Codex Alera series. Tavi's eardrums burst after he's struck by magic lightning due to the air pressure difference. His life was saved by a bloodstone, but his ears were less fortunate. Played straight later (after a long stint in the healing tub) when they hit him again and he's expecting it; he keeps his mouth open to stop the pressure from blowing his ears out. (It's apparently a common problem among novice fliers, so people knew how to combat it)
  • Both averted and justified in Mercy Thompson. Mercy is deafened by the blast and has to wait for her hearing to return, but her Healing Factor means that she hardly notices any inconvenience.
  • Averted (sort of) in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Aslan warns Lucy and Susan to plug their ears before he lets out a huge roar. Slightly damaging the realism is the statement that while Lucy has her fingers in her ears, she can't hear anything. (Plugging her ears should have damped the noise but not blocked it out entirely.)
  • Sometimes averted in Dragonback. Firing machine guns don't seem loud enough to hurt — though admittedly this is the far future — but there's a point in Dragon and Soldier where something explodes and at first, Jack can't even hear his own voice.
  • Averted in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. It is necessary to wear earmuffs when potting Mandrakes because their cries are fatal. Baby Mandrakes' cries aren't fatal, but they will knock you out for several hours. Despite wearing his earmuffs, Neville faints.
    Professor Sprout: [grumbles] Longbottom's been neglecting his earmuffs.
    Seamus Finnegan: No ma'am. He's just fainted.
    Professor Sprout: Yes, well, just leave him there...
  • Averted in The Elenium during the Battle of Chyrellos. Berit is up in the bell tower of a church keeping watch when a siege machine sends a rock his way. He avoids being hit, but the rock hits the giant bells, causing them all to start ringing. A few minutes later, he is shouting at Sparhawk in the relatively quiet aftermath because he can't hear anything but the ringing. Played straight as well in that a few days later, he shows no signs of permanent hearing loss.
  • Averted in the Sharpe series, as characters usually take time to recover their hearing following battle, and it is occasionally mentioned that battle-hardened characters have permanently (though mildly) damaged hearing.
  • Averted in Monstrous Regiment following the squad's flour-bombing of the kitchen, with their guards lying flat out, stunned and deafened, banging the sides of their heads with their hands, etc.
  • Played straight in Tyrannnosaur Canyon, where one character fires multiple times in a rocky cave with no ill effects. Later another character is shot in the head at point-blank range, but the only concern is a concussion rather than permanent hearing loss.
  • Monster Hunter International:
    • Averted, as with all matters related to guns. The protagonist of the series is involved in several gunfights in enclosed spaces over the course of the first two books and develops permanent hearing loss requiring the use of a hearing aid.
    • In Monster Hunter Alpha, two federal agents are identified as talking in the loud voices of people whose hearing has been damaged by gunfire.
  • In the Wearing the Cape novel Bite Me: Big Easy Nights, the gun shop owner offers ear protection and disapproves when Jacky turns it down — but among her other superpowers, she really does have these.
  • Averted for the most part in the Safehold novels — most characters present when Merlin-improved artillery starts firing have already put their earplugs in.
  • In Beyond This Horizon, set in a future where laser duels are common, the hero digs up an old .45 revolver. His friend knows the hero can draw faster but thinks the slower chemical processes in the ancient gunpowder weapon may give him an advantage in an aiming competition. In the end, he doesn't fire at all because he is so startled by the noise. (They end up comparing fingernail polish colors.)
  • Generally averted in Wax and Wayne. When Marasi fires a gun at a man holding her, she can't hear for a while, and her friends worry that she might have permanent hearing loss. She carries earplugs from then on.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Breaking Bad: Averted in "Negro y Azul" when the Tortuga bomb goes off. The audio becomes muffled as an audible cue to the audience that Hank has been temporarily deafened by the blast.
  • Criminal Minds:
    • Averted in the episode where Hotch is deafened by the explosion of an SUV near him and remains partially deaf for some episodes later (notably, he is present at a shoot-out - when the guns start firing, he goes down screaming in pain).
    • Also lampshaded in a later episode, where the Agents are driving around decked out with MP5 submachine guns in anticipation of a major shootout. Hotch tells Rossi "Try not to shoot that inside the car", to which Rossi remarks "You mean, try not to deafen you?" "Exactly." A few minutes and one ATV-riding, heavy machinegun-equipped unsub later, Morgan and Prentiss show up in an SUV and Morgan shoots the unsub right through his own SUV's window. Prentiss lambasts him for blowing away her eardrums.
