Zombies are terrifying for many reasons, and if they gather into huge numbers and corner you in a vulnerable location it probably isn't long until they're chowing down on man-sushi.
However, luckily, one asset the undead horde doesn't have on its side is athleticism, and a slightly brisk walk is probably enough to keep out of reach of the shambling ghouls.
Despite this, the members of The Walking Dead gang are constantly finding themselves surprised and ambushed by hobbling, increasingly decomposing, walkers. But how can this be? Surely, they can now be easily avoided? Well, one redditor has a pretty convincing theory to explain this seemingly unlikely phenomenon.
The redditor in question, named fuckyoubarry (no word on who Barry is or what he's done to offend our fan theorist) claims that the zombies are able to creep up on Rick and co. because they've all been rendered near deaf through continual gunfire in confined spaces. Furthermore, the fact their hearing is damaged also means they constantly shout to each other, attracting the undead. Here is his theory verbatim:
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.
There's quite a bit of evidence to back up this theory, and anyone who's fired a gun will know the sound is often much louder than movies and television shows have taught us.
In fact, according to The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), hearing protection should be worn by anyone who regularly fires live ammunition as part of their job, including police officers, military personnel and firing range employees. Generally, any sound over 140 dB will cause damage to a person's hearing and the NIOSH recommends not exposing yourself to more than one 140 dB event per day. They also found out that most gunshots range from 144 dB, for smaller caliber weapons, to around 172 dB for a 0.357 caliber revolver (the same as Rick's Colt Python sidearm), meaning all gunshots will damage the firer's hearing.
For example, the moment below probably would temporarily deafen everyone in the room:
This effect is even more marked indoors, where the reverberation of the gunshot heightens the sound pressure level. In fact, even with basic ear protection, the NIOSH suggests police officers should only fire 1-10 shots at an indoor range per day. Considering the amount of shooting nearly all the members of The Walking Dead gang have been doing, both in- and outdoors, it's not unlikely they have permanently damaged their hearing.
But Does That Mean The Actual Actors Are Therefore Also Deaf?
Since the 1950s, almost all gunshots heard in film and television have been added in post-production, although there rare examples, such as Heat's famous street shootout, where this is not the case. You can watch that famous action scene below:
In reality, the actors fire blanks which have been adjusted to have reduced noise levels (and sometimes more dramatic muzzle flashes) and therefore reduce the risk of hearing damage. Others might also be wearing flesh colored in-ear protection which is hard to see on screen, especially if they're firing weapons inside a vehicle -- which can be particularly loud. Alternatively 'non-guns', which are battery powered prop guns that ignite a small squib, are also used if actors are very close to each other. Finally, actors can simply pretend to fire and wait for everything else to be added with CGI, although as the GIF below shows, that doesn't always work right.
So, yes, this might be one fan theory which could turn out to be actually true.