For shooting enthusiasts, ear protection equipment is a necessity rather than a luxury. The sound that emanates when a gun goes off can be 140dB or louder, which is enough to do substantial damage to your inner ear. If you want to keep your hearing abilities intact, it’s an absolute must to pick up the best ear protection for shooting before you hit the range.
Today, we will talk about ear-pro gears and stress why they are important, and of course, help you pick the finest ear safety wear.
Shockwave, Meet Inner Ear
Guns are part of the American identity. If used the way they are meant to be, they can give you safety, entertainment, and even put food on the table. “Target Shooting in America: An Economic Force for Conservation”-a study done in 2018 by Southwick Associates, revealed the US target shooting industry adds $16.9b to the country’s economy per year.
But, guns can also impact our lives in a negative way. Noise-induced hearing loss is one of the detrimental side effects of using guns. Audiologists warn that continuous exposure to noise levels above 140dB could result in permanent hearing loss. So, it’s very important to cover up your ears adequately when you shoot your firearm.
A gunshot generates a concussive shockwave that clatters your eardrums and sets off a sensation of constant ringing in your ears, which is known as tinnitus. The eardrum is filled with countless hair cells that receive the sound from the surroundings and translates it to electric impulses in our brain. Unprotected gunshot sounds can damage these cells and cause non-reversible hearing impairment.
“Proper” Hearing Protection
The United States Environmental Protection Agency uses the measure NRR (Noise Reduction Rating) to rate the performance of protective earmuffs or earplugs. More on NRR later, but now just know that you need higher NRR ratings for shooting in a closed environment like an indoor shooting range. We would recommend going for something that rates between 28-31.
NRR is not the definitive standard to select an ear-pro gear, however. The best ear protection for shooting is the one that meets the physical and hearing demands of an individual shooter. So, the best ear protection for shooting would vary from person to person. What works for you might not be as effective to the person standing next to you in the shooting gallery.
Why would you need higher NRR numbers indoors? When you are shooting outdoors the sound disperses over an open area, so it goes away quickly. Underneath a roof, the sound reverberates and takes more time to dissipate. Therefore, you require more protection indoors than you do outdoors.
If you have no pre-existing hearing conditions, you can select equipment based on NRR rating and activity orientation. If you have single-sided deafness or want to communicate with others while shooting, go for an electronic earmuff. If you wear glasses, make sure the earmuff doesn’t push it out of place.
Weather is an important factor to consider as well. Nylon and plastic ear cushions would feel extremely uncomfortable in the summer as they will make you sweat more. Air can pass through leather cushions more easily, so they would be a cozier choice in warmer conditions. On the contrary, nylon and plastic would be comfier in winter.
Sizing is also important to ensure proper sealing. Expandable headbands fit across a range of head sizes, so you won’t have to worry much about fitting. If you happen to have a smaller head size, you will face trouble putting on regular sizes. You can try out models aimed at younger users for the correct fit.
10 Recommended Best Ear Protection for Shooting : Best Earmuffs for Shooting Protection
1. Peltor Sport Tactical 500
Peltor Sport Tactical 500 comes with Bluetooth connectivity that enables you to make calls and listen to music without the annoyance of wires hanging around. You can also get dynamic sound suppression from this unit that allows the transmission of natural sounds and dampens gunshot noise to a substantial degree.
The 26dB NRR is resilient enough to keep you safe from the damaging gunfire shots, but thanks to the state of the art voice tracking feature, you will have zero trouble understanding what your range instructor is trying to say or chat with your shooting buddy. The unit fine-tunes itself to the environment and ensures ambient hearing.
This headset folds down to a smaller shape for easier portability. Even when you unfold it to its full size, it will take up minimal space and effortlessly slip over your head. The compact design doesn’t only make it more convenient to store, it also allows you to move with greater freedom while shooting.
Q. Can I install Peltor Gel Cups in these?
Gel Cups for Swat-Tac & ComTac are compatible with Peltor Tactical 500. Other models won’t fit.
2. Peltor Sport Tactical 100
The next item in our best ear protection for shooting list is another Peltor Sport Tactical model. Peltor Sport Tactical 100 is an older release, but it’s still a popular choice for shooters because of its functionality and affordability. This is a piece of ear protection equipment that you can trust to keep you safe both indoors and outdoors.
