Best Ear Protection for Shooting (Reviews & Buying Guide 2019) by Aiden Williams updated September 10, 2019
There are several types and styles of earmuff protection available to shooters. You may be thinking, “But, where do I start?” Let’s try to find the best ear protection for shooting. Most firearm calibers fire at 140 decibels or more, so protection is necessary. If you spend a lot of time at the range, choose electronic earmuffs. On the other hand, if you do not want the added expense, choose passive earmuffs. Otherwise, the brand and style you choose depend on the application. Let’s see the top-rated ear muffs and best earplugs by Shooting & Safety Editors!
BEST EAR MUFFS FOR SHOOTING
TWO PACK HOWARD LEIGHT R-01526 IMPACT SPORT ELECTRONIC EARMUFF SET
These high-quality earmuffs are a great choice since you get two for the price of one. The electronics in the headset protect your hearing as well, allowing for maximum protection while still being able to hear and have a conversation. In fact, it has a noise reduction rating of 22dB and major noise cancellation at 82dB, giving it a light protection rating, which is best for shooting smaller caliber firearms repetitively. Another important feature that is very common in the Howard Leight brand is the sleek curve at the bottom of the earpieces of the earmuffs. This allows for a smooth and fluid shouldering of your firearm, and it fits well with safety glasses and other equipment.
The stylish color fits well with the rest of the hunting gear, too. The two AA batteries provide long life. They boast a four-hour battery saving shut off, and it plugs into any mp3 device for music and media. Overall, this is perfect if are going to be spending ample amounts of time at the range and need good, long-lasting hearing protection, and since you get two pairs, you can keep one tucked away in your gun safe.
HOWARD LEIGHT BY HONEYWELL R-01902 SHOOTING EARMUFF
This is a high quality set of earmuffs with a colossal noise reduction rating of 30dB and major noise cancelation for dangerous noises over 82dB. This set is perfect for shooting high-caliber firearms. It boasts a four-hour battery-saving shut-off, and it plugs into any mp3 device for music and media. It fits well with safety glasses and other equipment.
The color of the earmuffs makes them great for hunting, and the sleek folding design makes them great for packing into the field for safety while in the bush. True to the Howard Leight ear protection products trend, very low sounds are amplified while the potentially damaging ones are kept out very efficiently.
HOWARD LEIGHT BY HONEYWELL R-01530 IMPACT ELECTRONIC EARMUFF
This set of protective shooting earmuffs makes very effective use of its camouflage pattern to help outdoor shooters blend in with their surroundings while offering good hearing protection. Very good use of the electronic element of any earmuffs as it amplifies barely audible low sounds with the integrated microphone system so that you can better hear “important noises” while hunting.
The headband is adjustable so you get a comfortable fit, but most importantly, potentially dangerous noise impulses coming in at more than 82dB are blocked very effectively. The official Noise Reduction Rating of this pair of earmuffs is 22dB and, since they’re electronic, you can turn the volume on or off by just turning a knob. This is a very useful feature whenever you might be compelled to use the MP3 input source feature to listen to some music while passing the time between spotting game to shoot.
THINGS YOU SHOULD CONSIDER TO FIND THE BEST EARPLUGS
At the very core of selecting a pair of shooting earplugs is the protection they offer to prevent long-term side effects such as hearing loss and other audio-related complications. Gun enthusiasts and shooters are usually fully immersed in their favorite pastime of visiting the shooting range or even going out and hunting for sport, fun or for their next freshly-killed meal. Whichever form your flavor of shooting enthusiasm takes, it’s very important to take care of your sense of hearing and wear protective gear for your ears. There you may find further information on WearPlug.
If you are indeed on the market for earplugs as your selected form of protective ear-gear, you’re probably more of an outdoors type of shooter as opposed to someone who visits the shooting range as a hobby. This is not to say that earplugs aren’t good for the shooting range, but shooting earplugs do tend to offer a lot more flexibility and features such as discretion, which can come in really handy if you’re more of a practical shooter like a hunter. It would look quite ridiculous to go out shooting game with a pair of big earmuffs, so shooting earplugs only make sense in this regard.
