best hearing protection for shooting

We all know that guns are dangerous, which is why licensed gun owners are required to complete a safety course before obtaining a license. However, when we mention gun safety, you may think we are talking about avoiding a gunshot wound. While that’s obviously a pretty important part of gun handling, whether for sport shooting or hunting, there’s another safety precaution you should consider. Gunshots are loud. Really loud, and they can easily impair your hearing. Hearing protection devices have been around for a long time, and sport shooters and hunters alike use them.

A new craze that has hit the market is the electronic hearing protection device, as an alternative to the plain earplugs and earmuffs that have been around for quite some time. These electronic devices can protect your hearing and offer a range of other luxury features to improve your hunting and shooting experience. Whether you’re looking for something new or sticking with the tried and true, this list will help you pick the hearing protection device that is best for you. We’ve listed our favorites, along with a short review for each one, and some tips to help you out with your purchase.

 

Earmuffs

One option for protecting your hearing from the sudden bang of a gunshot is wearing protective earmuffs. Earmuffs are convenient in that they can’t “fall out” like earplugs, and there is a wide variety of options to choose from, ranging from relatively simple and inexpensive, to a bit more costly with some pretty cool features.

These earmuffs are our top choices for hearing protection that is secure, comfortable, and effective. We’ve included options from every price range, included some that will get the job done without breaking the bank as well as protective earmuffs with some more exciting, luxurious features. Check out our favorites:

Walker's Game Ear Razor Slim Electronic Muff

Walker’s Game Ear Razor Slim Electronic Muff

These electronic earmuffs provide superior quality hearing protection that is slim, easy to carry, and comfortable to wear. The earmuffs have a Noise Reduction Rating of 23dB and protect the ears against sounds over 89 dB. With a quick .02 second reaction time, your hearing is completely protected from all sudden, potentially damaging sound.

Aside from its noise canceling properties, the earmuffs also include a noise amplification features, which help you hear even the quietest noises with precise clarity. The sound playback is free of static and more natural sounding when compared to many other brands, which makes these great for tracking game or holding a conversation at the shooting range. The omni directional mic and high definition speaker system provide clean and crisp audio playback at your preferred volume, controlled by a simple single knob control, which has easy grip ridges for simple volume control even when wearing gloves. This knob also allows the device to toggle on and off for longer battery life. The earmuffs require 2 AAA batteries, which are included.

 

These are designed to be slim and low profile and include a comfortable, ultra-thin padded headband and concise rubberized cups that conceal the ear entirely. The cups fold inwards for compact storage and are angled so as not to interfere with gun mounting. These are built to provide comfort for long-term wear. These earmuffs also include an audio input jack that allows you to easily connect to your phone or another device. They are available in six colors ranging from sleek black to light teal and have patterns like Kryptek Camo, so you can choose the earmuffs that best fit your style. Walker’s Game Ear offers a one year warranty on Walker products and has other accessories like the Razor Slim Earmuff carrying case, which can be purchased separately.

Purchase

 

Pro For Sho Lightweight Shooting Standard Ear ProtectionPro For Sho Lightweight Shooting Standard Ear Protection

If you are looking for something simpler and lower on the price range, and for a bit more protection in an equally slim design, consider these noise canceling earmuffs designed by Pro For Sho. These earmuffs have a high Noise Reduction Rating of 34dB and reduce or cancel potentially dangerous sounds above 83 dB.

You can purchase these earmuffs tailored to fit your needs and desires. Pro For Sho offers ten different colors ranging from neutrals and black to bright, fun shades of pink or red. You can also order these in two different sizes, including small, which will fit a young child or small adult, and large, which ranges from teens to larger adults. The multiple sizes allow you the opportunity to get the most comfortable fit for you. The ultra-padded headband features an easily adjustable slide that allows you to control the size and create a better fit instantly. The small, snug earmuffs also provide exceptional padding for long-term wear. These muffs fold for ultra-compact storage and are incredibly lightweight for easy storage and carrying. The cups include an angled cut out portion that allows plenty of clearance for a mounted gun.