The 22dB NRR is ideal for low caliber guns, but the low profile design of the earmuff allows it to be used alongside earplugs so that you can get sufficient protection when you are carrying a louder weapon. Compared to other 22dB NRR earpieces, we found out that Peltor Sport Tatical 100 imposes a greater seal.
The volume control knob is easy to turn, you won’t face any difficulties turning it even when you have your gloves on. The built-in microphones facilitate a bona fide stereo experience. The microphones have been merged with inner components so that it doesn’t sprout out and hurt your head every time you put the headset on or take it off.
Q. Will these fit under a military certified ACH helmet?
Yes, you can comfortably fit then under an ACH.
3. Walkers GWP-RSEMPAT Electronic Muff
When engineers attempt to make a low-profile ear protection gear, they face a trade-off between size and safety. Walkers Razor Slim Electronic Muff looks gorgeously slender and as gorgeous as they look, they are perfectly capable of getting the job done when push comes to shove.
The headband material used in this unit is practical. It comes with comfortable padding, so it won’t bother you even if you have to wear it for hours. The band puts a lot of pressure on both sides of your head, which is a good thing because you would want the seal to be as strong as possible.
The 23dB is not the industry leader by any means, but it will prove sufficient in many cases for a shooter. The noise attenuation features kick in after being exposed to noises measuring above 89dB. The reaction time of the earmuff is about 0.02s, which is convincingly fast. The Omni-directional microphones complement dynamic range (High-Definition) speakers for building an immersive communication system.
Q. Do they produce stereo sound?
Yes, the speakers can generate 360 degree sound. You can also regulate the volume using the control knob.
4. Peltor Sport RangeGuard
Peltor Sport RangeGuard Electronic Hearing Protector is a love letter to the fans of the much-acclaimed Peltor Tactical 6S Electronic Hearing Protector. You can easily feel the Tactical 6S vibe as soon as you lay your eyes upon this model and guess what, this model is a rightful upgrade that made improvements in some key areas.
The 21dB NRR doesn’t look much impressive, to be honest. But, a tighter seal ensures your ears remain safe when you use it outdoors, and while paired up with some decent earplugs, you can do some indoor shooting as well. This unit primarily aims at outdoor shooting activities, and they do a pretty good job in non-confined surroundings.
One of the improvements this model has over its predecessor is its new cup design. It feels more comfortable, fits more snugly, and most importantly seals off your ear more effectively. Conversations are also clearer than before. You can actually hear what people around you are saying, rather than picking up fragments of speech.
Q. Can you tell which way the sound is coming from after you put these on?
Yes, you will have great directional awareness of conversation and other normal sounds after you put on these ear-pros.
5. Awesafe GF01
Awesafe GF01 is one of the best ear protections for shooting when it comes to hunting and other open sky shooting events. The 22dB NRR comes into play after your surrounding noise level surpasses 82dB. The Air Flow Control technology makes this gear even more successful in offsetting reverberations, which makes them a formidable gear for indoor shooting too.
The snap-in ear cushions are comfy, but that’s not the best part, you can buy replaceable cushions that will let you use these earmuffs for years. Just as we have seen in some of the other models we had discussed previously, the Awesafe GF01 adopts a low profile cup design that helps to avoid any movement intervention of the stock.
Soft on the inside, tough on the outside: this is the design motto of Awesafe GF01. The interiors are graced with soft foam layers where the exterior insulated with a rugged EVA covering. You also get a carry case with these earmuffs, so carrying them is not much of a trouble, even though they are a bit bulkier than other models.
Q. Can the case hold my protective glasses too?
Yes, the carrying case that accompanies Awesafe GFO1 has ample space to store your protective glasses.
Q. Are these water-resistant?
You can use them in damp and humid conditions. But, exposure to persistent drizzle won’t be a good idea.
6. Caldwell E-Max
From a consumer’s perspective, what makes a product the best ear protection for shooting? It has to be of good quality, it needs to put a mix of offerings on the table, and it has to go easy on the pocket. Caldwell E-Max fulfills all of these conditions and deservingly made its way into our best ear protection for shooting list.
First and foremost, we have to talk about the price of this unit. The price is insanely low, and on top of that, it has a lot to offer. It has a solid NRR of 25dB and an automatic shutoff feature set for 85dB+ noises. The microphones that have been incorporated into each of the earpieces give you the option to choose between mono and stereo sound.
