For many people who ever watched thrillers and westerns, hearing about shooting ear protection may be surprising since there are not any shooters wearing headphones shown in the movies. What is more surprising, hunters do not usually wear ear protection, either. However, those who ever watched shooting competitions know that sportsmen always wear special hearing protection devices.
Even though it may seem obvious that headphones are a vital accessory for shooters, some reasons for wearing them and especially the niceties of their usage are unclear for non-professionals. Is it really necessary to cover the ears or you can avoid harm in some cases? What is the best shooting ear protection and how to choose one?
If you are interested in this topic and consider starting a shooting sports career or just want to try your new shotgun in the countryside, stay with us for gaining essential information.
What to Use to Protect Ears While Shooting?
If you do not want to end up with hearing troubles, you should use hearing protection devices. Luckily, nowadays there exists a wide range of noise reduction devices that can be used with comfort in various situations. For instance, you can find special earplugs for environmental workers, headphones for sportsmen, and a wide range of shooting hearing protection. In this article, we will narrow down to the exploration of the devices to block the sound of shooting.
Let’s clarify that the safe threshold for healthy hearing is 85 decibels, however, even this level may cause problems after a long period of exposure. Therefore, good hearing protection should have a noise reduction possible to protect you from higher levels of decibels or from long exposure to such sound.
Now, we can dip into the types of existing shooting hearing protection. Most ear protection you can find on the market is made to block sound of shooting at the highest level and for background noise filtering. As a result, the one who wears it hears some ambient noise except for the too loud sounds and has less exposure to a harmful clap while firing.
In order for you to be able to choose the best fitting hearing protection for a firing range, we conducted a list of available types of devices and their features:
- Ear Plugs. Foam earplugs are small pads that are put into the ears to generate decibel reduction. Many shooters use disposable foam earplugs as they are affordable and easy to use, especially if you have used them before. They do not cause extra pressure on your ears and thus do not cause ear fatigue.In this section, we can recommend you Ear Buddy company that has water-resistant and highly affordable Ear Buddy foam earplugs. They are also made with latex-free material, so you may not worry about being allergic to them. They are perfect for indoor shooting as they block the majority of high-level sounds with a noise reduction rating of 32! Therefore, you will hear all the surrounding sounds with 32 decibels quieter. However, they are not very suitable for hunting as you will not be able to hear the chatter or range commands from your colleagues or the animals’ sounds.There also exist various types of earplugs, which include non-disposable plastic ones and even electronic ear protection. For instance, the vast majority of hunters use digital earplugs with a digital sound-activated compression feature that lets them hear quiet sounds with a system that blocks the ambient sounds above the harmful level.If you consider digital earplugs the needed option for you, SureFire EP3 Sonic Defenders are a perfect choice. Except for being the most affordable of the range, they are absolutely comfortable with a rubber frame that does not discomfort the ear and the digital particle that provides the best hearing protection from especially loud sounds but lets you hear an ambient sound of lower than 85 decibels. With removable filter caps, you are able to control the incoming noise levels by yourself. It provides occupational safety for the builders and lets the hunters hear the noise of animals’ movements.
- Ear Muffs. No doubt you can mistake headphones with ear muffs if you see the latter for the first time. These are the pads that cover your entire ear with an over-the-head curve. The main difference between electronic earmuffs and earplugs is that they provide you not only with noise reduction but also improve the background sound quality which means that occupational safety increases as you are able to hear the chatter and unexpected claps of harmless sound levels.Electronic earmuffs are an indispensable accessory for shooters who must hear their colleagues’ conversation and are still in need of great protection from extremely loud sounds of shooting. The best hearing protection device within earmuffs is Howard Leight Impact Pro by Honeywell. Being close to premium ear protection, they not only let the ambient sounds in, they also amplify these noise levels, so you are able to hear them better than without the earmuffs.There are also some models designed especially for women. For instance, these Walker’s Razor Slim Passive Earmuffs. Their distinguishing feature is that of being extremely budget, which may also cause additional questions about the sound quality. However, there is no need to worry since the noise reduction rating is 27 which is high enough in the ear protection niche and will not result in hearing damage in any case. Thanks to their slim composite housing, they are able to provide better protection than many heavy-set models. Probably the only shortcoming of this pair is that they do not eliminate the indoor range completely, so you can use them along with earplugs. Nevertheless, there are no equal form-factor competitors to the Razor Slim earmuffs at the same price level.Another option is for professional usage – Peltor Sport Electronic Hearing Protector. It is a legendary brand that has provided the hearing protection devices market with superior products for decades. Except for their highly affordable prices in comparison with other same-quality models, they are probably the most comfortable with their comfy cushions on the ear cups for extended wear. One of their key features is that they use a volume knob that controls the found level even with your shooting gloves on. However, the only disadvantage of this model is that it does not really fit military shooting purposes as they cannot afford hearing protection from some military-service-used weapons, so a noise reduction rating of Peltor Sport earmuffs is enough for the majority of small arms but is unlikely to suggest good hearing protection from large caliber weapons, power tools, or explosions.
Why Do I Need Ear Protection If At All?
When on the battlefield or in a shooting club, ears and eyes are the first to be protected. In general, keeping your head as safe as possible is essential in any case, but how often do you think of the harm that your ears gain even daily? No matter whether you just listen to music and wander around a noisy highway, or attend a firing range, in both cases your ears are experiencing inconvenient conditions.
