5 Best Ear Protection for Shooting in 2022 (Ultimate Buying Guide)
Did you know that vibrations from a gunshot may kill vital hair cells inside the inner ear? As a result, you might experience high pitch ringing or humming sound that might last forever. To reduce the risk of nerve-damaging dangerous noise, it’s essential to provide the best hearing protection for shooting.
You can choose a pretty comfortable and affordable set of ear protection for shooting to protect your hearing from firearm blasts. Ear protection is available in various shapes and styles, and you can choose among a broad range of earplugs, earmuffs, shooting headphones, and other extremely useful protective equipment that allows you to exercise shooting with peace of mind.
We have tested dozens of gun ear protection solutions and chosen the 5 best models for your everyday shooting activities. We reviewed their key features, protection level, noise reduction rate (NRR), comfort, price, and other important considerations when shopping for a perfect pair of earplugs or shooting headphones.
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Why Is Hearing Protection for Shooting So Important?
Shooting a rifle, pistol, or shotgun at the range or during a hunt can significantly damage your ear functionality. To mitigate the risks of severe ear or hearing damages, it’s vital to wear adequate shooting headphones, shooting muffs, or any other type of ear protection during a hunt or another shooting activity.
What is the Best Ear Protection for Shooting in 2022?
1. Best Electronic Ear Muffs: Howard Leight Impact Sport
Howard Leight Impact Sport is the best electronic ear protection for shooting for various reasons. Shooters often choose it for its comfortable yet quite appealing design, but they aren’t disappointed with its protection capabilities and affordable price either.
Built-in directional microphones amplify range commands and ambient sounds to 82 dB, delivering more natural listening and better communication. Once the ambient sound reaches 82 dB, the amplification shuts down automatically. Its noise reduction rating (NRR) is 22, which implies proper protection from damaging sounds.
This protective gear includes AUX input and a 3.5 mm connection cord for scanners or MP3 players. Besides, it has an integrated power/volume knob.
However, users believe that Howard Leight Impact Sport is not suitable for indoor use and shooting ranges. Most complaints are associated with loud noise inside a closed area, resulting in discomfort and distraction.
PROS// Full situational awareness; Padded headband for enhanced comfort; Folding design for compact storage; Headphone functionality – connect to any audio device; Easy to maintain.
CONS// Doesn’t block loud sounds inside the shooting range.
2. Best Ear Protection for Shooting Range: SureFire EP3 Sonic Defenders Earplugs
If you are looking for affordable yet reliable ear protection for the shooting range, look no further than SureFire EP3 Sonic Defenders Earplugs. They have filtered caps you can have in or out, depending on your choice. Overall, it provides decent protection against gunshots while allowing you to hear range commands and carry on a conversation.
This item is available in different sizes, and medium is the most common choice among shooters. You can use it in indoor or outdoor ranges, assuming you’re using “normal” calibers. Its NRR is 24 dB, which is good.
Thanks to the plugs’ low-profile design, you can keep them in place while wearing a helmet, hat, mask, or supplemental hearing earmuffs.
Although users agree that these earplugs are very comfortable, they tend to slide out if your inner ear sweats.
PROS// Military-approved; Low-profile design; Hypoallergenic; Great noise-reducing capabilities; Available in different colors and sizes.
CONS// Sometimes, they block too much sound.
3. Best Shooting Ear Muffs: Decibel Defense Professional Safety Ear Muffs
Professional Safety Ear Muffs by Decibel Defense offer industry-leading ear protection perfect for shooting range. Besides next-level protection, this item delivers enhanced comfort, allowing you to wear it for a couple of hours. Its sturdy construction ensures durability and increased safety.
It is suitable for both kids and adults seeking noise reduction when around noisy powerful machinery, blenders, lawnmowers, or concerts. It’s available in various colors, and you can choose one to match your style. Its NRR is 37 dB, which is higher than most of its competitors offer.
Generally, these earmuffs create a pretty quiet environment, suitable for anyone with noise sensitivity. It helps you deal with loud daily tasks you’d otherwise complete with difficulty.
Although some users claim that their product came damaged or with unattached earcups, the manufacturer’s customer support is responsive and efficient. It means they’ll be happy to send you a new headset in case you receive a faulty one.