It’s natural to feel skeptical to see such an assortment of features at such a low price. But, if you give these earmuffs a try, you would find that the quality is surprisingly good. Yes, there are shortcomings, of course. The headband is not coated with comfy foam layers and the microphones accumulate a lot of debris over time. But, considering the price tag, it’s worth overlooking those limitations.
Q. Do these earmuffs come with an auto-shutoff feature?
Unfortunately, these earmuffs have no auto shut off feature to preserve battery. You would have to manually turn it off after usage.
7. Howard Leight by Honeywell Impact Pro (R-01902)
It’s impossible to do a best ear protection for shooting article without mentioning Howard Leight Impact Pro electronic earmuffs. Many hold these earmuffs as the gold standard for hearing safety gear. The model has earned the trust of thousands of shooters across the country, with its unquestionable quality.
The unit is marked with a 30dB NRR, which works both with or without batteries. The noise amplification system in Howard Leight Impact Pro is very impressive. The model distinguishes between damaging gunshot noises and non-threatening environmental sounds and helps you analyze your surroundings even better.
The designers have addressed the firearm stock clearance problem with the headset’s modest design. It has been compactly built so that the earmuffs don’t hamper your aiming when you are wielding a rifle or a shotgun. Overall, the ergonomics you will get from Howard Leight Impact Pro could be matched by a select few.
Q. What are the differences between this model and Howard Leight Impact Sport R-01526?
The R-01902 model made several tweaks to upgrade the services offered by the older R-01526 model. It has a superior noise reduction capacity (30dB NRR) compared to the older one (22dB NRR). This is also larger than the R-01526 piece, because of its extra padding.
8. Howard Leight by Honeywell Impact Sport (R-01526)
Howard Leight Impact Sport is another extremely popular ear protection gear from Honeywell, the exclusion of which would have left our best ear protection for shooting piece incomplete. The main objective in developing these earmuffs was to give the wearer ample situational consciousness and hearing safety at the same time.
In this Howard Leight model, two earcups attach with an expandable headband to form a small yet comprehensive electronic earmuff. The cups come equipped with dedicated microphones for producing actual stereo effect and execute environmental sound enhancement tasks with higher accuracy.
The 22dB NRR does enough to keep tinnitus at bay when you are shooting outdoors. Unlike the pro model, you won’t feel the same level of security indoors. But, it can be successfully worn at firing ranges with added protection in the form of earplugs. The whopping 350-hour battery life is another remarkable talking point of this gun accessory.
Q. Are they good for indoor shooting?
Outdoor shooting is the strongest suit of these earmuffs. However, you can wear them indoors with an extra layer of protection. Pair these up with earplugs and you would be fine.
9. Walker’s Razor Slim
These earmuffs predate the Black Patriot edition we had discussed earlier in our best ear protection for shooting article. In terms of specifications both muffs are the same, but buying this version, you won’t get the sleek the Stars and Stripes patch on the headband. If you are willing to brush that aside, then these muffs would be a solid buy.
So, let us reiterate what we love about this piece. The slim design accommodates stock clearance and allows you to solely focus on your target. The Omni-directional microphones, as they are being advertised, are wearable either forward or rearward. This feature comes in handy if you're interested in sounds coming from a particular direction.
The multi-purpose control knob controls the volume of both earpieces and also serves as the unit’s power switch. The audio quality is pleasantly good. You can pick up conversations amid gunshots, and also listen to environmental sounds with more clarity than you would naturally do without any hearing aid.
Q. How much do they amplify sound?
The exact magnitude of amplification is not revealed by the manufacturer. But, it does make the sound more audible. If we were to guess, then we would say it would be at least 3x.
10. ClearArmor 141001
As soon as you lay your eyes on these gorgeous pair of earmuffs, you would realize ClearArmor wasn’t exaggerating claiming the 141001 as “premium industry grade” ear-pro gears. These earmuffs are as heavy-duty as you expect them to be and then some! The thick reinforced foam padding paired with ClearArmor’s proprietary SonicSeal feature accounts for an astonishing NRR value of 34dB.
However, this superior noise protection does come at a price. The close-packed padding material is responsible for top-quality noise insulation. But, it also makes the entire unit bulkier. Yes, it comes in a foldable design, but it would still take up more space in your backpack than other muffs. The tight seal also makes the gear uncomfortable to wear in extended sessions.
