Best Ear Protection for Hunting and Shooting

September 7, 2023
Amy Sarow, AuD, CCC-A
Written by
Amy Sarow, AuD, CCC-A
Amy Sarow, AuD, CCC-A

Dr. Amy Sarow is a practicing clinical audiologist and serves as Audiology Lead for Soundly. Her expertise and experience span topics including tinnitus, cochlear implants, hearing aid technology, and hearing testing. She holds a doctoral degree in audiology from the University of Iowa. During her residency at Mayo Clinic, Dr. Sarow was inspired by the three-tiered, patient-centered approach, incorporating clinical work, teaching and research.

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As an audiologist and a Michigander, I've had countless patients who love to participate in hunting and shooting. While hunting can be a great way to enjoy the outdoors, it's essential to understand the dangers of firearm noise exposure. Protecting your ears while shooting is crucial to maintaining your hearing health and avoiding shooter's ear or tinnitus.

Fortunately, many options are available for hearing protection, and selecting the right one can make a massive difference in safety and performance. Whether you're a seasoned shooter or a beginner, investing in good hearing protection might be one of the smartest decisions you ever make. In this comprehensive guide, I'll cover the types of hearing protection required for shooting, what to look for in hearing protection, and the options available.

What to consider when selecting hearing protection

Understanding Your Options

Some options offer Bluetooth capability and hearing protection in one, allowing you to take phone calls or listen to your favorite music without removing the headgear. In contrast, other options simply provide impulse sound protection designed to reduce the harmful effects of sudden blasts of noise. Finding the device that fits your needs and preferences is crucial to ensure maximum protection and comfort.

There are many options when it comes to hearing protection for shooting, including earmuffs, protective earbuds, earplugs, and electronic hearing protection.

  • Earmuffs are a popular choice, but bulky for some.
  • Protective earbuds offer a low-profile solution, while compact earplugs are easy to carry but require proper fit and application.
  • Electronic hearing protection devices provide maximum protection while allowing you to hear range commands but are typically the priciest option. With so much variety, be sure to do your research to find the best fit for you.

Factors to Consider

- NRR: Look for a high noise reduction rating for maximum effectiveness.

- Comfort: Find a snug fit that doesn't compromise on comfort.

- Fit: Ensure proper fit to provide optimal protection.

- Battery life: If using active noise-reduction technology, choose a device with a robust battery life to avoid interruptions during extended hunting or shooting sessions.

NRR

NRR is a rating system that measures the effectiveness of hearing protection against noise. The higher the NRR, the better the protection. When shopping for ear protection for hunting or shooting, look for products tested and certified by regulatory agencies like the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) or the European Union (CE). These certifications ensure the product has been thoroughly tested and meets safety and performance standards.

I recommend double hearing protection when engaging in shooting sports. While a gunshot is brief, it is a very intense impulse sound that sometimes reaches 140 dB(A) or more. With double hearing protection, OSHA estimates the attenuation at the higher NRR of the two devices plus 5 dB. For example, if you wear a pair of earplugs with 25 dB NRR and a pair of earmuffs with 30 dB NRR, the level of hearing protection is 30 dB + 5 dB for a total NRR of 35 dB. Aiming for double hearing protection with a minimum NRR of 30 is recommended.

Investing in quality hearing protection is necessary for anyone who regularly exposes themselves to loud noise. Whether at an outdoor shooting range, hunting, or shooting at an indoor range, it's vital to protect your ears from the potential damage caused by loud sounds. You want to look for a product that offers a high noise reduction rating, indicating its effectiveness at reducing sound.

Comfort and Fit

Comfort and fit are also critical when it comes to hearing protection. If your ear protection is uncomfortable or doesn't fit properly, you'll be less likely to wear it and less protected from loud noise. Look for ear protection that fits snugly but comfortably over your ears, and consider earplugs that mold to the shape of your ear canal for a personalized fit.

