When it comes to zombie media, some of us are more serious than others about realism. It’s hard to get into a zombie movie, for example, when our heroes allow themselves to be caught by a group of zombies that move more slowly than an airport security line on the day before Thanksgiving.
If you’re one of those people who’s always had a hard time really enjoying The Walking Dead only because you can’t understand how these generally smart, competent people keep getting ambushed by bands of shuffling, semi-brainless shells of humans, the Internet may finally have a solution to put your mind at rest.
One creative redditor has theorized that Rick, Michonne and the others are vulnerable to zombie surprise attacks because they’re all basically deaf. Continuous exposure to gunfire in confined spaces without any hearing protection has left most of them with terrible hearing. This also means that they constantly have to shout at each other to communicate — and what tends to attract zombies? That’s right, loud noises.
Here’s what our theorist wrote in a Fan Theories discussion:
“In The Walking Dead, walkers can get so close unnoticed because the main characters are all suffering from a large amount of hearing loss from repeatedly firing off guns without hearing protection. Rick went mostly deaf in that tank in Atlanta, everyone else had a similar experience off camera. Now they don’t even flinch when a gun goes off, they’re all deafer than fuck, stomping through the woods, yelling at each other constantly. That’s why they keep attracting walkers, they have no clue how loud they’re being.”
Other redditors backed up this theory with comments like, “This is very plausible. Every time I fire my weapon I immediately know if my hearing protection is in properly,” and “That is the most reasonable and realistic reason for ‘sneaking’ zombies phenomenon in the series and other series. Brilliant theory.”
Movies and TV shows do tend to tone down the gunshot effects most of the time — anyone who has ever fired a gun in real life knows that it’s much louder than Bond movies would have us believe.
In fact, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), “The peak sound pressure level from any firearm is usually sufficient to require the use of hearing protection, even if the gun is fired only one time.” This is why NIOSH recommends that hunters and anyone who regularly fires guns as part of their job (including police officers, members of the military and firing range employees) wear hearing protection.
Considering how many gunshots Rick and co. have been exposed to, it’s a wonder they can hear anything at all, so maybe it’s not so surprising after all that they keep leaving themselves open to undead ambushes.