But, if you are genuinely concerned about noise protection and feel you would need the best protection for your ears from gunshots or other noisy environments, ClearArmor 141001 is the one you should go for. Besides, they fit very well with protective glasses despite their somewhat gargantuan size which adds to their practicality.
They are perfect to use in safaris and outdoor ranges. As long as you have minimal echoing, you can use this to fire some high caliber weapons without any complications. It doesn’t get in the way of cheek weld or any other shooting position you would like to try.
The communication range is quite big! You can talk with people who are hundreds of feet away from you. The Omni-directional microphones do a good job of pointing you to the source of the sound. Of course, it’s not top of the line, but remember, you are not paying top money for this either. Therefore, we would say the directional awareness is satisfactory indeed.
Q. Are these earmuffs comfortable to wear with protective glasses?
Protective eyewear with thick frames might pose a problem. If you put the earmuffs on while wearing a thick eye protective gear, the rubberized seal will make your headache with increased pressure.
You can rest them on top off the earmuff, but there will be a slight risk of the glasses falling off if you need to make some strenuous movements. If possible, wear thin frame protective glasses for better comfort.
5 Recommended Best Earplugs For Shooting
1. Decibullz - Custom Molded Earplugs
Decibullz-Custom Molded Earplugs are one of the best ear protections for shooting out there. The price is ridiculously low compared to other custom mold earplugs, but the functionalities they have to offer are nothing short of top-notch. Since these pieces are moldable, you can get the perfect seal with these regardless of your body size.
The earplugs come in a silicone tip that goes right into the ear canal and a thermoplastic red exterior that needs to be molded in shape to fit you perfectly. Join the parts and put them in a mug of boiled water. Take them out with a metal spoon minutes later, let them cool off for half a minute, and soak them try using a soft cloth. You can repeat this process indefinitely until you find the right fit.
These earplugs have an NRR rating of 31dB. This makes them suitable for both outdoor and indoor use. They are lightweight and have zero interference with gun positioning, so they are perfect for your hunting trips. On the other hand, they have a sizeable NRR rating to shelter you from the concentrated gunshot noise of an indoor shooting gallery.
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Q. Can I mold these to headphones?
Decibullz Contour ES headphones are compatible with these earplugs. You can mold these plugs to Contour ES easily.
2. Howard Leight by Honeywell Quiet Band Shooting Earplugs
Offering a decent NRR of 25dB, Howard Leight Quiet Band Shooting Earplugs can be a solid candidate to accompany you in your gunslinging adventures. Band earplugs might require a bit of getting used to if you never tried them out before, but once you get habituated, you will find that these are easier to slip in whenever you want as they lie around your neck while not in use.
The ear pods are made of foam and rest comfortably in your ears when you move around. The lightweight build is a blessing for those who like to go out on day-long hunting trips, as you would barely remember that you are wearing something on your ears. The sound isolation properties of these pods are capable enough of muffling loud gunshot noises.
In terms of affordability, you won’t find many other earplugs that are priced lower than these and work just as well. We would recommend pairing these with earmuffs if you want to use them for indoor shooting. But if you want to use them outdoors, these pods got your back no matter how noisy your firearm is.
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Q. Do they cut all background noise?
They dampen the noise so that the noise level reduces to an amiable level. This allows you to keep track of your surroundings, instead of being completely cut out.
3. SureFire EP4 Sonic Defenders Plus Filtered Earplugs
SureFire EP4 Sonic Defenders are a treat to the eye. These beautifully designed earplugs are not limited within their aesthetics, the ergonomics they present are quite mind-blowing too. The business end of the plugs incorporates a screw-like design, which combines with the retention rings to ensure an anchored seal.
The hypoallergenic polymer material used to engineer these plugs makes these plugs exceptionally durable and comfortable at the same time. For fitting perfectly under a helmet or a mask, the plugs come with a low profile design. This particular design attribute also makes it easy to wear headsets or talking on the phone while you have the plugs on.
The noise filtration these plugs have to offer is just exquisite. It takes the edge off of harrowingly loud noises and lets you hear human voice and other natural sounds. This is an intrinsic tactical element for shooters who prefer shooting outdoors and need to keep an eye out for unexpected threats.
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Q. Is it available in multiple sizes?
Yes, you can purchase it in three different sizes-small, medium, and large.