  • Averted in The Sopranos when mobster Gigi Cestone shoots someone at point-blank range in a car; the audience knows he feels it when he curses in pain and covers his ears.
  • Averted in Early Edition. The plot of one of the episodes is that Gary can't hear things because he was too close to an explosion.
  • Averted in an episode of Walker, Texas Ranger, where one of his sidekicks loses his hearing after being near an explosion (What? Did you think such a thing would happen to Chuck Norris himself?). He eventually undergoes an operation that restores his hearing, but not before spending time at a school for deaf children.
  • Played with in Friends when Ross and Phoebe are rehearsing scenes with Joey for a detective show. A big bang goes off, and the following exchange occurs:
    Joey: Dude, there's no need to shout.
    Ross: There's just been an explosion, my hearing would be impaired!
  • M*A*S*H:
    • Averted in the final episode, when Father Mulcahy goes deaf after being too close to a shell explosion. It's played for all the drama it's worth.
    • Averted again in an episode where Klinger goes temporarily deaf. When his hearing comes back, Potter says "Too bad your hearing came back. Otherwise, you'd be discharged." Klinger (who will do anything to get out of the Army) says "Huh? What did you say?"
  • The Lost episode "LA X" invokes Shell-Shock Silence by muting soundtrack is muted and a faint whining sound played over it to represent some characters having trouble hearing...but for a couple of minutes, in the aftermath of a nuclear explosion? Not quite enough to get it bumped off this page.
  • Hilariously downplayed in the old campy Batman (1966) series, after the Dynamic Duo escape from Catwoman's giant speaker deathtrap:
    Robin: Holy hearing loss, Batman, I think I'll be a little hard of hearing for a while.
    Batman: What?
    Robin: I said I think I'll be a little hard of hearing for a while.
    Batman: WHAT?
    Robin: I said I think I'll be a little hard of hearing for a while!
    Batman: Sorry, Robin, I think I may be a little hard of hearing for a while.
  • CSI: Miami:
    • Averted in an episode where an explosion in a Meth Lab gives Natalia hearing loss, some of which may be permanent. More, her unwillingness to admit to it has an impact on events later in the season.
    • And yet, played all too straight by Horatio Kane, who finds himself walking calmly away from a massive explosion at least twice per season.
  • Simultaneously averted and played straight in an episode of the '90s Zorro revival: Having caught Don Diego's servant Felipe listening in on their plans, and told it's OK as he's deaf, one bad guy fires his huge musket right beside his ear — at which point another bad guy who was close by mutters "And now I am [deaf] too!" The kicker? Felipe (common to most versions of this character) is only pretending to be deaf, and while he passes the gunshot test, when he's rescued by Zorro a few short hours later he's clearly hearing him normally.
  • Zig-Zagging Trope in Fringe episode "The Box". Peter needed to disarm a device that kills by sound, so he was deliberately deafened by firing a gun next to both ears. By the end of the episode, his hearing is completely back to normal and there's no indication that he's suffered permanent damage.
  • The Walking Dead:
    • Averted in the premiere, when Rick kills a zombie within the close confines of a tank. The blast is so loud, he's stunned by the shock and pain.
    • Played with throughout the series. Andrea has to shoot her turned-sister at point-blank range? No hearing problems, but in a later season Rick warns Carl and Michonne to cover their ears when he has to shoot a walker through an open car window, where he and the others are inside said car, showing at least awareness of this trope from time to time.
    • It's a common fan theory that an aversion of this trope would explain just why zombies keep managing to sneak up on the main characters and why two of the most successful zombie-slayers are the ones who use silent weapons (Michonne with her katana and Daryl with his crossbow).
  • Averted in The Office (US), as Andy's eardrum is burst by Dwight discharging a gun near him.
  • Averted AND played straight (at the same time no less) on the classic Mission: Impossible, in "The Frame". While conning a meeting of the "Syndicate", Rollin Hand pretends to be deaf so he can eavesdrop on the meeting. Naturally, no one believes he's deaf so one of the bigger bosses fires a gun right next to his ear. Rollin doesn't even flinch and makes it all the way back to the kitchen and the safety of the other agents before freaking out in pain (and it takes him obvious time to recover physically).note 
  • Blake's 7. In "Cygnus Alpha", we have people covering their ears against a spacecraft launching directly overhead, and in the previous episode from shockwaves hitting the hull during a space battle. Blake is caught in a Dogpile Of Doom but escapes by firing the sonic gun in his hand, causing his captors to let go to clutch their ears as they're inside a stone-walled crypt. On the other hand, Blake is in that same crypt when he receives a full-on Motive Rant from BRIAN BLESSED without going deaf!