 

These earmuffs are not electronic and will simply reduce or cancel loud noises. They are not effective for amplifying noises, so while they are great for the range, they may not be the best choice for hunting. There is no audio jack included for audio input, but you can easily and comfortably wear ear buds underneath for music or phone conversations. All in all, these are a stylish and effective option for protecting your ears from the loud shock of a gunshot, with no gimmicks to get in the way or kick up the price. These feature a simple, non-electronic design, so there is no need for charging or purchasing and changing batteries to get total hearing protection.

Purchase

 

Protear Electronic Hunting and Shooting Sound Amplification EarmuffProtear Electronic Hunting and Shooting Sound Amplification Earmuff

These muffs offer the most customization and some of the most superior features of the medium price range. With a Noise Reduction Rating of 23 dB, you can expect total protection from noises rising above 82 dB. These shooting earmuffs are equipped with two microphones on each side in order to provide you with clear, interruption-free (including wind resistance) playback at a volume level of your choice. These earmuffs offer a 9x sound enhancement, so they will smoothly amplify small noises for better tracking while on the hunt and easily holding a conversation while at the shooting range. The clarity of sound will allow you to enjoy adjusted volumes without affecting spatiality or direction.

 

With these earmuffs, you will get complete customization over the sound output. Each side of the earmuffs is equipped with two separate control knobs, one that adjusts volume and one that adjust frequency, which allows you to adjust the sound to your personal needs. Each side also hosts a double layered foam cushion for a firm seal and complete comfort. The telescopic headband is padded with leather for extra durability and provides a one-size-fits-all extension for comfortability. The entire device weighs less than ¾ lb and snugly grips your head, so it won’t slide off during sporting activities. All of these features make these earmuffs great for extended wear. They come in a camo and black design that is great for hunters.

They take two AAA batteries, one on each side, and Protear offers a money back satisfaction guarantee.

Purchase

 

MSA Sordin Supreme Pro X Electronic Shooting Earmuff with LED Light

MSA Sordin Supreme Pro X Electronic Shooting Earmuff with LED Light

If you’re looking for a luxury pair of noise-canceling earmuffs, MSA Sordin has something to offer. These earmuffs may tip off the higher price range, but they pack plenty of accessories that are well worth the price. These Supreme Pro X earmuffs have a Noise Reduction Rating of 18 and provide a 4x amplification for noises under 83dB. The dual microphone design provided realistic sound that maintains spatiality and directionality. The gel comfort ear seals provide both comfort and a leak-proof seal for absolute noise cancellation, to protect your ears from gunshots and other loud noises. There is a simple three-button keypad that controls all electronic features, such as volume and frequency.

 

The earmuffs are designed to be slim-fitting for optimal comfort. The fabric covered headband will cushion the head and features the same consistent all camo design. The earmuffs include a hands-free LED light and an audio input jack that will allow you to link your phone or another mp3 device. Circuit boards are made mostly from steel and lacquered to provide water resistance and there is a waterproof battery compartment, as well as an auto-shutoff to prolong battery life and a low battery warning signal. The earmuffs require 2 AAA batteries (they’re included) which produce 600+ hours of battery life. MSA Sordin offers a 5-year guarantee on this device.

Purchase

 

Howard Leight Impact Electronic Shooting EarmuffHoward Leight Impact Electronic Shooting Earmuff

Here’s another middle price range set that makes the list due to its impressive features. This pair of sound amplification earmuffs is incredibly low profile, other than their 6 different colors and designs. The slim ear cup does not protrude into shoulder area, so it does not affect stock mounting. The adjustable headband is firmly padded for a snug and customized fit, and the slim band will not irritate head or ears over long periods of wear. Ear cushions snap-in and out for easy cleaning and can easily be replaced if worn (as opposed to replacing the entire device).

The microphones advanced directional design allows sounds to be amplified in a natural manner to protect spatiality and directionality, making these perfect for someone on the hunt. They have a Noise Reduction Rating of 22 dB and will easily protect your hearing in the presence of gunshot or other loud noises.

 

You can also enjoy over 350 hours of battery life provided by 2 AAA batteries and an auto shut-off feature after 4 hours of use. There is also an auxiliary input jack to make it easy to connect to your phone or mp3 device. Howard Leight also offers accessories like a hard carrying case for protecting your earmuffs while on the go.