4. Black Bullet High-Fidelity Ear Plugs
Rather than a piece of standalone equipment, Black Bullet High-Fidelity Ear Plugs made their way into our best ear protection for shooting list as the ultimate supplementary piece. Pair these fancy looking earplugs with a decent pair of earmuffs, and you will have an ear protection system that is up for the task in the loudest of ranges.
The pods ship in a well crafted black bullet case made of aluminum. There is a keychain hook in the case, that lets you attach the case with your keychain and take it with you whenever you want, wherever you want. The 21dB NRR can give you an acceptable amount of safety outdoors, but when you are in a louder environment, it would be wise to stack up.
The low profile design makes it compatible with any earmuff, helmet or other protective equipment you would like to wear in a shooting arena. The triple ribbed stem design allows the plugs to plunge right into your ear canals and cover up your inner ear completely. The hypoallergenic material will keep you cozy even if you wear the plugs all day long.
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Q. Can I use these for sleeping too?
You can use these earplugs for a host of other activities besides shooting. However, the manufacturer specifically advises to refrain from swimming and sleeping.
5. OTTO NoizeBarrier Micro High-Definition Electronic Earplugs
OTTO NoizeBarrier Micro High-Definition Electronic Earplugs are a premium pick for in-ear gun safety equipment. These nifty set of earplugs can provide the best ear protection for shooters by keeping the user out of harm’s way in a rowdy firing range and retaining unmitigated situational awareness.
This can give you impulse noise safety up to 40dB. Therefore, you can expect these earplugs to keep your ears safe in any scenario involving gunshots. Despite the high noise resistance, the proprietary Accu-Technology assures you can still pick up essential natural sounds including voice commands.
In fact, the OTTO NoizeBarrier is capable of enhancing ambient sounds by 5 times. Even in the maximum sound amplification mode, the 40dB noise safeguard will continue to protect your ears in full effect. The unit is waterproof and capable of taking some serious wear and tear. These earplugs would suit the most heavy-duty gun aficionados.
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Q. What will be the NRR without using batteries?
You can get 25dB of NRR without turning on your earplugs.
Best Ear Protection for Shooting Buyer’s Guide:
Here is a list of factors you need to keep into consideration while shopping for ear protection gear-
Electronic Or Passive?
You can classify all ear-pro gears into two categories-electronic and passive. Electronic earmuffs are more expensive and offer sound amplification amenities besides serving the primary purpose of safeguarding your ears. Passive earmuffs are simpler and more affordable. They don’t offer much in versatility, but they can do a good job in blocking out noise.
Electronic earmuffs lie on the high-end side of the price spectrum. These are more useful to hunters and soldiers as they enhance your hearing abilities outdoors. Some of these muffs have advanced built-in microphones for communication. Some models also come with Bluetooth connectivity or headphone jacks to enjoy music.
Passive earmuffs don’t have anything to offer other than saving your ears. If electronic earmuffs are considered as the Swiss army knives of earmuffs, passive earmuffs are the regular kitchen knives of ear-pros. They are not fancy, but they get the job done. If you solely focus on the noise reduction part, a passive earmuff would do.
As we have mentioned earlier, Noise Reduction Rating or NRR as it’s more commonly known as is the standard that indicates how effective an ear protection device is in keeping out the noise. Higher NRR numbers imply more protection against adverse sounds. That said, you wouldn’t want to use a high NRR ear protection gear in all conditions.
You need to use protection with lower NRR numbers during al fresco shooting excursions. If you happen to be in the jungle, for example, trying to track down an animal you would need to decipher the natural sounds around you very carefully. NRR ratings from 22 to 27 could be the best to give you optimal sound awareness without compromising your safety.
For shooting indoors, opt for higher NRR.
Will It Hold Up Well?
Ear defenders made of high-quality material will be durable and provide top-notch performance. Heavier earmuffs aren’t necessarily the sturdier ones. There are several lightweight units out there that can take substantial wear and tear. You should also look for a weather-resistant exterior that will remain unaffected by sunlight and rain.
Is The Fit Comfortable?
Without an ideal fit, you can’t expect your ears to be safely insulated from the surrounding noise levels. If the gear doesn’t fit perfectly, the seal will be compromised and put you at greater risk of injuring your ears. So, make sure the gear fits you right before you decide to purchase it.
How Does It Look?
