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Good shooting ear protection protects your hearing—and won’t get in the way of your shooting.
Your ears can’t afford even a single instance of nerve-damaging dangerous noise. Choose a comfortable set of shooting muffs or ear plugs with a high Noise Reduction Rating, and you can stop the damage from firearm blasts. The introduction of great technology and more user-friendly designs has spawned a revolution in hearing protection, so you can now afford the best shooting ear protection no matter your budget.
Why Hearing Protection Is so Important When Shooting
A single shot of a rifle, shotgun, or pistol at the range or during a hunt can damage ear functionality, so you should wear hearing protection every time you shoot. And no—radio and music headsets and earphones do not protect your ears from dangerous noises.
The key term to know when shopping for hearing protection is NRR. That stands for Noise Reduction Rating, and it relates to how many decibels a device will reduce sound levels entering the ear. An NRR of 27 dB, for example, will reduce the level of a shot by 27 decibels. The higher the NRR, the higher the protection level. A whisper is about 30 dB, a normal conversation is about 60 dB, and a gas-powered lawn mower clocks in at about 90 dB. Any noise above 70 dB over a prolonged time period can be harmful. And a loud noise over 120 dB can actually cause immediate physical damage to the inner workings of your ears.
Not long ago, protecting your hearing meant wearing bulky, heavy muffs or using ear plugs that were difficult to insert and uncomfortable when in place. No longer. Shooting-specific muffs and plugs are designed to actually increase your proficiently. They remain out of the way when you’re shooting, and by reducing the noise you’ll shoot more accurately. It’s a win-win: Protect your health, and increase your skill level. There’s never a good excuse not to wear hearing protection while shooting.
Choose Hearing Protection Specifically Designed For Use On The Shooting Range Or In The Field
Hearing protection designed for shooters and hunters requires specific engineering and build considerations. That means accommodating the ergonomics of shooting a rifle, shotgun, or handgun. And for range shooters who need hearing protection on the skeet field, trap field, target range, or the sporting clays course, hearing protection needs to be comfortable for long periods of wear.
You’ll want to look for two design attributes that let you know the manufacturer had shooters in mind. First is a slim profile to the ear cups. It prevents you from looking like Mickey Mouse with bulky ear muffs on your head, but that’s not why they’re built that way. A slim cup design won’t get in the way of a rifle or shotgun when you mount it to your shoulder for firing. A standard hearing ear muff can bump the stock, which is annoying but also can lead to missed targets, or get partially knocked off of your ear.
Solid padding around the ear muff is critical not only to block out the sounds of shooting, but to ensure that you’ll wear the hearing protection for those long hours in the stand or blind while you’re waiting for game to appear. For shooters and hunters, ear protection is only as good as it is comfortable enough to wear over the long haul.
Best Electronic Ear Muffs For Shooting: Walker’s Razor Series Slim Shooter Electronic Ear Muffs
Slim and Comfortable
Designed specifically for shooting with a slim profile and great padding. Walker’sCHECK PRICE
These electronic earmuffs do it all. They naturally block sharp noises, so even without the batteries they are a good choice. But with the internal circuitry activated, they’ll amplify conversation and help you hear deer, turkeys, and ducks while you’re in the field—but block out gunshots.
In-the-ear electronic noise cancelling plugs are a super choice for shooters who need to clearly hear lower level voices and sounds.
Many shooters look for electronic hearing protection that can block harmful shooting sounds and amplify the voices of nearby companions, but all in a product that fits inside the ear. Some shooters wear goggles or other protective gear that can impede the use of hearing muffs. And others simply want an out-of-the-way and out-of-sight solution to harmful noises on the range or in the field.
Electronic ear plugs deal with all those concerns. They fit snugly in the ear canal, so they won’t get in the way when you shoulder a firearm. They are very inconspicuous. And high-quality electronic ear plugs do a fantastic job of amplifying the voices of your friends and companions, and also the sound of approaching game or birds flying overhead.
But it’s especially important with an in-the-ear approach to hearing protection that you buy a quality product. It takes a great deal of engineering prowess to design the tiny electronics that make these hearing protection devices work, and that can be expensive. But the payoff in convenience and protection is worth it.
Best Electronic Ear Plugs For Shooting: 3M PELTOR TEP-200 Tactical Ear Plug Kit
An in-the-ear electronic plug is the most comfortable and low-profile solution. 3MCHECK PRICE
It’s a big decision: For those looking for hunting ear protection or hearing protection on the shooting range or in the field, one of the first decision points is whether to choose ear muffs or in-the-ear plugs. These quality electronic ear plugs are a great choice, with rechargeable batteries that provide up to 16 hours of protection and voice amplification.
Hearing protection devices are being built with more and more functionality. How much technology do you want?
It’s a purchasing dilemma that faces any buyer of hearing protection: How much—if any—high-tech electronics do you want? While non-electronic hearing muffs and many ear plugs do a great job of stopping high-decibel damaging noises, you can buy shooting muffs that do a whole lot more. Many will amplify ambient noises such as voices, animal calls, and the sounds of animals moving in the woods. Some offer useful features such as separate controls in each muff that aid with directional hearing, or recessed microphones that cut down on the annoying whine of wind noise when you’re using them outside.