PROS// Great noise blocking capabilities; Comfortable; Decent quality; Perfect for the gun range; Budget-friendly.
CONS// Some customers find it too heavy.
4. Best Hunting Ear Protection: Walker’s Patrior Series Electronic Muffs
Walker’s Patrior Series Electronic Muffs is most hunters’ preferred choice because of its affordable price and excellent quality. Its soft-padded design offers enhanced comfort all day long, which is particularly convenient for hunting trips.
Walker’s uses the Razor technology on the muffs, delivering the lowest possible profile without sacrificing the hearing protection and amplification properties. An excellent noise reduction of 23 dB protects your hearing from dangerous noise exposure while hunting or performing other shooting activities.
Sound amplification properties allow you to speak with your hunting partner while enjoying a quiet environment, while providing the utmost protection from potentially dangerous shooting noise.
What users didn’t like about this gear was the lack of comfort and adjustability. Many complain about overly small ear cups and a short band that cannot be adjusted.
PROS// Two omnidirectional microphones; HD speakers for clear and balanced sound; Single knob volume control; 0.02 second response time; Slim folding design.
CONS// Not comfortable enough.
5. Best Shooting Ear Plugs: The Ear Buddy Premium Soft Foam Ear Plugs
The Ear Buddy Premium Soft Foam Ear Plugs are the most versatile and affordable ear protection plugs out there. The package contains 50 pairs of plugs with 32 dB NRR, suitable for concerts, work, travel, and shooting. You can use them for various applications, including nights when you need good sleep.
Its noise-canceling capabilities block harsh sounds that might disrupt your focus or damage your hearing. These earplugs are comfortable enough considering the price, but it’s recommended to follow the instructions for inserting them to enjoy the best results.
These earplugs are easy to use and much more comfortable than their cylindrical counterparts. Besides, they are pretty cost-effective, which is another plus.
However, don’t expect too much comfort from them. Some users even complain about ear pain after a few hours, so make sure to remove them if you notice discomfort or sore ears.
PROS// Affordable and efficient; Great noise reduction capabilities; Easy to use; Suitable for light sleepers and students with loud roommates; Great for shooting.
Ear Protection for Shooting: Types
Shooting ear protection is available in different models, characterized by different features. While each has unique capabilities, you will choose one according to your goals, preferences, and budget. For example:
Most users are familiar with unpowered earplugs. They often come in the form of foam earplugs and tend to be quite inexpensive compared to other types of ear protection. Their role is to lower the noise without muffling the sound, allowing you to hear things clearly even with the gear on.
The only downside would be their tendency to come loose and pop out. Besides, they can get easily lost due to their tiny size.
Unpowered earmuffs deliver better hearing protection than unpowered earplugs. They are pretty easy to take on and off, especially since they don’t require fidgeting to stick the plugs in. Some models can provide noise reduction rates of 30 dB or even more.
A less convenient thing about unpowered earmuffs is their bulky design, which might prevent clear hearing. Besides, options for allowing some sound in are pretty limited.
Powered In-Ear Protection
Powered in-ear protection ensures you’re aware of your surroundings without wearing bulky earmuffs that could be quite uncomfortable. Although they tend to be more expensive than similar types, you get to enjoy great ambient hearing capabilities in a tiny package.
Powered in-ear gear uses specialized ear tips, which allows them to block sound much more efficiently. While it has the same characteristics as unpowered earplugs, they also share weaknesses.
Powered Over-the-Ear Protection
Powered over-the-ear protection is a convenient option for both hearing protection and radio communication. Most of these models can be mounted to a high-cut helmet for more comfortable wear, but you can find solutions that offer different helmet mount configurations.
However, powered ear protection tends to get very hot during the hot summer months, making the user feel uncomfortable while wearing it.
Shooting Ear Protection Benefits
Besides its most prominent advantage, which is the utmost defense against damaging noise, the best hearing protection for shooting is packed with other benefits that make your shooting much more convenient.
Better Situational Awareness
An excellent hear-through feature protects your hearing without sacrificing your situational awareness. Therefore, you’ll be able to chat with other people, hear movement around you, and have great perception based on sound.
The best hearing protection comes with comfort-enhancing add-ons such as padded headbands, gel earcups, and an ergonomic design that ensures maximum comfort even when you’re wearing protection for extended periods of time.