For hunters and soldiers, the appearance of the unit could add to its ergonomics. Camouflage shell ear-pros will help you blend in with your surroundings in the jungle and keep your cover intact. If you put on ear pads that contrast the color of your uniform, you will be easily spotted from distance.
Is It Comfortable To Wear And Use?
Look for season-appropriate materials in the headband. The earpiece has to come heavily padded, otherwise, it won’t be able to protect from obnoxiously loud noises. But too much padding can also cause discomfort in your ear when you put them on for a while. Make sure the internal padding is comfortable and suitable for prolonged sessions.
In the case of electronic earmuffs, the control buttons have to be minimal. A single knob, instead of two different volume control keys, is more convenient. When you need to change the volume immediately, it would be difficult to find the right key. A knob eliminates this problem. Phone connectivity is a welcome addition too.
Earmuffs Or Earplugs?
This is a choice that depends heavily on the intended activity. Earplugs offer greater mobility as they won’t come into the way of your gun or your shoulder when you aim at an object. Earmuffs, on the other hand, will give you superior protection but you will have to be content with a more limited range of motion compared to earplugs.
So, our recommendation would be to use earplugs outdoors since your target would not be fixed and you could benefit substantially with better reflexes. Earmuffs are better indoors because you will be shooting at a fixed target. That said, we must also say you can overcome these mobility issues concerning earmuffs upon regular practice.
THINGS YOU SHOULD CONSIDER TO FIND THE BEST EARPLUGS
Look At The NRR
Yes, the key selling point for earplugs is their flexibility, but you would still need them to deliver when it comes to saving your inner ear from the detrimental noises of a firing zone. You can find some earplugs on sale that have an NRR of 33, i.e. that are capable of lessening the racket by as much as 33dB.
How Comfortable Are They?
A snug fit and a comfy texture-these are the two factors you should be looking at when you are trying to differentiate among earplugs with similar NRR. When you go on a hunting trip, you would need to put your earplugs on for a long time. If you don’t feel comfortable wearing the plugs, they would end up ruining your entire experience.
If the fit is loose the plugs will pop out of your ears and you might not even notice. In that case, your ears would be left exposed to unfiltered gunshot noise. If the fit is too tight, they will make your ears hurt. Also, some of the materials might be sensitive to your skin and cause rashes. So, you would need to take into account what the plugs are made of before buying.
If you are paying big money for your earplugs, then you would want them to go the extra mile and offer you functionalities beyond shielding your ears. The electronic earplugs allow you to alter the NRR values and give you the ideal sound awareness a particular situation demands. There are also some waterproof models, which can also survive extended UV light exposure.
To provide the best ear protection for shooting, manufacturers are throwing in more and more innovative ideas to make their product stand out from the competition. But, you need to keep in mind that you can’t make any compromises to the primary functions of an earplug to get a nifty bonus attribute.
For instance, an introduction of a built-in mp3 player sounds so cool. But, if the noise reduction ability of the plugs has to be reduced to accommodate the mp3 player, it won’t be a wise exchange. First and foremost, earplugs are ear safety articles. Any other functionality has to come on top of that.
How To Protect Your Ears While Hunting!
A US Department of the Interior report shows 101.6m Americans took part in hunting and other wildlife activities in the United States in 2016. We love hunting as a pastime because it’s fun, but it can also be dangerous without taking adequate precautionary measures. Keeping your ears safe from deafening gunshot noises should be one of your priorities.
Even legendary hunters like Nash Buckingham and Elmer Keith had to put up with ear damage issues because of their illustrious hunting career. But using the best ear protection for shooting, you can continue to pursue your passion for hunting without having to suffer substantial ear injury.
We have already expressed our inclination towards earplugs as the ideal hunting ear protection gear. They are smaller, more comfortable to wear and make zero interference with your shoulder and the rifle stock. However, you would need to fork out more money if you want access to advanced features like natural sound boosting.
For those who take their hunting quite seriously, sound awareness is an indispensable matter. Interpreting the sound around you is crucial to navigating a jungle and tracking down a target. Low budget earplugs only focus on the noise-canceling part, which could hamper your hunting objectives. If you have the money and want an immersive hunting experience, go for electronic earplugs.
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Types Of Hearing Protection: Electronic vs. Passive
Electronic Ear Protection Equipment
Passive Ear Protection Equipment
An electronic ear protection equipment has electronic components besides noise absorbing foam padding to provide additional features.
A passive ear protection solely focuses on noise cancellation and is stuffed with noise-resistant padding.