Before buying shooting earplugs, however, there’s a selection of five important factors to consider if you’re to get the best out of your final selection.
NOISE REDUCTION RATING FOR EAR PLUGS (NRR)
The Noise Reduction Rating of your shooting earplugs is undoubtedly the most important consideration. At the end of the day, what you want is effective protection. As you’d naturally be aware by now, 140dB or more of noise can really do some long-term damage. There are many different types of earplugs on the market, however, which work to reduce noise by up to about 33dB on average. Good earplugs tend to have an NR rating of between 23-33dB, with a few brands pushing those boundaries a bit on either side. Although they are a lot smaller in size than earmuffs, shooting earplugs tend to offer slightly higher noise reduction than earmuffs. Even some of the cheapest earplugs which are very simple in their appearance and design can offer standard NR ratings of around 27dB.
The disadvantage of these types of budget earplugs is that you’re stuck with one NR rating and if you’re completely blocked off from any sound entering, there’s nothing much you can do about it. That’s where alternatives and variations such as electronic earplugs make for a better option, which is covered below under the Additional Functions, Features & Extensibility section.
Fit and comfort are two interlinked factors which can either turn a great pair of shooting earmuffs bad or enhance them further. You might be out hunting for hours on end and so you’ll need something which doesn’t very quickly turn into an unbearable irritation. Certain materials used could cause skin reactions and invoke allergies, so part of what makes up comfort and fit is the types of materials used to produce your chosen earplugs. An adjustable pair is also always a great bet for fit and comfort.
When I speak about the appearance of your protective earplugs I’m not talking about how good they look in terms of their design. I’m talking about the functionality of their design. When you’re out hunting game the last thing you want is a bright red, luminous green, or fluorescent yellow set of earplugs catching the often very good eyes of your game and giving your position away. Well-designed earplugs appearance-wise blend in very well with their surroundings, so they either have a clear color or their colors correspond to your hair, shooting glasses, firearm, etc.
ADDITIONAL FUNCTIONS, FEATURES & EXTENSIBILITY
Some earplugs naturally tend to offer a little bit more than the standard features of noise reduction and comfort, with electronic varieties bridging the gap between fixed, high NR ratings and lower ratings that allow you to hear natural or “good” sounds. You can also get some waterproof or water-resistant plugs if your outdoor shooting exploits will expose you to more elements than just the sun and wind.
A number of manufacturers really try to be innovative with their extra features, functions and the extensibility of their earplugs, but any extra feature you go for must not take anything away from the primary function of offering you hearing protection. Re-chargeable batteries that come with your electronic earplugs, for example, should not replace the comfort, basic usability and the protection offered.
Price is an important consideration because it’s not as simple as saying you have a big budget and so, therefore, the top price you’re willing to pay will automatically buy you the best protective earplugs. Earplugs which sell for under $5 could very easily carry a greater NR rating than those which are at the upper end of the pricing scale. It’s all about mixing and matching the features offered and ultimately just choosing earplugs based on what you ultimately need for your protection, comfort, and usability.
HOW TO PROTECT YOUR EARS WHILE HUNTING!
There are several different ways to protect your hearing at the range. The best is to wear the proper protection and understand what different types of protection are available. Some protective earmuffs are better than others naturally and different firearms fire at different decibels. While shooting a firearm you won’t go deaf from just one shot being fired. It is a gradual thing that can happen to anyone who actively visits the range.
“What is the best way?” you may ask. Well, the best way is to be educated about the dangers of shooting without hearing protection. Educate your young ones as you pass down your favorite pastime to them no different than you teach a child to wear a helmet while riding a bike. Buying a great set of protective earmuffs does not have to break the bank either. There are thousands of affordable options available. Hearing protection can be a bit quite costly for the higher quality earmuffs but do not worry, you will not have to spend all that money for a set, and not only ear protection important, you will need waterproof boots and safety clothes as well.
HOW LOUD CAN A GUN REALLY BE?