Protecting your hearing should be a top priority, especially if you're at the gun range. When choosing hearing protection, comfort and fit are crucial considerations. If you opt for earmuffs, they should fit snugly over your ears without causing any discomfort. On the other hand, if you prefer earplugs, ensure they fit perfectly into your ear canal, providing a tight seal. No matter which type you choose, remember that the right fit is critical to ensure optimal hearing protection. By investing in comfortable and properly fitting hearing protection, you can safeguard your ears from long-term damage and enjoy peace of mind knowing you're taking steps to protect one of your most precious senses.

Battery Life

Battery life is essential, especially for devices using active noise-reduction technology. These devices run on batteries to filter out unwanted noise. If you're a hunter who requires hearing protection for extended durations, the last thing you need is for your device to run out of power during an expedition. Whether battery-powered or rechargeable, you'll want to ensure everything runs smoothly. A device with a robust battery life will ensure consistent and effective noise reduction throughout your hunting or shooting session. Always consider devices that provide a longer battery life, and remember to have spare batteries or a power source on standby whenever possible. This way, you can rest assured that your auditory safety is not compromised at any point due to power issues.

Best shooter's hearing protection

Best Shooter's Hearing Protection

The following section will delve into a list of the best hearing protection for shooters. Each item on this list has been thoroughly checked for factors such as NRR, comfort, fit, and battery life. These options cater to diverse preferences and needs, ranging from earmuffs and protective earbuds to electronic hearing protection devices.

Whether you prioritize comfort, superior noise reduction, or long battery life, you'll find an option that suits you. Remember: investing in the proper ear protection is a step towards preserving your hearing health for years. Let's proceed to our top picks.

Best Earplugs for Shooting

EP4 Sonic Defenders Plus

EP4 Sonic Defenders Plus

The EP4 Sonic Defenders Plus is also a trusted choice among law enforcement agencies. Designed with a triple-flange earlock for a secure fit, these low-profile earplugs stay in place exceptionally well, even during vigorous physical activity. This fit also helps retain the earplug, ensuring it doesn't fall out when you need it most. One of the standout features of the Sonic Defenders is their low-profile design. This makes them easily compatible with hats, helmets, earmuffs, headphones, and other headgear. You can comfortably wear them under earmuffs for double protection when shooting. This combination of comfort, secure fit, and versatility makes the EP4 Sonic Defenders Plus an excellent hearing protection choice for shooting and hunting.

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Best Budget Custom Fit

Decibullz custom molded earplugs

Decibullz Custom Molded Earplugs

Decibullz Custom Molded Earplugs are an excellent, cost-effective solution for ear protection. They boast an impressive Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) of 31 dB, offering substantial protection against loud sounds on the shooting range or in other noisy environments. A standout feature of these earplugs is their custom moldability. Upon heating and molding to the unique shape of your ear, they provide a secure, comfortable, and snug fit, ensuring good retention and effective noise isolation. The Decibullz Custom Molded Earplugs are perfect for users seeking high-quality ear protection at a budget-friendly price.

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Modern In-Ear Protection

Walker's Silencer BT 2.0

Walker's Silencer BT 2.0

The Walker's Silencer BT 2.0 is a cutting-edge option for in-ear hearing protection. Its user-friendly design ensures a comfortable fit in the ear, and its advanced engineering provides ample protection from harmful noise levels. One of the standout features of the Silencer BT 2.0 is its Bluetooth capability, which allows users to wirelessly connect their device to a smartphone or music device for a seamless, hands-free experience. This can significantly enhance your shooting or hunting sessions, allowing you to listen to your favorite tracks or stay connected without sacrificing ear protection. Notably, the Silencer BT 2.0 is rechargeable - a critical feature that provides convenience and reliability during extended periods of use. The device also comes with a compatible app that offers customizability and ease of use, allowing you to adjust settings and preferences straight from your smartphone. This blend of comfort, protection, and advanced features makes the Walker's Silencer BT 2.0 an excellent choice for those seeking reliable, high-tech hearing protection.