Heavier because of extra circuitry.
Lightweight because they have no additional built-in components.
Cheaper than electronic ear-pros.
More suitable for outdoor shooting activities because of communication and natural sound amplification features.
More suitable for indoor shooting activities because they can muffle noise and vibration to a greater degree.
Tips To Buy The Best Electronic Hearing Protection
Make Sure You Need One
Yes, electronic earmuffs are great gadgets to have at your disposal. But for some shooters, they could be an overkill. If you mostly shoot indoors and when you do go outdoors you prefer to shoot alone, then you wouldn’t need an electronic gear. The entertainment features in these pieces could be distracting for some shooters, and if you happen to be one of them, then you should settle for a passive one instead.
One of the finest features electronic hearing protection gears have to offer is the variable NRR. Some of the models allow you to choose the level of NRR that suits best in a certain situation. If you own one of these you won’t have to buy separate protective earpieces for different purposes.
In the case of fixed number NRRs, you can choose between 22-27dB for outdoors and 28-31dB for indoors. This would often vary based on personal preferences, so make sure you are getting the level of protection that you feel home at.
Sound Regulation and Communication
For us, this is the make or break point for an electronic ear-pro device. The key reason to invest in an expensive pair of electronic earpieces is to enjoy some premium features, sound awareness and communication features have to be on top of that list because they could be a game changer when you are hunting in groups.
While hunting, following the natural sound is key to reading the situation. A good electronic ear pro device should amplify these sounds profoundly and give you a better understanding of your environment. Also, the built-in microphones in some models accommodate tactical communication with your fellow shooters, which adds an extra dimension to your adventure.
frequently asked questions(FAQ)
1. What is Noise Reduction Rating (NRR)
If you are new in the hearing safety world, then the term Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) might seem a bit perplexing to you. NRR is an American National Standards (ANSI) approved benchmark that indicates the efficacy of an ear safety article. Types of protective equipment with higher NRR numbers offer greater protection against harsh noises.
When you put on a pair of protective earpieces, the level of noise you would be susceptible to will depend on the device’s NRR values. However, do remember that NRR doesn’t represent the exact number of decibels your earmuffs or earplugs can suppress. There’s a simple formula to derive the exact protection in decibel terms you could get from your gear.
Let’s say you are operating a chain saw that generates 100dB of noise and you have NRR 30dB ear-pros on. The level of noise you are exposed to is not (100-30) 70dB, you need to apply the following formula to get the actual noise reduction-
Actual Noise Reduction= (NRR-7)/2
For this particular example-
Actual Noise Reduction= (30-7)/2= 7.5dB
Therefore, you would be exposed to a noise level of (100-7.5) = 92.5dB
Some users prefer stacking up on ear-pros, they put on earplugs and then cover them up with an earmuff. In such scenarios, adding up the NRRs of both pieces of equipment would be incorrect. Simply add 5 with the highest NRR rating and you will have the NRR for the combined unit.
For example, if you put on a pair of 33dB earplugs and then wear a pair of 28dB earmuffs on top of them, then you would have to add 5dB with the NRR of the highest NRR equipment, which is 33dB in this case, to calculate the total NRR of the combination. Therefore, the NRR of the combined unit would be 38.
2. How Loud Can A Gun Really Be?
Guns are loud-you don’t have to be an expert to reach that conclusion. You might have seen assassins taking out their targets silently using gun silencers, but in reality, silencers can only suppress the sound of a bullet as bullets often break through the air faster than the speed of sound. Without using weaker ammunition, gunshots will be always annoyingly loud.
So, how loud we are exactly talking? Experts say sound levels above 140dB can impose significant damage to your ears. Almost all firearms generate noises beyond that threshold. An apparently harmless looking Ruger 10/22 cranks out 143.4 dB, while a Glock 17 and a Winchester Model 70 goes above 160dB per shot.
3. Is Electronic Shooting Ear Protection Better?
That’s a tricky question. Yes, electronic shooting ear-pros might seem more appealing as they pack some fantastic features, but that doesn’t necessarily make them superior over their passive counterparts.
Some users prefer the simplicity of passive ear-pros over electronic ones. They are lightweight, easier to use, and can offer the level of protection a similarly rated electronic earmuff can provide.
Both types of ear protection have their dedicated fanbases. There are some who would not hesitate switching between the two regularly, but there are some who have become overly reliant on a single type.