  • Blue Bloods. Danny and his partner draw guns on two thugs in an elevator. All four of them open fire. Despite a scenario that would have undoubtedly left them deaf—not to mention shot—they are of course, unharmed.
  • Without a Trace. An FBI agent gets into a car to negotiate with a kidnapper holding a young boy hostage. The man finally agrees to let the boy go, but then prepares to kill himself. In the ensuing struggle, the gun goes off. No one is affected by the noise, even though all of them—especially the child—would have been in agony, if not outright deafened.
  • Malcolm in the Middle. Malcolm, Reese, and Francis set off and witness a firework explosion so powerful that it literally turns night into day for a few seconds. Afterwards...
    Francis: TOTALLY WORTH IT!
  • Averted and exploited in the first season finale of The Umbrella Academy. Allison has Vanya, who is about to unleash the Apocalypse, at gunpoint. Unable to bear the idea of shooting her sister, she instead fires her pistol next to Vanya's ear. As Vanya's powers are sound-based, the deafening blast disrupts her hold on them and knocks her out for good measure.
  • Luke Cage (2016): Averted in one case in season 2. When Bushmaster attacks the drug lab where Hi-Qing Yang is manufacturing heroin that is being distributed in Harlem with Bushmaster's name on it, Hi-Qing Yang's men open fire on him before Luke intervenes. One of the henchmen is firing a Gatling gun from the back of a van, and he's seen wearing earmuffs.
  • Daredevil (2015):
    • While played straight most of the time, the second episode of season 2 averts it as Matt spends most of the episode concussed and for a period, deaf, as a result of getting shot in the head (the bullet being stopped by his helmet) by Frank at point-blank range.
    • Also averted in the first two episodes of season 3, where Matt has partial hearing loss as a result of his injuries sustained in Midland Circle. The audio during these scenes is lopsided to reflect Matt's predicament.
  • Bosch: Averted in the season 3 adaptation of The Black Echo. When we see Trevor Dobbs and his soldiers, Xavi Moreno and Woody Woodrow, doing sniper target practice in the desert, Moreno and Woodrow are both wearing earmuffs. Moreno is also seen wearing earmuffs when he carries out a sniper attack on Jerry Edgar.
  • Boardwalk Empire: Notably averted in season 3 after Nucky survives the explosion of Babette's. He's concussed and clearly has tinnitus.
  • The Red Green Show: At least one episode ends with Red and Harold yelling at each other due to temporary explosion-induced hearing loss. And local explosives enthusiast Edgar K. B. Montrose suffers from permanent hearing loss, even though a pair of headphones are a standard part of his outfit.
  • Averted in Hawkeye (2021) where it's shown that Clint now needs to use a hearing aid on one of his ears. Unlike the comic's version of the character, who deliberately deafened himself to save the day, here it's a result of long-term sustained damage from all the explosions and other loud noises he was around in his life of being an agent of SHIELD and an Avenger. Humorously, the show even makes a short montage of all the huge explosions and other injuries he's been in the vicinity of and sustained in his line of work, really to just hammer in the Surprisingly Realistic Outcome.
  • Downplayed in the season 2 finale of The Righteous Gemstones. Five men are in a small car with closed windows when a concussion grenade goes off inside; they temporarily lose their hearing, and at least one has blood coming out of his ears. However, their hearing comes back over the course of the scene and there doesn't seem to be any long-term effects.

  • Dino Attack RPG usually plays this trope straight, though notably averted it when Hertz was deafened by a missile explosion during the Final Battle.
  • Averted in the Survival of the Fittest Mini "The Program" with Matt Gourlay a number of times; almost everything he does in the compound takes place in the warehouse, and every time a gun is fired at him (or he fires at someone) he's left deaf, with a headache, and blind from the muzzle flash in a dark building. When John Ferrara steals his gun and kills him, even shooting one round outside causes him to lose some hearing; while practicing at the firing range afterward, it's noted that his hearing had not fully recovered and the subsequent shots seemed quieter.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Potentially averted in GURPS with optional rules that give a hearing penalty to anybody who was close to a gunshot or explosion. It's even possible to permanently suffer the Hard of Hearing disadvantage, and realistic shooting styles usually suggest it as a disadvantage for practitioners.