However, considering using ear protection in order to reduce gunshot noises is more significant than in any other case. Just to compare, while at the rock concert the level of decibels approaches approximately 120 dB which is already very harmful to your hearing and may cause severe problems and ringing in the ears for temporal periods. At the same time, gunfire may overcome the limited level of decibels of 140 points that is incompatible with a harmless hearing experience. Therefore, hearing the loud sound of shooting from a shotgun may result in hearing loss for extended periods.
In order not to decrease your hearing, or even lose it absolutely, you must consider using ear protection devices in advance.
Usually, builders use ear plugs and ear cups even during their work in order to prevent environmental sounds from going to their ear canals and thus causing ear fatigue. You can use foam earplugs if you feel tired of the ambient noise of the city in your daily life. However, there is still no ear protection from the damaging sounds of loud usage of headphones, so you should control the volume by yourself.
How Does Ear Protection Work?
So, the inappropriate sound levels that are above 100 decibels, and especially sharp pops as you may experience while shooting, eliminate small protective hair inside your auditory nerve which may lead to hearing loss or a permanent ringing. In general, all the business happens in the middle ear.
Your hearing system is highly fragile and you can injure it during inaccurate ear cleaning, so imagine what can happen to it under the exposure to inappropriate noise levels. Therefore, if you plan to visit some really harsh firing ranges, take care of your in-ear protection by not only wearing earmuffs but also earplugs.
Hearing protection reduces the sound level that is able to reach the hair inside your ear. It can be done by simply mechanical blockages (as in the case of earplugs) or by digital intervention (earmuffs). Electronic devices are probably more reliable as they filter the exact level of decibels that are harmless for your hearing. However, if you get your muffs broken, it is likely to acquire hearing loss by accident. Therefore, again, it is better to guarantee extra protection by wearing two protection accessories.
With electronic devices, you can specify whether you want all sounds to be several levels quieter or to reduce deafening sounds and intensify ambient noise.
What is a Perfect Ear Protection?
Here are some key features to which you should pay attention while choosing your ear protection:
- noise reduction rating (NRR) of the device;
- whether it is approved by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA);
- size and weight of the device;
- purpose of purchasing (hunting, target practice on a range, military services, etc.).
So, if you aim to enjoy hunting with your friends, do not hesitate to spend money on high-quality electronic earmuffs in order to hear every movement of the prey. However, if you want to spend time on a firing field, you can lack clear sound quality to establish great ear protection.
Also, it is important to pay attention to your comfort as if the head-worn curve or ear cups seem a bit tight to you, it is better to change your protection since, in the long perspective, it will cause extra pressure on your head and ears and result in ear tiredness.
What is more, do not forget about the construction of your ear protection. Note that throat microphones and bone conduction decrease the quality of the sound you receive. In general, it is better if you can hear your mobile phone ringing while in earmuffs. At the same time, you should not get hearing damage from any incoming noise.
What Should I Consider for a Shooting Range?
Finally, if your desired purpose is to attend a shooting range with your comrades, we recommend you acquire AXIL TRACKR earmuffs as our editor’s choice. With them, you can adjust the background bluster up to 8 times louder, and use them for more than 20 hours thanks to their durable battery life. Surprisingly, they also have headphone speakers with Bluetooth capability so you can enjoy music while not on a range.
Also, do not forget about other pieces of equipment such as safety glasses and shooting gloves. Make sure they are also comfortable to wear for durable periods as it may affect your tiredness as well. Moreover, safety glasses also have to be protective enough in order for you not to lose sight.
It is also important to pay attention to the ace of the earmuffs as some of them may be too wide and mess up your rifle cheek weld. So, every piece of your equipment must fit each other and let you move freely and with comfort.
Frequently Asked Questions – FAQ
How to Pick the Best Hearing Protection for Shooting?
When choosing a protection device, you should pay attention to the noise reduction rating as it is the main feature that affects the opportunity of hearing loss. It must be high enough to not let the shooting sounds in and let the chatter at the same time so you can hear the chatter and follow-up comments of your comrades.
Why Should You Use Ear Protection?
Ear protection accessories prevent the opportunity of hearing damage. Even if you have not ever thought of how dangerous it can be to shoot without protection, it does not mean there is no threat to your health. In general, ear protection does not let sharp sounds enter your inner ear and thus provides a healthy experience of shooting.
How Many Decibels Should The Shooting Ear Protection Reduce?
Since the average caliber of guns makes above 140 decibels, the ear protection devices should restrict these loud noises to come into your ears. The best ear protection usually has a noise reduction rating of not less than 22.
Can You Use Noise-Canceling Headphones for Shooting?
Surely, you can. However, it may differ according to specific details of your experience. For instance, if you need to hear what your friends say or to hear the animals during hunting, it is better to choose electronic devices that cancel especially loud noise but still let the appropriate level of chatter in.
Where to Buy Hearing Protection?
You can find a wide range of ear protection models in military shops or in shooting sports or hunting branches. You can also order the equipment online.
What is the Best Hearing Protection for Shooting Sports?
For competitive purposes of shooting sports, it is beneficial to choose Peltor Sport models. They let the sounds under the level of 85 decibels in but prevent you from hearing loud shooting by decreasing the incoming noise.
How to Use Electronic Ear Muffs?
Since earmuffs are electronic, they use a special equalizer (amplifier) which filters the incoming sound. They have the decibel threshold which decides whether to shut the sound or not. You can set that threshold by yourself or turn off the filter at any moment.