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I think we can all agree that we’d love to keep our sense of hearing for our entire life. After all, I’m sure you know someone who has a tough time hearing and can barely carry on a conversation. There are many different things that can damage your ears, but if you do a lot of hunting with firearms, there’s one simple thing you can do to avoid hearing loss and make sure you don’t have to wear hearing aids later in life: wear hunting ear protection.
Any noise louder than 85 decibels can cause permanent hearing loss. I cannot state this strongly enough: if it is loud enough, a single gunshot can cause immediate hearing damage. For reference, a gunshot is about 130-180 decibels (give or take).
While noise induced hearing loss and tinnitus are both permanent, the good news is that it’s also preventable.
The Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) of ear protection describes how effective it is. Basically, a higher NRR means that hearing protection does a better job reducing your exposure to really loud noises.
However, you should keep in mind that some firearms produce a pressure wave strong enough cause hearing loss by damaging the bones behind the ear, even if the ear canal is protected by an ear plug. This is particularly true for people shooting indoors or those exposed to repeated shots from shotguns or rifles (such as waterfowl hunters or hunting guides). While ear plugs are certainly better than nothing, ear muffs are actually the most effective shooting and hunting ear protection you can wear.
So, to avoid permanent damage to your hearing, it is important that you wear appropriate ear protection when shooting or when exposed to other noisy environments. Luckily, this task is much easier than many people assume and there are a lot more good quality options for hearing protection while hunting than there used to be.
In this post, I’m going go over some of the best hunting ear protection products that you should be wearing afield to safeguard your hearing.
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What’s the best hunting ear protection? Hands down, it’s AXIL GS Extreme electronic ear buds. They amplify quiet noises, block loud noises, and have 5.0 bluetooth connectivity. They are also extremely comfortable to wear for long periods of time and won’t affect your cheek weld when shooting a long gun.
These electronic ear buds are a little more expensive than basic electronic ear muffs, but they’re actually quite a bit LESS expensive than some of the electronic ear plugs I also recommend in this article.
Like other forms of electronic hearing protection, AXIL GS Extreme ear buds provide excellent performance by blocking loud noises and amplifying all other sounds. AXIL advertises 6x hearing enhancement with the GS Extreme and a NRR of up to 29.
So, not only will they protect your hearing from loud noises, but they actually improve it as well. This is the best of both worlds when it comes to hunting ear protection.
At the range, electronic ear buds protect the hearing of the shooter, but still allow him or her to hold a normal conversation with another person. While hunting, this allows the user to hear all the little sounds he or she needs to hear, like the snap of a twig made by an approaching deer.
The GS Extreme comes with several different foam tips of varying sizes. It is very important that you take the time to choose the tips that fit your ear properly. However, they work GREAT and are very comfortable to wear for hours at a time if you use the correct tips for your individual ear size.
Just slip them on at the beginning of a hunting trip and wear them until you’re done hunting. You’ll get hearing enhancement that will help you hear an approaching animal and won’t have to fumble around and put on ear protection before taking a shot.
The fact that they also offer bluetooth connectivity is also awesome because that gives you the option of listening to music or podcasts on your phone with them. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend doing that while you’re out hunting, but it’s a nice feature when doing something like mowing the lawn.
All things considered, I consider AXIL GS Extreme ear buds to be well worth the money as hunting ear protection, especially considering the fact that they only cost a little more than traditional electronic ear protection.
Click the button below to get the best pricing on these ear buds (up to 65% off MSRP).
While I think the AXIL GS Extreme is the best hunting ear protection, I think Howard Leight Impact Sport electronic ear muffs are a great value option. Like the AXIL GS Extreme, these muffs block loud noises and amplify quiet noises. However, the Impact Sport electronic ear muffs also protect the bones of hearing behind your eardrum from damage caused by the pressure wave produced by gunshots.
They also have a slim profile that won’t affect your cheek weld when shooting a long gun. They’re also very easy and simple to properly use and have adjustable headband that will fit a wide range of users.
The Howard Leight Impact Sport is slightly more expensive than ear plugs or regular ear muffs, but they are still pretty reasonably priced. Like other forms of electronic hearing protection, Impact Sport ear muffs provide excellent performance by blocking loud noises and amplifying all other sounds.
With a NRR of 22, they provide ample hearing protection under most circumstances, but they may also be combined with ear plugs for extra protection in extremely loud environments. This makes them an incredibly effective form of shooting or hunting ear protection.
Some people do not like to use ear muffs when shooting a rifle or shotgun because they think they’ll get in the way. Personally, I have not had this problem with the Howard Leight Impact Sport muffs. They have a very low profile design that does not interfere with my cheek weld when I’m shooting rifles and shotguns. So, many hunters use them for their shooting and hunting trips (including both big game and waterfowl hunting).
All things considered, I consider the Impact Sport to be well worth the money as hunting ear muffs, especially considering the fact that they only cost a little more than a traditional pair of ear muffs.
Very similar to the Howard Leight Impact Sport, Walker’s Razor electronic ear muffs are another great choice for hunting hearing protection. They also amplify quiet noises, but shut off to block loud sounds above 85 decibels.