    Video Games 
  • In general, First-Person Shooter games will either have this or use Shell-Shock Silence effects depending on where it falls on the Sliding Scale of Realism Versus Playability. Most "realistic" military shooters use some form of Shell-Shock Silence effect. That said, this may be excusable in games with characters in the military (or otherwise knowing beforehand that they're going to be around gunshots), as it can be assumed they'd know enough to wear earplugs.
    • The Advanced Combat Environment (ACE) mod for ARMA II and III includes hearing damage. Earplugs are mandatory equipment when playing on servers with the mod enabled. Small caliber arms (e.g. 5.56mm NATO rounds) won't cause audible ringing. However, heavier caliber (7.62mm NATO or higher) weapons, explosions, and vehicle-mounted weapons fire will very quickly result in a loud ringing sound (think tinnitus) that can take some time to dissipate. The mod greatly expands on realistic hazards of the battlefield environment, from blurry vision and coughing when near a helicopter without eye protection, to deadly overpressure zones surrounding a Main Battle Tank's main gun firing.
  • Downplayed in Alan Wake. The first time Alan fires a gun, he mentions his ears ringing in the narration, but it doesn't come up again. Flashbangs, however, deafen him for a second or two.
  • Played straight in Brütal Legend, in which your weapon is Heavy Metal and Noise is one of the elemental forces that was used to create the world (the other three being Fire, Blood, and Metal).
  • In Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, if Carlos is with Jill when the gas station goes up, destroying almost an entire city block, Carlos will complain about his ears ringing, and mention they should both be deaf by now. Similarly, in the novelization, the explosion that opens the game will have Jill in her inner monologue doubting her ability to hear a brass band for a while.
  • Battlefield 3 makes a stab towards this; when you shoot outdoors, your gunshots are loud but manageable. If you shoot inside confined spaces, the gunshots are louder and drown out ambient noise.
  • Averted in the finale of Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth, where deafening yourself with the blast of the BFG is used to solve the last puzzle and defeat the Load-Bearing Boss. Played straight for the rest of the game, though, although madness-effects sometimes distort the audio throughout the game, as well.
  • Company of Heroes: The crew maintaining artillery guns or mortars visibly cover their ears while their weapon fires. However, other infantrymen nearby or even the rest of the crew that are not currently on the the weapon will never do the logical thing of covering their ears as it fires no matter how close they are to it. A lack of hearing protection for the troops is essentially Truth in Television for a World War II game - actual troops would have to make due with whatever they had on hand (including, of course, just their hands) to hope to protect their hearing.
  • Dawn of War: The Imperial Guard's artillery unit is crewed by two guys, who cover their ears whenever firing, suggesting they don't have ear protection. Of course, the Imperial Guard is the faction that considers its soldiers to be worth less than the equipment they carry...
  • Duke Nukem never shows any discomfort firing weaponry, though this trope is lampshaded in the intro to Duke Nukem II. You see Duke at a firing range shooting his pistol freely, while safety glasses and earmuffs conspicuously hang on a Safety Regulation sign behind him.
  • Firefall: You get sort of Shell-Shock Silence on two occasions. One is being at the receiving end of Non-Lethal K.O.. The other is "Crater" ability of Assault battleframes (makes you stomp down with authority from any airborne height, the more the heavier). That's it, numerous explosions of various magnitude from weapons, abilities, mission events notwithstanding.
  • Played with in a mission in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. CJ and Catalina chase after redneck bank-robbers on a quad; CJ's driving, Catalina's shooting while sitting behind him. CJ keeps on berating her shooting right next to his ears, even saying at one point that he thinks he's gone deaf. However, he suffers no hearing loss whatsoever, and all other instances of people being gunners in/on the same vehicle as him go without any mention from him. The difference between Catalina and all other instances is that Catalina is a lot more trigger-happy than the others are.
  • Being too close to an explosion in Half-Life 2 will result in Shell-Shock Silence, along with physical damage. Guns, however, are unaffected.
  • This is averted in Hotline Miami; in the "Tension" chapter, one of the rooms is rigged up to a massive bomb which instantly detonates if Jacket walks through the door. You must fire a shotgun into the room to detonate the bomb and progress, which results in Jacket temporarily hearing nothing except the deafening screech of tinnitus for a few seconds.
  • In the opening of Kane & Lynch: Dead Men, Lynch frees a barely conscious Kane from his handcuffs by firing at the chain with a shotgun about a foot away from his ears. In the real world, Kane would likely be permanently deafened as a result.