Firearms are typically 140 dB and above depending on the caliber and most properly rated headsets can cover these figures without a problem. For those who think that they may not need any hearing protection think of this before you make that decision. The average firearm is 140 dB and you shot 50 rounds off at the range today, that amounts to 700 dB passing through your ears and if you went to the range 4 times a month that amount to 28,000 dB of damage done to your unprotected ear. Hearing loss is something that builds over time and can leave you hard of hearing in no time at all.
Looking at these figures and realizing that 140 dB is on the smaller end of how loud a gun can be you can really start to see the toll that shooting firearms without hearing protection can have. These are the reasons why we have the need for the protective earmuffs that we have today, the noise reduction cuts the majority of those decibels down to a safe and tolerable level for us to listen to. Guns can be very dangerous and not just in the obvious way. The noise that they produce can cause hearing issues at an early age and seriously change a persons’ hearing for the worse. Shooting is a great and enjoyable sport when done safely and ethically.
TYPES OF HEARING PROTECTION: ELECTRONIC VS. PASSIVE
There are advantages and disadvantages to both sides. Look at the battery-powered options first, they typically can be mounted to any mp3 jack for listening to your favorite music and can be used in unison with other electronics as well. They also typically can more greatly muffle the harmful noises of the shooting range making the experience more safe and enjoyable. Some even have features like radios and audio enhancement for better listening on the road trail while hiking and or hunting or just enjoying nature.
The other side is the passive protective earmuffs that may not offer the great features that their counterparts offer but they do offer a usability that the electronics do not, and that is that they do not need the power of any sort. These can be taken for several days into the field without the need to pack extra batteries for them. These are going to be more affordable options for those that are on a budget. The passive style protective earmuffs are also more likely to fold down into a smaller size to simplify the need for storage while enjoying the outdoors.
Many outfitters recommend the passive protective earmuffs for those who intend to go camping for extended periods of time where you would need to pack batteries for the electronic versions. It is important to choose the correct one for what it is that you do. If you simply visit the range for a few hours a week or you spend a week in the backcountry will play a major role in your choice as well it should.
NOISE REDUCTION RATING
Noise reduction rating or NRR for short is a unit of measurement that is used to measure the effectiveness of protective hearing gear of all kinds of foam earplugs to shooting protective ear muffs. A scale is also a great tool for shopping for hearing protection earmuffs. This scale will easily enable you to understand just how “protective” a pair of earmuffs are and what the actual rating is for that particular pair. With an NRR of 30dB being about the highest you will see shooting earmuffs at and an NRR of 22dB being the lowest, you can use this scale to help you decide on which product to choose from. The scale was originally put into place and administered by the American National Standards and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for the purpose of workplace safety. Expanding on the scale it was applied to all of hearing protection nationwide. It is a very important tool and the asset to the consumer as it can help the consumer verify that he or she is getting exactly what is needed and not a cheap “look alike”. Many major online retailers of sporting goods products will either on the front page of the item show you the NRR or there will be a “more details” button or something similar. Make sure that you are able to find the NRR number before you buy. Always remember that you are the customer and you deserve to get the real thing.
TIPS TO BUY THE BEST ELECTRONIC HEARING PROTECTION
We assume you already have other tactical gear like tactical flashlights and hunting binoculars. There are several things to remember when buying a new protective earmuff for your shooting and hunting adventures. You are spending money on protective equipment and you want to get it right the first time. If you cannot find this rating anywhere, contact the seller or staff of the store you are in to ask and verify or do not get that particular product. Remember that 22dB is the low end and that 30dB is the high end as far as protection is concerned. Take all that you need into account as well. Are you going to the range with a friend all the time? Then maybe a set that is a bit lower in protection that also allows you to have a conversation while wearing them. Does the idea of having music while you shoot appeal to you? Then maybe you would be interested in the electronic versions that can take audio input jack or maybe even a radio. Do you go into the field for days at a time and don’t want to pack extra batteries? Then I would think that the passive models would be the correct choice for you. There are virtually thousands and thousands of choices out there. Take your time and do the research and you can find the one that tailors to exactly what type of shooting activity you personally enjoy.