With a NRR of 23, they also provide ample electronic ear protection under most circumstances. You can also combine them with ear plugs for extra protection in extremely loud environments.
Just like the name says, the Walker ‘Razor’ shooting earmuffs have a very low profile to avoid interfering with cheek weld, but without compromising hearing protection. The Razor series also comes in a bunch of color options (including camo).
Designed to be worn around your neck when not in use, the Quiet Band is well suited for hunters: wear the band around your neck while you’re trying to find game, the just simply pop the plugs in your ears right before taking the shot. This gives you the best of both worlds by having full use of your hearing most of the time while still protecting your ears at the moment of truth.
Since it only protects the ear canal and not the bones of hearing behind the ear, the Quiet Band suffers from the same drawbacks as other ear plugs though. For this reason, I don’t advise using it for situations where you’ll be exposed to high levels of continuous gunfire for long periods of time (like waterfowl hunting or shooting at an indoor range). The design of the Quiet Band also prevents it from being used in conjunction with over the ear muffs like traditional foam plugs.
All that being said though, the Howard Leight Quiet Band is inexpensive, lightweight, easy to use, and will provide good hearing protection for most hunting situations. These characteristics make it a great choice for hunters on a budget. Yes, this is the same ear protection Hickock45 wears in his YouTube videos.
For what it’s worth, Peltor also makes a very similar product called the Peltor Banded Hearing Protector that works very well too.
Impulse ear plugs are a significant step up in capability when compared to traditional foam ear plugs, but still go for a reasonable price. I have a set of Rooth C&P High Fidelity Ear Plugs that work well for me. These plugs are reversible: the yellow end provides noise activated protection against impulse noise (like gunfire) and the grey end provides passive protection for constant noise (like heavy machinery).
Unlike the Howard Leight Quiet Band, impulse plugs are designed to be worn all the time. The big advantage to these plugs is that they allow the user to hear ambient noise relatively well while still providing protection against gunfire and explosions when they’re used in the noise activated mode.
That is why they are issued to Soldiers in combat zones.
Since impulse ear plugs allow you to hear the much of the noise present in the environment around you, this also makes them good choices for hunting ear plugs.
While they are a good product, impulse ear plugs do not provide a very high level of protection overall (Noise Reduction Rating of 25 for passive protection, slightly less for noise activated protection). With that in mind, they aren’t the best form of hunting ear protection if you’ll be spending a lot of time at an indoor shooting range or shooting short barreled rifles.
However, they are a pretty good choice for protecting your hearing while hunting if you’re on a budget (they’re the least expensive of the group).
For those that want to spend a little more money for a significant increase in performance in a set of hunting ear protection, you should really consider a set of top of the line over-the-head electronic ear muffs. In addition to the Impact Sport model previously discussed, the same company also produces the Impact Pro.
The Impact Sport model is great, but the Impact Pro headset has a higher noise reduction rating noise reduction rating of 30, which makes them a better choice for hearing protection in really loud environments. At the same time, they are a little larger and bulkier than the Impact Sport electronic muffs.
The two Howard Leight ear muffs models are by far the best value choices for hunting ear protection. The Impact Sport muffs also made cut for my holiday gift recommendations. To see what other stuff is on the list, check out the following article:
For those that want the performance of electronic ear muffs in a smaller package, there are several different types of electronic ear plugs on the market today that are good choices for use as hunting ear protection. Etymotic Gunsport Pro electronic ear plugs are one really good choice. The same goes for Walker’s Game Ears and Walker’s Silencer Digital Earbuds.
Like electronic ear muffs, they block loud noises and amplify all other sounds. However, since they are similar in size to old school hearing aids (or even smaller in the case of the Gunsport Pro), they are much smaller and more portable than electronic ear muffs.
Since they are ear plugs, they do not protect the outside of your ears. As a result, they are designed more for hunters than for shooters (though they may be used for both). On the other hand, they have the advantage of not getting in the way of a rifle or shotgun and they can be worn with any headgear. I have a pair of Walker’s HD Pro Elite plugs and I’ve used them successfully on multiple hunting trips.
Walker’s Game Ears, Walker’s Silencer Digital Earbuds, and Etymotic Gunsport Pro earbuds are all great choices for hunting ear plugs. You’ll probably find that one of those models fits you a little better and is more comfortable to wear than the others though.
Once I got them adjusted properly, the Walker’s Game Ears were fairly comfortable to wear for hours at a time (even when wearing shooting glasses or headgear) and did a good job of amplifying and blocking the proper noises. That said, the AXIL earbuds at the beginning of this article were much more comfortable (and less expensive).
While they are good choices for hearing protection while hunting, electronic ear plugs have two significant drawbacks: their cost (they are by far the most expensive option for protecting your hearing while hunting) and the fact that they do not protect the bones of hearing.
The price is a bit steep for a casual hunter or shooter but they are well worth the money for a serious hunter who will frequently use them and take advantage of their awesome features.
I hope that you’ve found this article on the best hunting ear protection choices both helpful and informative. As long as you take the right precautions, it is possible preserve your sense of hearing despite exposure to noisy environments. Trust me, you will be glad that you wore proper hunting ear protection many years from now.