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Best High-Definition Muffs

Walker's Razor Slim earmuffs

Razor Slim Electronic Muff

The Razor Slim Electronic Muff is another top choice for shooting hearing protection. Its comfortable, slim profile fits easily over the ears without adding unnecessary bulk. This design allows for prolonged use without discomfort, making it ideal for long hunting or shooting sessions. The device operates on 2 AAA batteries, ensuring ample power for extended use. It features a Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) of 23 dB, providing reliable protection from harmful noise levels.

In addition to its protective capabilities, the Razor Slim Electronic Muff offers excellent sound quality, reducing harmful noises and allowing important sounds and range commands to come through clearly. The Razor Slim comes in a variety of colors. Its blend of comfort, ease of use, and effective noise reduction make the Razor Slim Electronic Muff a solid choice for those needing hearing protection while shooting or hunting.

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Best Muff for Indoor Shooting Ranges

Peltor Sport Tactical 500

Peltor Sport Tactical 500

Peltor Sport Tactical 500 is an excellent option for indoor shooting ranges. Not only do these earmuffs offer both active and passive hearing protection, but they also have Bluetooth capability for easy connectivity to your phone or music device. The Peltor Sport Tactical 500 offers 26 dB NRR. You'll appreciate the Bluetooth wireless streaming capability that allows you to make phone calls, music streaming, and other audio applications without compromising your hearing protection. The device is also easily adjustable, making it ideal for those with smaller heads who may find other muffs cumbersome or uncomfortable. Its blend of comfort, Bluetooth connectivity, and reliable noise reduction make the Peltor Sport Tactical 500 an excellent choice for indoor shooting ranges.

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Best Water Resistant Earmuff

AXIL TRACKR earmuffs

AXIL TRACKR™ Electronic Earmuffs

The AXIL TRACKR™ Electronic Earmuffs are designed to offer robust hearing protection in all conditions. With an impressive 25 dB NRR, these earmuffs effectively reduce harmful noise levels, preserving your auditory health during shooting sessions. And if you need to hear soft sounds, these earmuffs can amplify with up to 40 dB of gain to help you hear while you hunt. One of their key features is their sweat and water-resistant design, making them an ideal choice for outdoor shooting or hunting trips in variable weather conditions.

Furthermore, these earmuffs are highly efficient in reducing wind noise, ensuring clear sound quality even in outdoor environments. Apart from their performance, the AXIL TRACKR™ earmuffs boast a compact size for convenience and portability, making them easy to pack and carry. With their functionality, durability, and compact design, the AXIL TRACKR™ Electronic Earmuffs are a worthy addition to any shooter or hunter's gear collection.

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Best for Kids

Green Devil earmuffs

Green Devil Kids Earmuffs

The Green Devil Kids Earmuffs perfectly cater to the needs of young shooters, offering reliable protection for children aged 3 to 16. With a Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) of 27 dB, they provide a high level of protection from harmful noise, ensuring that your child's ears are safe even in noisy environments such as shooting ranges. These earmuffs have been designed with comfort in mind, featuring a lightweight construction and adjustable headband to accommodate growing children. But that's not all – the Green Devil Kids Earmuffs also come in various fun colors, making them a hit with kids. These vibrant choices make wearing hearing protection more appealing to children, ensuring they enjoy their shooting experiences while safeguarding their hearing. The Green Devil Kids Earmuffs are an excellent choice for young shooters, perfectly balancing safety, comfort, and style.

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Final Thoughts

Effective hearing protection at the gun range is not a luxury but a necessity. Exposing your ears to the loud, explosive sounds characteristic of a shooting range without proper protection can lead to irreversible hearing loss.

Choosing the right hearing protection that combines high Noise Reduction Ratings (NRR), comfort, and a precise fit substantially impacts your safety and overall shooting experience. Above all, the value of your hearing cannot be overstated.

Therefore, do not compromise on the quality of your hearing protection. Invest wisely because safeguarding your hearing health is synonymous with ensuring a safer, more enjoyable, and overall better experience at the gun range.

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