Purchase

 

Peltor Sport Tactical 500 Electronic Hearing Protector with BluetoothPeltor Sport Tactical 500 Electronic Hearing Protector with Bluetooth

These Peltor Tactical Hearing Protectors are closer to the top of the price range, but for good reason. They feature advanced technology like Bluetooth to wirelessly connect to your phone, GPS, or audio device to keep you entertained and secure. The Dynamic Suppression Time technology allows the protective muffs to adjust to each different firearm and environment to provide an advanced shooting experience as well as cutting-edge safety. With a Noise Reduction Rating of 26 dB, they protect your ears from noises over 82 dB and amplify noises of a lesser volume for increased clarity. Clear Voice Tracking technology recognizes voice and amplifies it to allow for easy conversation, even in loud environments. The microphones are recessed in order to clear excess noise from wind to avoid interruptions or static sound. The set-up is simple and includes voice guidance with instructions on using the simple keypad, which controls volume and Bluetooth settings.

 

The classic, all black, durable plastic design will match all your gear and withstand light wear and tear. These lightweight earmuffs feature a vented headband that lies flat to the head, so they fit comfortably with a hat and allow your head to breathe, which is great for long-term wear. The ear cushions are extra soft and double padded for a comfortable seal. They require 2 AA batteries and have an auto shut-off mode to increase battery life.

Purchase

 

Decibel Defense Professional Safety EarmuffsDecibel Defense Professional Safety Earmuffs

If you’re looking for something simple with plenty of protection, you need to take a look at these Professional Safety Earmuffs by Decibel Defense. They have a Noise Reduction Rating of 34 dB, so they provide more hearing protection than most brands on the market. These muffs are lightweight and fold into themselves for easy, compact storage.

 

These are available in five different colors and feature a double padded, fabric lined headband that is made of durable, but comfortable materials. The headband is easily adjusted to your size, so these are one-size-fits-all style hearing protection. The muffs are foam padded for a pleasant fit. There’s are not electric, so there’s no tricks and gimmicks. Just straightforward, comfortable hearing protection for the range or the woods.

Purchase

 

Ear Plugs

Hearing protection ear plugs are a sleek alternative to the bulkier earmuffs, and these all provide great protection as well as other advanced features that may increase comfort or effectiveness as well. If you opt against ear muffs because they “get in the way,” then you’ll be happy to know that you can save your ear from harm with an incredibly low profile, discreet in-ear plug, too.

Again, we checked out options from different price ranges to give you a taste of everything there is to offer. Our favorite shooting earplugs are listed below.

 

Decibullz Custom Molded Hearing Protection Ear PlugsDecibullz Custom Molded Hearing Protection Ear Plugs

These hearing protection ear plugs are designed to allow you to custom mold them to your ear in order to get an impressive, secure fit. The custom mold technology tailors these earplugs to the exact shape of your ear, which provides comfort and an airtight seal for greater protection. Simply boil the mold, allow to cool momentarily, and then shape the plug to your ear. Plus, they are re-moldable in case you don’t get the fit quite right on your first go, or if they begin to lose shape over time. To offer further customization, these earplugs come with three different sets of flange tips in small, medium, and large. You can choose from 5 different colors and get a small carrying case.

 

These are not electric, therefore they only offer noise reduction and not sound amplification. However, they will protect your ears from dangerously loud noises, and offer a Noise Reduction Rating of 31 dB, one of the highest on the market. For the level of protection and comfort offered, these earplugs are more than reasonable price. These are incredibly stylish and low profile and will not interfere with a hat or other headgear.

Purchase

 

SureFire EP4 Sonic Defenders Plus Filtered Ear PlugsSureFire EP4 Sonic Defenders Plus Filtered Ear Plugs

These filtered earplugs may look like most basic earplugs, but these offer a much more customized protection level. With the removable filter inserted, these earplugs have a Noise Reduction Rating of 24 dB. With the filters removed, the earplugs will still continuously block damaging noise levels while allowing quieter sounds (such as voice) to travel through freely.

