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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) can cause pain and permanent hearing loss. That's why people at a shooting range typically are required to wear earplugs, 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 less often in media.


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 from trying to outrun a fireball or surviving a shootout. note  And no one wants to see him putting in earplugs or wearing gigantic earmuffs, 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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  • Air New Zealand Safety Videos: The Western portion of "Safety in Hollywood" has Anna Faris and Rhys Darby filming a Showdown at High Noon. Anna keeps telling Rhys to "Draw!" but he's got hearing damage from all the gunfights he's been in. "Or? Or what?"

    Anime & Manga 
  • Comically averted in Berserk, when Isidro and Puck view a ship battling from its deck. The sound from the cannon fire severely impaired their hearing, making them unable to realize how loud they're talking. When the rest of their group is in the middle of one, they cover their ears and Puck is suddenly wearing earplugs.
  • Averted in City Hunter in a funny way, Ryo Saeba uses bullets in his ears as earplugs.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In Death Note, 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 
  • 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.
  • Averted in The New Universe series Justice: The title character rescues a baby from an explosion (caused by the events of The Pitt) that wipes out a city park. After finally bringing the baby to safety, 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.

    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.

    Films — Animation 
  • The animated movie of 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 wonderful melodious song on a regular basis.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In True Lies, Harry fires a bullet past his partner Gibson's face, inside of a vehicle, at a mook coming at them.
  • In the 2010 remake of True Grit, several characters fire their guns in the air with the cylinder only inches away from their ears.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 SHIELD 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.
  • 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.
  • Averted in the realistic movie Black Hawk Down, when one character is left mostly deaf for the rest of the movie after a 5.56mm M249 squad automatic weapon is fired from within a foot from his head. Also happened to SPC Nelson in real life, though he was able to recover about 15 hours later. Note that the Ranger who is deafened by the machine gun had not five minutes earlier instructed his partner not to fire the gun so close to his ears. The partner disregarded that because the alternative was to let a Somali militiaman shoot at them unopposed.
  • Averted in The Fugitive (1993). When Gerard shoots and kills Copeland (who is holding Deputy Noah Newman hostage), Newman tells Gerard he's suffering partial hearing loss in his ear.
  • The Untouchables:
    • The baby in the carriage sequence.
    • An aversion occurs in the movie as well, oddly enough. When Malone is shot, you can hear a baby in the background crying afterwards.
  • 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.
  • Averted In The Kingdom when a female FBI agent falls to the ground in pain when someone fires a .50 calibre machine gun over her head. She expresses worry that it blew out her eardrum, and is temporarily deafened by it.
  • Averted in Cop Land, in which the sheriff is purposely deafened by a gunshot and the last scene is showed mostly from his perspective of having no hearing.
  • Averted in Tears of the Sun where one of the SEALs has obviously had his eardrums burst from the gunfire.
  • Saving Private Ryan:
    • A nearby explosion during the opening amphibious landing and final battle causes shock and ringing in the ears of Tom Hanks' character.
    • Not only that but the way they finally find Private Ryan is through information from a soldier whose hearing was damaged by a grenade and is yelling all the time as a result.
  • In the Soviet film Come and See, the protagonist suffers ringing in the ears after the Nazis shell the partisan camp.
  • Averted in Jacques Audiard's Un Prophète. As the main character is temporarily deafened, the sound of the film is dulled and only the protagonist's voice can be heard loudly and clearly.
  • Averted in My Fellow Americans. When one of the characters fires a handgun he has appropriated from the pilots of their helicopter into their radio, thus ensuring no communication, it results in pain and reprimands from his nearly-deafened companion.
  • Averted in Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song where the police try to torture Sweetback's location out of the owner of the brothel where Sweetback lived and worked (information he doesn't have) by firing a pistol right next to his ears, which destroys his hearing.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 the sequel 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.)
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Averted in Cecil B. Demented; Chardonnay fires her shotgun at one point while wearing headphones(on the movie, she's in charge of sound), and immediately regrets it.
  • Averted in The Guns of Navarone when the guns' loading crews, just before the firing, form up in ranks and on order cover their ears and open their mouths.
  • Averted and discussed in The Other Guys, along with other explosion tropes.
  • Averted in Children of Men when the protagonist is left with ringing ears for a while after a bomb goes off nearby. His former lover and current terrorist/freedom fighter tells him to enjoy that ringing while it lasts because once it stops he'll never hear that specific frequency again.
  • Played straight in 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 Looper after Kid Blue has an accidental discharge while Gun Twirling his Hand Cannon; everyone clutches their ears in pain while the gunshot echoes around the room.
  • Averted by The Operative in Serenity after Inara's incense turns out to be a disguised flash-bomb.
  • Averted in one scene of Rambo IV. During the final fight, the female missionary who is beside the Friendly Sniper cries out and covers her ears while the fight ensues. Many viewers assume this is simply her reacting to the violence around her. It is in fact due to the noise of the sniper's rifle. Those who have ever been next to an extremely powerful firearm such as a rifle chambered in .50 BMG know that the report coming out of the muzzle is EXTREMELY loud (especially since the weapon includes a muzzle-brake which reduces felt recoil, but effectively turns the volume Up to Eleven). To put it into perspective a rifle like that creates a concussion from the muzzle that can be felt on the skin from several yards away. She's not crying out in terror, she's crying out in pain.
  • Played straight in Charlie's Angels (2000); the angels have stood in front of huge explosions and get back up without hearing problems.
  • 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.
  • Averted in Mr. Holland's Opus during the parade scene, when the fire truck sounds its powerful air-horn. Young children are crying from the pain, and even many adults are visibly wincing, but when Iris turns to her stroller to check on Cole, she finds him still sleeping peacefully, which is her first clue that Cole already is almost entirely deaf.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Split Second: 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 Wonder Woman (2017) where Diana is temporarily deafened out by an explosion and can't even hear Steve's Parting Words, including a Love Confession.
  • Averted in 10 Cloverfield Lane. When Howard shoots Emmett, Michelle experiences Shell-Shock Silence from the gunshot in a confined bunker. Howard, however, is already wearing earplugs (a sign that he intended to kill Emmett all along) so is unaffected.
  • 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.
  • The Siege: Averted with Anthony Hubbard during the bus bombing. When the terrorists blow up the bus, the shockwave hits him full force as he's not hunkered behind the protective cover of a car, and he hits his head on the pavement, leaving him with tinnitus. Based on the fact that Frank Haddad runs up to him and holds a finger up to Hubbard's face to check his eye coordination, it's possible Hubbard also has sustained a concussion.
  • Dan Brown's 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.
  • Zigzagged in Kingsman: The Secret Service. Gunfire never seems to bother anyone but a grenade going off indoors leaves Galahad momentarily deaf.

