BEST SHOOTING HEARING PROTECTION  by Ryan Cleckner on June 14, 2020
Hearing protection for shooting is important. As you’ll see, most firearms produce a decibel (dB) level that will cause permanent hearing damage. However, there are many different types of shooting hearing protection, as well as different levels of protection to choose from. So, what is the best shooting ear protection?
That’s what we’ll cover including the best shooting ear protection for each of the three categories: electronic hearing protection, ear plugs, and earmuffs.
And, if you’re looking to learn more about choosing the right hearing protection for you, we’ll explore after we’ve ranked the best hearing protection.
Types of Hearing Protection
There are three general types of shooting ear protection that you should know about:
Ear Plugs: These fit in your ear, are typically made of foam, and are the least expensive option. The cheapest ear plugs are disposable and although they don’t cost much, they aren’t intended to be used again.
Earmuffs: They fit over your ear to block out the sound and are a little more expensive, but they can be used over and over again. They can be combined with ear plugs to increase hearing protection – calculating the effect of this is covered later in the article.
Electronic Hearing Protection: Using electronics, these allow safe levels of sound through (and sometimes help amplify those sounds) but they automatically block sounds over a certain level. This is exceptionally beneficial for shooting because it will allow the wearer to hear conversations, but still protect them from gunshot noises. These are the more expensive of the three, but much more affordable than you think when you consider the lifetime value.
Required Hearing Protection Rating
Exposure to intensive noise greater than 140 dB can permanently cause hearing damage. This is extremely important to shooters since most firearms fire at 140+ db.
Therefore, in order to bring down the sound of gunshots to a safe level, you need adequate hearing protection. To do this, you need hearing protection that has a NRR rating of 22 or greater.
If you’d like to learn more about what the NRR is, and how to calculate what NRR rating reduces dB levels by how much, be sure to click those links, and it will jump to that part of the article. With that said, just make sure the NRR level of your protection is at least 22.
Editors Choice of Best Hearing Protection for Shooting:
If you’re a shooter that just wants to see what we think is the best hearing protection in each category (and some extras like ‘best for kids’ and ‘premium’), we’ve listed our editors choice of each here to make things fast and easy.
However, if you’re interested in more details and want to see our hearing protection reviews and comparisons, you can scroll down (or click the category of hearing protection below) and see how the ear pro ranked with more detail.
Reviews of the Best Electronic Hearing Protection
Electronic earmuffs are our favorite style of hearing protection for most types of shooting. Ear plugs are handy and low profile for lots of situations, but if we could only have one type of hearing protection, it would be electronic earmuffs.
Electronic earmuffs help amplify conversations and hearing safe noises while also protecting you from the unsafe levels of sound from gunshots.
We’ve used all of these on the range to review them for you and, as you can see in some of the pictures below, we used a special sound booth to get the best comparisons for you possible.
#1 Howard Leight Impact Sport Bolt:
HOWARD LEIGHT IMPACT SPORT BOLT
Good hearing protection, upgraded electronics over the standard version, low profile, and a great value! What's not to love?
Howard Leight Impact Sport Bolt Background
Here’s our hands-down favorite ear protection for a trip to the shooting range.
They are the loudest (in a good way), most comfortable, and their auto-shut off feature saves me on batteries (I often forget to turn off other sets and end up with dead batteries the next time I try to use them).
You’ll able to hear your surroundings better with these than you will without any ear protection (that’s the good way in which they’re louder)!
I used the professional-grade Peltor earmuffs in the military and I’ve gone through a few sets of the previous Peltor commercial grade electronic earmuffs as a sniper instructor.
The reason I’ve gone through a few of those other sets is that they didn’t hold up for me. Do you know what set has lasted me for many years? Howard Leight Impact Sports.
Seriously – I own more than one set of these because they are not only the best set of electronic ears I’ve ever used, they’re also the best value. It’s really nice to have an extra set for when someone else is with me at the range and they haven’t read this review and picked up their own set yet.
Other reasons these are our favorites: they are low enough profile that I can use them while shooting a rifle or shotgun and they are light enough and comfortable to wear for many hours.
A couple downsides to these are that I’ve experienced some electronic interference when my cell phone is too close and although I am comfortable using these on most range trips, they are the low end of sound protection required.
Get a set of these and you won’t be sorry.
Howard Leight Impact Bolt Specs
NRR Rating: 22
Reduced dB: -7.5dB
Microphones: 2 Directional Microphones
Attack Time .5 ms
Howard Leight Impact Sport Bolt Pros and Cons
PRO: Loud ambient volume
PRO: Low Profile
PRO: Lightweight (relatively)
CON: Low-end of sound protection
CON: Electronic noise interference possible