The plugs are comfortable and have a triple flange design that fits snugly in the ear canal. The plug is made from soft hypoallergenic, medical-grade polymer, so it doesn’t irritate the ear even when worn for a long time. The earplug is designed with Ear-Lock technology which makes 7 points of contact with the ear and created a secure hold even during vigorous activities. The design is much less low-profile than other plugs, but will still fit with a hat, face mask, or other headwear.

 

You can choose from three different sizes (small, medium, and large) and 3 different colors. These plugs are some of the most inexpensive on the market but still offer a good deal of comfort and protection.

Purchase

 

Safariland In-Ear Impulse Hearing ProtectionSafariland In-Ear Impulse Hearing Protection

Another low price option includes Impulse Hearing Protection by Safariland, which offer continuous hearing protection of at least 13 dB that automatically adjusts based on sound levels and maxes out at 33 dB (NRR). Safariland specifically markets these as “hearing protection” and not “ear plugs” because these in-ear devices will filter and reduce noise but not cancel noise or affect conversation or situational awareness.

 

When you order this set of In-Ear Hearing Protection, you will receive two sets of ear inserts to choose from, including medium and large, as well as an aluminum keychain carrying case for convenient storage and easy travel. The hearing protection devices are incredibly small, discreet, and comfortable when in your ear, and will wear seamlessly with a baseball cap, face mask, or other headgear.

Purchase

Westone DefendEar Digital Shooter Hearing Protection Ear PlugsWestone DefendEar Digital Shooter Hearing Protection Ear Plugs

If you’re looking for luxury, you’ve found it. These ear plugs are much further up the price scale but have plenty of glamorous features to show for it. These plugs are designed specifically for shooting and tactical environments. They have a Noise Reduction Rating of 39 dB that protects you from noises over 86 dB. Noises under 86 dB will be amplified according to one of three different amplification levels. The microphone placement helps with static noise and wind reduction for a clearer sound. The two earbuds are color coded for the right and left ear, so you get the same fit every time.

This set comes with two spare wax guards and five pairs of reusable foam comfort tips, as well as a cleaning brush designed to clean all the small pieces of the earplugs. The cleaning brush has a magnet that makes removing and changing the batteries a breeze. The devices run off of three size 10 batteries each, which are included.

 

These plugs are a quit bulkier than other non-electric models, but the extra weight doesn’t get in the way of mounting your gun or wearing a hat.

Purchase

 

Walker’s Game Ear Digital Silencer In-Ear Protection EarbudsWalker’s Game Ear Digital Silencer In-Ear Protection Earbuds

These earplugs were designed for comfort and are some of the smaller earbuds on the market. They feature Secure-Lock technology that prevents them from slipping or losing position in your ear, even during more energetic activities. The Sound Activated Compression technology protects your ears from damage in a split second at the sign of obstructive noise, and the earbuds have a Noise Reduction Rating of 25 dB. These also feature omni directional microphones much like the Walker brand earmuffs we listed, so you get the same clear, crisp sound in a much smaller, discreet fit. Combined with its digital sound processing methods, these will reduce wind and delete background noise to allow for easier tracking and conversation.

 

Each earbud has an independent volume control knob to make it easy to customize your hearing experience. The earbuds require two #10 batteries each, which are included and provide around 80 hours of continuous battery life. Battery life can be extended by opening the battery panel door to discontinue power usage, but there is no on/off switch. The batteries are Zinc Air batteries, which are activated by exposure to air. The set included three sets of ear inserts in different sizes as well as three alternative sizing fins to help you create a fit that is comfortable for your ear.

Purchase

 

Black Bullet Noise Cancelling High-Fidelity Ear PlugsBlack Bullet Noise Cancelling High-Fidelity Ear Plugs

These ear plugs are stylish and simple. The Noise Reduction Rating is 21 dB, meaning they provide protection suitable for outdoor shooting, and the small, low-profile design and comfortable fit makes them perfect for wearing under earmuffs for extra protection while shooting indoors.

The incredibly soft silicone molds to your ear shape for extra comfort and the triple flanged design helps the plugs stay secure even during more vigorous activities. These plugs have a filter that helps minimize excess background noise and produces clear vivid sound. These ear plugs have an optional extension piece that makes it easy to take them in and out, or they can be work without the extension for a more discreet look.

