When you head for the shooting range or hunting, a firearm is not the only thing you need. Having quality protective gear is an essential part of your outfit. And the first step you should care about is choosing the best ear protection for shooting. The sounds of gunshots may be very dangerous to your hearing, so it’s extremely important to protect your ears when you shoot.
Why hearing protection is so important
A single gunshot produced by your rifle, shotgun, or handgun at the shooting range or in the field during a hunt can lead to permanent hearing damage. A sudden loud noise above 120 decibels can cause immediate harm to your ears, and almost all firearms hit that level, or even more. A small .22-caliber rifle can reach 140 dB, while more powerful rifles and pistols can produce sound over 175 dB. That’s why it is necessary to wear ear protection devices every time you pull a trigger.
How to choose the best ear protection devices
Noise Reduction Rating
The main thing you should consider when choosing ear protection is Noise Reduction Rating or NRR for short. NRR determines the effectiveness of hearing protection devices to block harmful noises from your ear canal and decrease sound exposure. The higher NRR values are, the greater the protection is. However, the numbers can be confusing. NRR rating is based on laboratory tests under ideal circumstances (where the hearing protection device is properly fit). But in real-world use, the ear protector does not reduce the decibel levels by the exact NRR value indicated. Here a little math is required. You have to subtract seven from the NRR number (which is given in decibels), divide the result by two (50% correction factor) and you get the real number of decibels that will be blocked by the device. So, for example, if you are wearing hearing protection with an NRR of 27, it will stop approximately 10 decibels (27-7=20; 20/2 = 10). It may not seem like a big number but still, it is a significant noise reduction. Actually, most shooters’ hearing protection devices are in the NRR 25 – 32 range.
Types of hearing protection
Another important step is to decide what type of shooting ear protection is better for you: earplugs or earmuffs. Let’s have a closer look at these types:
Shooting Earplugs provide protection against acoustic shocks as those caused by gunshots and prolonged noises without being bulky and uncomfortable. Many shooters choose earplugs due to their ergonomic design and perfect in-the-ear fit. They fit many different ear canals snugly, so they won’t be distractive when you shoulder your gun. Earplugs redact harmful sounds delivering full freedom of movement. Also, they usually have a higher NRR value compared to other protective devices.
However, earplugs may be a little difficult to put in and take out multiple times and require a bit more manual dexterity when using. What is more, they may be inserted incorrectly and as a result, they won’t give you the highest possible NRR.
Shooting Earmuffs fit over your ear to block loud noises. They are very easy to use and wear. You just slip them over your ears and can simply take them off when not needed. They require much less training to use correctly compared to earplugs. Most shooting earmuffs feature a slim cup design, so they won’t disturb you when you mount a gun to your shoulder for firing. Solid padding around the ear muff not only blocks harmful sounds of shooting but also ensures maximum comfort when you wear them for long hours.
But shooting earmuff may be less comfortable in warmer weather, needs more storage space compared to earplugs and can sometimes make wearing shooting glasses more cumbersome.
For greater ear protection you can combine earplugs and earmuffs. But it doesn’t mean that you sum two NRR numbers together. Add five more decibels of protection to the device with the higher NRR and you will get the noise reduction level. For example, using earplugs with 29 NRR and earmuffs with 25 NRR simultaneously will provide a Noise Reduction Rating of approximately 34 decibels.
Standard and Electronic hearing protection
The other major consideration is whether to choose passive or active ear protection.
Passive are standard earplugs and earmuffs that just stop high-decibel damaging noises. Active or electronic earplugs and earmuffs block loud harmful sounds as well and also allow you to hear surrounding sounds that are not dangerous. They’re fitted with electronic components including microphones that can analyze the noise level. If the sound is identified as safe, the hearing protection will then amplify it just enough so you can hear it clearly.
Electronic ear protection is rather more expensive than the standard one but you will agree that it is much more effective. Such devices amplify conversations nearby so you can get all the commands at the shooting range and hear birds and animals calls or other shooters when you’re in the field. So you’re aware of what is happening around you but still protected from dangerous sounds of gunshots.
Comfort is also a big deal when choosing shooting earmuffs or earplugs. The ear protection has to fit your physical needs, especially if you’re going to wear it for long hours. Fit should be snug, but not too tight to give you a headache. If you wear glasses and want to use earmuffs, make sure that the ear cushions are soft enough to cover over your glasses and the safety glasses ear paddles. If you use these in hot weather, give preference to softer and more breathable leather cushions as the nylon or plastic ear cushions may cause sweating.
Our choice of Best Hearing Protection for Shooting
The Best Standard Earmuff: BERETTA Low-profile Adjustable Standard Earmuffs for Hearing Protection
Beretta’s standard Earmuff is perfect for the shooting range or any situation where noise reduction is a must. It offers protection on an average of 25 dB, with a frequency range of 13 to 32 dB. It features a low profile design that assists in gun stock clearance and designed with retractable stainless steel at the end of the headband, so the ear cups can be adjusted to fit any head size. The lightweight ear muffs have a compact foldable design as the ear cups collapse into the headband. It makes them perfect for storing in your gun bag and traveling.
Features of BERETTA Hearing Protection:
- Incredibly efficient low-profile, great value
- Compact design
- Adjustable headband
- Offers protection on the average of 25 dB, with a frequency range of 13 to 32 dB
Best Electronic Earmuffs: Walker’s Game Ear Razor Slim Shooter Electronic Folding Muffs