So, you can’t really say electronic shooting ear protection is better than passive ear protection and vice versa.
4. How Many Decibels Should Shooting Ear Protection Reduce?
For shooting purposes, we recommend using ear protection articles with NRR ranging from 20+ to 30+. Ear-pros that are rated below 20dB, offer very little protection to gunshot noises as they are louder than other sources. Hearing safety wears with less than 20dB NRR can muffle the sound by 6dB or less, which is insufficient.
The best ear protection for shooting varies across different scenarios. You would need a stronger noise defense system in places like a shooting range, where the surrounding is confined and the sound would come back as echoes. NRR above 28 is our suggestion for such situations, which will give you double-digit numbers in noise reduction.
In outdoors, you would need a bit more sound passage through the earpieces to interpret your environment properly. So, you should aim for lower NRR numbers when you are picking an ear-pro for your open-air adventures. 23-28dB is our preferred range of NRR for outdoors, as we feel they strike the perfect balance between safety and awareness.
5. What Ear Protection Does The Military Use?
Military personnel need to use the best ear protection for shooting to keep their hearing abilities in tip-top shape on the battlefield. Ear protection is an integral part of modern warfare nowadays, but you would be surprised to know that it is a recent realization and troops fought with unprotected ears even in the First Gulf War.
Military-grade ear protections are not something we civilians are accustomed to. Earplugs and earmuffs that are manufactured for non-military usage prioritize sound blockage above all. There are sound amplification features in electronic gears, but they are not advanced as the noise filtration systems you would find in a military earpiece.
The noise filtration system is the highlight of any military ear-pro. Instead of cutting off the noise completely, it focuses on the types of sound you need to hear and the types you would want to avoid. If an IED goes off and an insurgent crawls out of cover to take you down, you would want to muffle the IED sound but would want to enhance the sound of your enemy approaching.
A pair of protective earpieces suited for war zone ambiance is capable of executing that task perfectly. Hunting ear-pros also have similar features, but military headsets offer much better precision in this regard.
6. Are Earplugs Or Earmuffs Better For Shooting?
Again, the answer to this question is heavily dependent on personal preferences. Both earplugs and earmuffs have their share of advantages and disadvantages. It is very much possible to get around the inconveniences and make the best out of each gear. If you are yet to decide on which one to side with, this section might help you choose.
Earmuffs now come in a universal size that will fit most people. So, you are almost guaranteed to have a comfortable fit wearing a pair of earmuffs. Since they enclose your entire ear, they manage to catch heat which will be comfortable during winter but will make your life more difficult in the summer.
Earplugs are more compact, and they fit right into the ear canal. This is the most sensitive part of your ear that needs protecting, and since earplugs sit on your ear canal, they do provide greater security to your inner ear than earmuffs. That said, the sizing has to be right for the plugs to stay inside your ears otherwise, they will be a hassle to deal with.
Earmuffs might get in your way if you need to move around and shoot in different directions. Earplugs offer better mobility because of their compactness. In our opinion, earmuffs are the best ear protection for shooting when it comes to recreational indoor shooting. But, for outdoors, we would go for earplugs.
7. Can I Use Noise Cancelling Headphones For Shooting?
Noise-canceling headphones are great to help you doze off in a crowded bus, but the intensity of a gunshot sound would be far too intimidating for their circuitry to handle. You should use a hearing safety gear that has been purposefully made to attenuate gunshot noises to a tolerable level.
If you have been shooting without ear guards and are yet to feel any hearing difficulties, then you might think noise-induced hearing impairment is a myth cooked up by ear-pro sellers, or your ears are immune to such bombarding levels of noise.
But, the truth is, your ears are taking a hit every time it gets exposed to gunshot noise without proper protection. And somewhere down the road, you would be able to realize what serious damage you have done to your ears over the years.
So, it’s important to use the best ear protection for shooting before it’s too late. Guns are a healthy passion as long as you use them responsibly and take care of yourself while using them. Cover up your ears and enjoy the gift of guns and hearing for years to come.
I have been using the Howard Leight compact version of these for some time. It has been my go to hearing protection. However, I am working several days a week at an indoor police range. Indoors, sound is reflected off the baffles and walls. Add 13 simultaneous shooters or rifles and it can get pretty loud. So, I purchased the PRO version as it has a NRR of 30.