 

This set comes with a stylish bullet shaped carrying case made from anodized aluminum. The case also features a keychain attachment, so you can easily store and travel with these reusable earplugs.

Purchase

 

Topnuna 2-in-1 High Fidelity Ear Plugs with Aluminum CaseTopnuna 2-in-1 High Fidelity Ear Plugs with Aluminum Case

These earplugs are simple and effective and offer you two different levels of hearing protection built into one set of plugs. The double-sided ear plugs can be worn one way to offer a Noise Reduction Rating of 28 dB and then flipped the other way for a reduced 22 dB of protection. They are made from non-toxic, hypoallergenic soft silicone that provides safety and comfort for your ears, even for all-day wear. The triple flanged, cone-shaped design helps plugs fit snugly in the ear canal and prevents them from falling out. These in-ear plugs contain filters that help filter noise evenly, providing realistic sound quality. The plugs are connected by a heavy duty cord that keeps them from getting lost, and this set includes a heavy-duty carrying case as well as a small dry/wet waterproof bag to keep them dry and safe.

 

These are simple dual-level hearing protection for your ears, and there are no batteries or chargers required. They should not interfere with any headwear or get in the way when mounting your gun.

Purchase

 

Know Before You Buy

It may seem relatively cut and dry, but there are a few key things you should understand before purchasing a hearing protection device. The following will define a few terms relevant to choosing earplugs or earmuffs, as well as provide you with a list of considerations that are useful in choosing the hearing protection that is best for you. Before we dive into choosing a pair, you should understand the tech-speak related to hearing devices:

 

Noise Reduction Rating

The Noise Reduction Rating (or NRR) is one of the most important specs to consider when purchasing a hearing protection device. The NRR is a unit of measurement that signifies the effectiveness of hearing protection devices in reducing noise exposure. In order to receive a rating, protective hearing devices must be tested by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) against Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines.

Every pair of earplugs or earmuffs should have one, and you should steer clear of products that do not have an NRR listed. This rating gives an idea of the possible amount of noise reduction, but it can be figured more accurately like this: Take the NRR and subtract seven, then divide by two. So if you intercept a sound at 85 dB while wearing protective hearing devices with an NRR of 27 [(27-7)/2=10] then the sound will be reduced by 10 dB and you will hear it at 75 dB.

In order to choose the Noise Reduction Rating that is best for you, you need to consider the environment in which you will be shooting. For indoor ranges, you will probably need a protective hearing device with a higher NRR, while for outdoor areas you can get away with a device with a lower rating.

 

Noise Cancelling vs Sound Enhancing

You may have noticed that hearing protection options vary widely in price and that some require batteries while some are non-electric. Usually, that boils down to the inclusion of one feature: sound enhancement. While most earmuffs and earbuds will reduce noise, other styles may suggest that they are noise canceling or sound enhancing. Here’s what that means:

Noise-canceling generally refers to canceling all noise, or if specified, it can mean that all noises over a certain decibel (like a gunshot) are canceled, while others are let through. For total noise-canceling earbuds, you will likely be unable to hear small sounds of animals in the woods or carry on a conversation.

Alternatively, some of the more luxurious options may provide sound enhancement features or “sound amplification.” This means that all sounds under a certain decibel are amplified to be easier to hear. Other sound enhancement features include voice recognition, which helps set voice apart from background noise to help you carry on a conversation in a noisy environment or background noise reduction, which can cancel noise from wind or static.

 

Earplugs vs Earmuffs

This option is pretty much based on preference, but there are a few things you may want to consider before making a decision. Earmuffs can easily provide basic hearing protection as well as advanced sound enhancement features, and the headband will help hold them securely on your head. However, some earmuffs have a bulky fit that may be uncomfortable when wearing a hat or other headgear and may even conflict with your gun mounting, which can make them difficult to use while shooting. All earmuffs are made differently and some brands address these problems. Earmuffs will be bulkier than earplugs and generally a bit more difficult to store and carry.

Ear plugs can provide the same type of basic protection and enhancements, but from a sleeker, more discreetly designed device. Earplugs may not stay in place quite as securely as earmuffs but will be easier to store and travel with. They will not, however, interfere with how you mount your gun to your shoulder and most will allow you to easily wear a hat or mask. The batteries for earplugs are usually slightly more expensive than batteries for earmuffs.