And then there’s Bluetooth connectivity. The newest feature in hearing protection is the ability for your shooting muffs to pair with a smartphone so you can listen to music, stay tuned to a podcast, or even make a phone call while you’re wearing the muffs.
That’s quite a departure from a purely protective device, so think about how and where you’ll use your shooting headphones. If you’ll be hunting or shooting at a range, do you want to listen to music that might distract you? Or is the option of staying in touch appealing? Either way, the cost of technology is coming down, so it’s a great time to invest in high-performance hearing protection.
Best Bluetooth Hearing Protection: PROHEAR 030 Electronic Shooting Ear Protection Earmuffs with Bluetooth
Packed with Technology
These electronic noise cancelling ear muffs come with tons of cutting edge features, including Bluetooth connectivity to a smartphone. PROHEARCHECK PRICE
For many shooters and hunters, the ability to stay connected to the outside world is an appealing aspect of electronic shooting muffs. You’ll never miss a podcast update, text, or phone call with these feature-rich devices.
With more and more women and young people headed to shooting ranges, manufacturers are tailoring hearing protection to the individual user.
Across the country, women and younger shooters are making up most of the increase in the growing number of target shooters and hunters. Thankfully, there are great choices for shooting protection for these participants, whether that’s noise cancelling earplugs, standard shooting muffs, or electronic shooting muffs.
A younger or smaller shooter will be happiest with products designed a bit smaller. Not only will hearing muffs and plugs fit more comfortably if they’re tailored to a smaller body size, but you’ll get better hearing protection. Hearing muffs that are too large won’t enable the muffs to seal tightly around your face, which is critical to block out dangerous noise. And they’ll also shift around with the recoil of rifles and shotguns, which is annoying and uncomfortable.
And the growing concern over hearing protection has even given rise to very small devices that can be used on small children and babies. No matter your size, there’s a great protective device for you.
Best Shooting Ear Muffs For Younger Shooters: Dr.meter EM100 Kids Protective Earmuffs
Safe for Young Shooters
Adult-sized hearing muffs aren’t a great choice for younger shooters, but these protective muffs are designed for smaller heads. Dr.meterCHECK PRICE
Younger shooters will appreciate the low clamping force on the headband of these noise-cancelling shooting ear muffs, as well as the super soft ear cups that make them comfortable to wear.
What’s the most important thing to consider when choosing quality hearing protection?
A quality product will protect your hearing. But only if you wear it. That makes comfort the starting point.
Quality shooting protection devices will list the Noise Reduction Ratings of the products, so you can be assured that damaging levels of noise are blocked from your ear canal. But if a product isn’t comfortable to wear, no matter where you plan to wear them, you might not use your hearing protection device every time you step on the shooting range or head into the field for a hunt. And it only takes one instance of high levels of noise to damage hearing forever.
That makes it important, as well, to monitor your hearing protection devices for damage or wear. The foam inside the ear muffs, or the rubber flanges of ear plugs, will lose their elasticity over time. If you’re not getting a good-as-new fit with your muffs or plugs, it’s time to think about replacing them.
Best Cheap Electronic Shooting Muffs: Caldwell E-MAX Low Profile Hearing Protection Muffs
Long Battery Life
You don’t have to give up many features to get an inexpensive set of electronic shooting muffs. CaldwellCHECK PRICE
Powered by inexpensive and easily available AAA batteries, these electronic shooting muffs are packed with fantastic amplification technology so you can hear conversation in the blind or on the range. They are slightly heavier than other models, but still light enough for hours of comfortable protection.
Are ear muffs better than earplugs?
Many people searching for hearing protection devices wonder which is better, ear muffs or ear plugs? Ear muffs can be easier to use—you just slip them over your ears and you can easily take them on or off. Ear plugs require a bit more manual dexterity to use, and they’re not as easy to put in and take out multiple times. It all comes down to comfort: Choose a product that you know you will use. They don’t work if you leave them at home.
What is the best ear protection for shooting ranges?
The best ear protection for shooting ranges is electronic protection, whether that’s a muff or ear plugs. On a range, be it a target range or a skeet or sporting clays field, it’s critical to be able to hear the range officer’s commands or the conversations and instructions of your shooting companions. Only electronic hearing protection does that.
What is the highest dB for ear plugs?
The highest dB of noise reduction for ear plugs is about 33 dB. That means that any incoming sound will be reduced by 33 dB.
A final word on shopping for shooting ear protection
The best shooting ear protection choice will vary from user to user. A key consideration is comfort, because hearing protection only works when you use it. For many, that means a simple set of hearing muffs or plugs. You don’t have to worry about fresh batteries or recharging the devices. Muffs in particular are easy to share with your companions. But the growing technology of ear protection is packing more and more functionality into small devices. You can now find electronic muffs and ear plugs for very affordable costs. If you plan to head for the shooting range or field just a few times a year, a basic set of noise-blocking muffs or plugs work perfectly. But if you’re an avid shooter or hunter, you’re in luck. You can get more in a hearing protection device, at an affordable price.