  • Generally averted in Duumvirate, but played somewhat straight for the superhuman title characters who can also 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, where Miss Pross goes deaf from a gunshot.
  • Averted in Lois McMaster Bujold's 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, where a number of minor characters were 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, where 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 the Tom Clancy novel 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 with 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 John Varley's 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 Sue Grafton's 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 by Victor Hugo — 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 by Suzanne Collins, 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 of 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 the werewolves' super healing factor means that they hardly notice 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 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.
  • Pretty much averted in the Sharpe series, where 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 Marion G. Harmon's 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 Heinlein's 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.)

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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 James Bond type movie. 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.
  • ZigZagged 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 by the shooter in season 2. When Bushmaster goes to 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 a man firing a Gatling gun of the back of a van, and he's seen wearing headphones.
  • Daredevil (2015): While played straight most of 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.
  • Boardwalk Empire: Notably averted in season 3 after Nucky survives the explosion of Babette's. He's concussed, and clearly has tinnitus.

  • 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.

    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 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 Up to Eleven 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.
  • 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 sort of 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.
  • 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's probably not a loud BANG to accompany each round being fired. Explosions still dampen sound when you're hit.
  • The Matrix: Path of Neo has this for the guns and grenades.
  • Averted in 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".
  • Old Sierra Adventure Game Police Quest 2 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 Wii U and 3DS, newcomer Duck Hunt — a master of projectiles, one prominent one being an explosive can 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 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 Animation 
  • 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.

    Web Comics 

    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 in Freeman's Mind, when Gordon mistakenly shoots a headcrab inside an air vent, which results in a loud ringing noise that we get to hear for a few seconds.
  • 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.
  • Averted in Archer, as people (usually Archer) getting temporary hearing loss from gunshots or explosion when they forget their earplugs is a Running Gag, to the point that Archer thinks he may be developing tinnitus.
    • In one episode, Lana drives the point home when Archer's flirting with an attractive actress on the firing range without ear protection.
    • In another, both she and Archer are deafened when he mistakes a frag grenade for a smoke grenade, and can only talk to one another after they pay a visit to Lana's ear, nose and throat doctor.
      Archer: Seriously, I have to sleep with a fan on.
    • Bizarrely, Archer seems to have obtained permanent hearing loss that is somehow purely beneficial: he was able to repeatedly fire off a gun in someone's face to get them to agree to his terms while noting he barely even hears the same sounds, yet he's never shown to suffers from inability to hear regular sounds.
  • Averted on one occasion in the South Park episode "Imaginationland Part 1" when the terrorists blow up part of Imanginationland and shoot characters. We then cut to a scene of total silence in a shoutout to "Saving Private Ryan" as destruction and bloodshed occurs, then Kyle makes his way to find Stan and we hear ringing as Stan's hearing is coming back.
  • Averted in the Gene Deitch Tom and Jerry short "Sorry Safari"; Tom's master punishes him by wrapping a gun around his head and firing it, at which the cartoon goes completely silent. Tom then tries to pick at his ears until the sound returns.