  • Justified in Mass Effect: All of your weapons are essentially rail/coil guns firing rounds the size of a grain of sand. Even with the bits of metal reaching relativistic speeds, there would be a small sonic boom but without propellant gas, there would be less oomph to the sound. Explosions still dampen sound when you're hit.
  • The Matrix: Path of Neo has this for the guns and grenades.
  • Monster Hunter: Some of the monsters' roars are so loud that your hunter can't help but cover his ears (which leaves him defenseless for a few seconds). However, there is a skill known as "earplugs" to counter this, as well as High-Grade Earplugs for monsters with roars even more deafening. Some monsters are also very weak against "sonic bombs".
  • The Metal Gear franchise protagonists have next-to-no ear protection, despite the wide variety and stopping power of their firearms and the fragility of their communication earpieces. Whatever is in your ears, it's not visible, while you may be required to fire eight rocket launchers at the same time at a giant mecha with a dinosaur's battle cry.note 
  • Old Sierra Adventure Game Police Quest 2: The Vengeance requires you to go to the target range and adjust the sights on your gun to improve your accuracy. While there, you're required to wear ear protectors, or you get Have a Nice Death when you blow out your eardrums. At one point in the game (at the Cove), it's possible to fire your gun once, at which point the narrator/character will comment, "WOW, that was loud." Firing it twice in that instance will result in another game over from deafening yourself.
  • Averted with flashbangs in the Rainbow Six series, which cause Shell-Shock Silence and temporary blindness to the player character (although this doesn't affect AI-controlled characters), but played straight with guns and frag grenades.
  • In the latter half of Still Life 2, Vic sets off a few pounds of C4 literally ten feet away in a concrete-enclosed hallway with no apparent ill effects.
  • Mostly played straight in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, where explosions and other loud noises are commonplace and nobody reacts to anything but the hitboxes. In one aversion, however, Snake will duck and cover his ears if one of his grenades explodes sufficiently close to him - though he won't react the same way to his forward smash attack, which involves shooting an RPG almost directly at his feet. While Snake doesn't return in Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U, newcomer Duck Hunt — a master of projectiles, one prominent one being an explosive can be fired at and kept in the air by an offscreen marksman — will do the same thing if a shot is fired too close to them, leaving them momentarily vulnerable.
  • Uncharted: Drake's Fortune limits it to explosions.
  • Vindictus has explosive barrels in some areas, which if you are too close when they explode, you lose your hearing for a few seconds.
  • Version 0.9.12 of World of Horror has the "Ringing Ears" curse, which activates if you fire a gun in combat. This slows the protagonist's combat actions for the rest of the current mystery.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Double Homework, neither the protagonist nor Dr. Mosely/Zeta gets any hearing loss after Dr. Mosely/Zeta shoots Dennis.
  • In Policenauts, characters recommend Jonathan use hearing protectors on the range. While you get a different conversation afterwards where he complains that his ears are ringing, it causes no lasting effects, and in the actual game, he can fire his gun freely without worrying about ear damage.


    Web Videos 
  • Interestingly, the man who goes by the name FPS Russia follows the vast majority of gun safety regulations to an admirable degree. That said he very infrequently wears ear protection, though well-concealed earplugs are a possibility. This includes during such instances as firing fully automatic submachine guns at explosive targets, or dual-wielding AA-12 shotguns.
  • Averted and quickly lampshaded in the Machinima series Freeman's Mind, in which the titular character fires a gun in an air vent and promptly receives massive pain and a high pitched keeling, followed by him whining about how he's going to end up deaf at this rate.
  • Played with in Critical Role. Percy hasn't shown any indication of hearing loss, despite the fact that Matt often mentions how loud the shots from his guns are. However, in Episode 27, he fires Bad News in close quarters right next to Vax and Tiberius, and they both have to make Constitution saves. Tiberius fails his and is deafened for a minute or so.
  • The Nostalgia Critic plays this straight and subverts it for Rule of Funny. Shooting his gun wildly in a small space doesn't give him any problems, but Wookie noises and high-pitched teenagers produce visible blood.

    Western Animation 
  • In The Simpsons, Marge worries that the "Spinal Taps" will play too loud and damage Bart's hearing. Homer mocks this because he went to lots of rock concerts and his hearing is just fine. Cut to Homer's perspective: Marge's lips move in almost total silence accompanied by a gentle "Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeee"
  • Subverted in The Boondocks, where, to highlight what an imbecile he is, Ed Wuncler III always forgets to put in his earplugs before an attempted heist, frequently damaging his ears when he fires his shotgun.