 

Choosing the Best Fit

Earplugs and earmuffs are not as effective if they do not fit well, so you should ensure that your hearing protection devices fit snugly. Aside from being much more effective, a secure fit will also be more comfortable, especially if you plan to wear your earplugs or earmuffs over a long period of time. Here are some tips for finding the best possible fit:

Generally, earmuffs are adjustable, which makes most of them (adult sizes at least) one-size-fits-all hearing protection devices. If the earmuffs you are considering do not have an adjustable headband, you should probably reconsider. Some earmuffs have an adjustable headband and adjustable muffs, which makes for a more custom fit. In order to fit your muffs securely to your head, you should extend the headband as far as it will open, place the device on your head with the muffs covering your ears, and then adjust the headband evenly on both sides until the band is firm across the top of your head, without breaking the seal around your ears. You should avoid getting too much hair in between your ear and the muff. If you wear protetective shooting glasses, ensure that they do not cause separation between your ear and the muff. Any gap in the seal can make the earmuffs ineffective.

For choosing earplugs that will fit securely, you should know that there are multiple different types of ear inserts. The two most popular being plastic and foam. You should decide which is more comfortable for you. Then, you should choose a size. Most earplugs are available in multiple sizes, ranging from small to large. In most cases, the “medium” size will fit average adults. For children, you may want to choose the small size. If you are unsure, you should look to purchase a set of hearing protection earplugs that come with different sized removable ear inserts so that you can try different sizes to get the best fit.

 

Do I Need Custom Fit Ear Plugs?

Right now, having earplugs professionally molded to create a custom fit is pretty popular amongst gun owners. Ear plugs that are customized for your ear’s shape and size may provide you with extra comfort and security, however, having plugs molded for your ears is no cheap feat. Custom fit plugs can cost several hundred dollars, and while they may be effective, so are the many other much cheaper options we’ve listed.

Custom fit plugs are not a necessity, but if you want an earplug that is molded to fit your ear more comfortably, consider the Decibullz Custom Molded Ear Plugs we mentioned earlier. You can get the same custom fit, molded in your own home, without having to pay the high fees to hire a professional. They are easy to mold and re-moldable, so you can do it as many times as it takes to get the right fit.

 

Extra Protection for Shooting Indoors: Double Hearing Protection

If you’ve ever shot your gun at an indoor range, you know there is a huge difference in the sound level of a gunshot in an enclosed space compared to the sound level of a gunshot outdoors. For this reason, you may need extra protection for shooting at an indoor gun range. One easy way to solve this issue is to wear hearing protection ear plugs under a set of earmuffs. If you plan to do so, you will need to consider this:

To find a pair of earplugs and earmuffs to wear simultaneously, you will want to look for a pair of earmuffs with plenty of cushioning around the ear. This will provide extra clearance for the earplug. You should also look for ear plugs that are low profile and do not protrude far from the ear.

If you’re wondering how much protection you get from your earplug and earmuff combination, the easiest way to estimate is to take the highest NRR between the two and add 5 dB. For instance, a good combination would be the Pro For Sho Lightweight earmuffs and the Black Bullet Noise Canceling Ear Plugs (both mentioned above).

 

Why Should I Protect My Ears?

It’s no secret that loud noises can damage your ears. Typically, sounds reaching volumes over 140 dB can cause instant damage to the eardrum, while prolonged exposure to noises at or over 85 dB can also begin to cause damage and pain.

Gunshots typically ring in between 140 and 190 dB, and on average are somewhere around 150 dB, meaning they can instantly impair your hearing. Hearing protection earmuffs and earbuds can reduce this noise to a safer level, keeping your ears free from harm.

 

Always Make Sure to Protect Your Hearing

Long story short, you should always protect your ears when shooting a gun, or when around others who are shooting. This buying guide will help make it simple for you to choose a hearing protection device that fits your needs and your budget, so you can protect your ears from potentially damaging noises.

Some people neglect to wear hearing protection because they are afraid to look “silly,” but really, wearing a hearing protection device while shooting on the range or in the woods just makes you look like you know what you’re doing and keeps your hearing intact.

 

 

 

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