    Real Life 
  • Gunners in the British Army are issued ear defenders to protect from the sound of the chonking big gun going off when you're stood right next to it - but they make it hard to hear orders, so they generally only cover one ear permanently during fire missions.
  • Actor Tim Barlow, while serving in the British Army, was left profoundly deaf from firing a high-powered rifle.
  • Modern earplugs that can allow different amounts of sound into the ear via switches are issued for 21st century US ground troops (and presumably others). However, many soldiers prefer to leave them out and risk eardrum damage if it means a better chance of hearing something that happens to be both quiet and vital to his or her survival, not to mention it's one less piece of kit to hassle with in a warzone. Colonel Kathy Gates, audiology consultant to the US Army surgeon general, stated in an Army Times article that soldiers who wear the issued earplugs properly are protected from most hearing damage.
    • The USMC experimented with issuing every single Marine a suppressor in 2016, even on the heavy machine guns. The result was drastically improved comunication.
  • The Spokane, Washington Police Department suppressed all of its rifles in 2016, noting that the suppressors were cheaper than paying out disability claims for hearing loss.
  • Range Safety Officers, who spend their most of their entire workday on the firing range keeping an eye on things, often play it very safe by wearing both earplugs and earmuffs.
  • Orchestras:
    • In orchestras, players who sit in front of the trumpet section are issued earplugs because if you sit in front of any decent trumpeter when the music gets loud and/or intense, you face the very real threat of having your eardrums ruptured.
    • Some orchestras will put pieces of plexiglass between the brass players (especially trumpets and French horns) and those who sit in front of them. In a decent concert hall, it will make no difference to the sound in the audience, but it can help keep your bassoonist from being deafened when the horns play "Bells Up."
  • William Shatner suffers from tinnitus because of standing too close to explosions going off on Star Trek, as did the late Leonard Nimoy and DeForest Kelley. The last specifically from the FX explosions at the beginning of "Arena".
  • Danny Elfman suffers similarly from hearing loss due to his days in Oingo Boingo.
  • Many rock and roll musicians, especially from the days before it was common practice to include earplugs. Special mention though to Pete Townsend of The Who, who is now nearly completely deaf as a result of being too close to Keith Moon's drumkit when he blew it up, and Roger Daltrey says that his and Pete's respective hearing losses began in opposite ears because they were facing each other at the time it exploded. And all that guitar as well...
  • This is the reason that drummers and guitarists generally wear some kind of ear protection while practicing or rehearsing (and during modern studio recording which isn't being videotaped/recorded, a commonly used trick is the aforementioned switch earplugs or to wear earmuffs that are combined with headphones — that reduce the sound allowed in to a non-damaging level — IF the band is rich enough to afford either, which a lot of starting bands aren't). The only problem is that none of these tricks (short of the earplugs, for a drummer who isn't very visible) work onstage and in recorded studio lives, meaning that while some hearing damage is lessened (because it is cumulative, and every little bit you can reduce helps) most hard rock / heavy metal musicians will end up with some by their 40s or 50s unless they take long breaks or are just very, very lucky. Singers are the worst affected because they usually can't wear ear protection even while practicing or rehearsing and their own voice can even do the damage (as with Kyo of Dir en grey, who ruptured an eardrum with his own screams). Bassists are next, as they generally can't wear ear protection during rehearsal since they have to keep time with the drummer — which also puts them closest to the loudest and most likely to cause said damage part of your average band short of standing directly in front of a guitar amp or a particularly loud screamer's face.
  • A real-life aversion of this can be seen with astute observation while attending an air-show. When the military jets do their low and fast flyovers, one will notice children in the audience often cover their ears. Unlike the adults, who by that point have sustained enough cumulative hearing loss that the sound does not hurt their ears. Thanks, loud music.
    • Also at race tracks, especially the "minor-league"note  tracks where you're only a few yards from the track. Those cars are loud. AC/DC frontman Brian Johnson had to quit a tour because driving race cars without earplugs threatened him to go deaf.
    • The key is not just in the loudness but the spectrum. Hearing degenerates with age in any case, and older ears do not pick up the higher frequencies at all. The kids, who have the full range, probably absorb more energy and/or are hearing parts of the engine's "scream" that the adults don't. It's also the reason why children are better at hearing bats in their caves; the squeaks are mostly well outside the range of human hearing, but the bats' lower end of emission overlaps better with children's upper range of reception.
  • Locomotives in the U.S. use loud air horns which most places require engineers to blow when they go over crossings as well as in emergency situations. While most modern horns are mounted toward the middle of the locomotive, in the past, they were mounted right above the cab. Since most cabs lacked air conditioning, the windows were left open. Naturally, a lot of old engineers have at least some degree of hearing loss. Nowadays, cabs are insulated and air-conditioned. Hearing protection is also mandatory when the cab window is open. As with jet aircraft, you'll often notice that it's children who cover their ears when a train blows its horn.


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