High-end hearing protection comes with various integration options, including comms capability, which allows you to use the earmuffs as a radio headset. These models deliver excellent hearing protection while maintaining situational awareness and radio clarity without sacrificing your safety.
Depending on your goals and budget, you can choose between cheaper and high-end ear protection suitable for hunting or other shooting activities.
- Low-end: You can find many low-quality models that don’t provide sufficient protection from damaging shooting noise at this price point. For that reason, it’s not recommended to purchase them for any activity involving serious shooting use.
- Mid-range: These models are usually characterized by great quality and are commonly used for professional purposes. Besides, you can expect them to last for years.
- High-end: High-end protection is specifically designed for military and tactical law enforcement. It can withstand severe damage and tough conditions while its comms integrations deliver a more enhanced experience.
Vital Considerations When Shopping for the Best Ear Protection for Shooting
Let’s go through the most important features worth considering when shopping for ear protection:
Noise Reduction Rate (NRR)
Noise reduction rate (NRR) is the most important factor which determines the amount of energy a sound wave ear protection can reduce while you’re wearing it. The NNR number tells you how much your protection device will safeguard your hearing, and you’ll choose one according to the levels you’ll be working with. For instance, an NRR of 20 dB will reduce the level of a shot by 20 dB. Essentially, the higher the NNR number, the higher the protection level you’ll receive.
“Hear Through” Feature
The “hear-through” capability allows you to perceive your surroundings by providing powered hearing protection that has at least one microphone on each ear. Still, more advanced versions add microphones on the front and back of each earcup, providing a much better experience. The “hear-through” feature compresses the human hearing spectrum, ensuring that loud noises are heard like quiet sounds. That way, you’re less likely to put your hearing in danger.
Adequate ear protection should form a comfortable seal around the ear area. If your gear is too big, harmful, high-pitched sound may still get in. Aside from making you uncomfortable, the unfit device won’t provide you with sufficient protection, putting you at risk of damaging your hearing.
Most ear protection for shooting is available at a low cost, and most manufacturers offer high quality and value. It’s always recommended to go for a cheaper choice, especially if you’re a first-timer. Remember that you can always upgrade to a more advanced version and choose a more convenient gear later.
Passive or Electronic Ear Protection for Shooting
The two most popular types of ear protection include passive and electronic devices. While electronic protection is a more common choice among hunters, passive muffs with simple ear cover also provide adequate protection.
Still, electronic ear protection often includes some great features, such as iPhone and MP3 player connection, directional microphones, automatic shut-out when sound exceeds a certain dB level, etc.
Regardless of your choice, it’s vital to get a device with a proper level of protection and comfort as you’re wearing it.
Gun Ear Protection Applications
Ear protection gear comes in handy for various applications where noise reduction is mandatory in order to prevent ear or hearing damages. For instance:
The military is often the first sector to test ear protection gears. The military uses only high-end protection featuring the latest technologies with cutting-edge electronic add-ons. Hearing protection for military purposes is designed for safe use during combat or training where tanks and helicopters are involved.
Passionate shooters or hunters often use high-caliber weapons with harsh sounds. To mitigate the risk of damaged hearing, shooters are advised to use noise-canceling shooting headphones or high-quality earplugs.
Sports & Recreation
Ear protection is also convenient for children playing shooting video games or watching movies with loud sound effects. To reduce the risk of damaging their eardrums, kids are recommended to wear noise-canceling protection while having fun.
Industrial noise pollution is another factor that affects hearing and causes discomfort. So, workers should consider ear protection when around loud tools and machinery to prevent severe ear damages.
Should I Buy Earplugs or Ear Muffs for Shooting?
Essentially, earmuffs tend to provide better sound protection than earplugs. However, the overall protection depends on many factors, meaning there is no right answer here. When shopping for ear protection, consider hear-through capabilities, NRR, fit, and other vital features that impact your overall experience.
What is the Highest Noise Reduction Level for Earplugs?
Most earplugs offer a noise reduction rate up to 33 dB. This offers proper protection from dangerous sounds, reducing the incoming sound by 33 dB.
What is the Best Hearing Protection for Shooting Ranges?
It’s recommended to choose electronic protection for shooting ranges, whether plugs or muffs. Electronic protection allows you to hear the range officer’s commands and understand instructions clearly, which is essential for such an environment.