Rifle shooter wearing blue ear plugs

Source: Flickr.

When you’re standing behind a gun being fired, the impact seems kind of loud, but not so bad. When you’re standing next to a gun being fired, however, the impact of sound can literally blow your ear drums away and leave your ears ringing. Any shooting impact noise can be dangerous to your hearing health, so being able to find the best ear protection for shooting is incredibly important. This guide will take you through that process.

The Best Chart for Ear Protection for Shooters

The goal of hearing protection in this category is to protect your ears from the loud firing and impact noises that a gun makes. These noises might be brief, but they can be as loud as 150 dB on some heavy-duty caliber weapons. Your ears need heavy-duty protection to maintain their health. The products in the chart below have proven themselves capable of getting the job done.

PictureNameOur RatingdB Rating (Lab Test)dB Reduction (Real Life)Price
PictureNameOur RatingdB Rating (Lab Test)dB Reduction (Real Life)Price
Ear Defense 3000 Safety Earmuffs 4.8
30
11.5
$
Howard Leight Impact Sport OD Electric Earmuffs 4.5
22
7.5
$$$
ClearArmor Safety Earmuffs 4.8
34
13.5
$$
Caldwell Low Profile E-Max Electronic Earmuffs 4.2
24
8.5
$$
Honeywell Impact Pro Sound Amplification Electronic Ear Muff 4.6
30
11.5
$$$
The Ear Buddy Soft Foam Earplugs 4.6
32
12.5

$
Walkers EXT Range Shooting Folding Muff 4.6
34
13.5

$
Peltor Sport Tactical 100 Electronic Hearing Protector 4.4
22
7.5
$$$
3M Peltor Arms Combat Earplugs 4.2
22
7.5
$$
Peltor Sport 10 Ultimate Hearing Protection 4.7
30
11.5
$$

What Is Ear Protection for Shooting and Why Do I Need It?

Shooting a firearm is a popular activity. You might go hunting, go down to the gun range, or be required to practice shooting for your occupation. Up to 10% of the population has a hearing deficit that is commonly caused by loud noise exposure and the intense noise from a firearm is loud enough to cause permanent hearing loss.

Think about the noise of a gun like this: if you were to watch a rocket take off into space that noise level has been measured at 180 dB. The world record for stadium noise is just over 130 dB. Firing a gun fits between these two categories. Here’s the problem: any instant noise spike at 130 dB or above is enough to instantly cause permanent hearing damage. That’s why hearing protection is so important.

It’s also important to remember that the duration of a sound is not a reflection of its intensity. At 85 dB, permanent hearing damage can occur after 8 hours of exposure – that’s duration. For every 3-5 dB increase from this baseline, the amount of duration a person can endure is halved – that’s a reflection of the intensity.

Don’t be fooled – the loud noise from a firearm might just last for a fraction of a second, but that’s enough time to cause hearing problems.

How to Find the Best Hearing Protection for Shooting

Hearing protection whilst shooting a pistol

Source: Flickr.

So this brings up a natural question: if a gun fires at 140 dB and your hearing protection can only reduce the dB exposure to 100-110 dB, then you’re still in an unsafe zone. Why make the investment?

This is again a reflection of the intensity of the sound. Your hearing can better withstand a sudden noise at 110 dB better than it can at 140 dB. Since sound suppressors aren’t always an option for firearms because of local laws, you’re left with being proactive by finding hearing protection for your ears. You can break your options down in this category into three basic choices.

  1. Noise blocking protection. This type of hearing protection uses microphones to pick up the ambient environment. They may even boost low dB sounds so you can better understand what is going on around you. Once a noise exceeds 82 dB, however, it will be blocked by the protective device.
  2. Counteractive noise protection. Some hearing protection options for shooting use white noise to counter the sudden loud noise a firearm can produce. Make sure you check the NRR dB reduction levels on these products to make sure your preferred product is able to meet your needs.
  3. Electronic sound blocking. This option essentially combines the above two options together into one set of ear muffs. 

Keep in mind that you can also use earplugs as a viable option for shooting if you prefer. Many earplugs have a similar NRR as ear muffs in this category. You can also combine earplugs and the best shooting ear muffs together for an even greater level of hearing protection if needed. 

When the Best Ear Protection for Shooting Is Needed 

Let’s not forget about the bystanders who are around a firearm that is being discharged. They may have an even greater need for hearing protection, especially if they are forced to stand next to the firearm for some reason. That sudden noise can instantly floor a person because the 130 dB impact can cause equilibrium issues, causing the ears to start ringing, and that can be a permanent condition. Even if you’re around firearms, but never discharge them, you still need hearing protection.

But what if I’m out hunting and need to hear? This is where electronic hearing protection has an advantage over muffled hearing protection. Instead of blocking out all sounds and reducing total noise exposure, you receive impulse noise protection experience instead. Impulse protection usually has a lower NRR, so they’re best suited for an outdoor environment. 

What Are the Prices of Ear Protection for Shooters? 

If you just want a basic ear plug for your hearing protection, then you can pick up a few sets of foam plugs today for around $10 – and sometimes less. Some of these products have an NRR 33 dB rating, so you’ll receive some solid protection against the impulse noises of a firearm. You’ll also have a total blockage of all ambient sounds. 

Electronic ear muffs for shooting protection are typically priced in the $25-$75 range. The upper price range usually has a better NRR and more ambient noise amplification options. If you need a radio or audio playback device with your ear muffs, then add another $50-$100 to this price. 

What Do Our Reviews Have to Say? 

Ear Defense 3000

These ear muffs really do silence your world. Although you’ll still hear the impulse noise of your firearm, the noise canceling features of this product make the sounds quite bearable even for the most serious of shooters today. This allows you to improve your focus without worrying about your hearing. We also love the extreme versatility of this product, since kids or adults can both wear this hearing protection effectively. At this price point, it’s difficult to find a better set of shooting ear muffs that are going to get the job done. 

Click here to look at pricing on Amazon and get a great deal.

Howard Leight Impact Sport

This affordable set of ear muffs will amplify sounds up to 3x for you in your surrounding environment. It will also provide you with an effective level of protection for noise that is over 82 dB. You’ll still hear the firearm while wearing these, but it will sound more like a muffled thump than anything else. You can also just about tune out that thump thanks to the audio input jack that lets you hook up an iPod or MP3 player to listen to your favorite playlist. It’s battery operated, but has a 4 hour automatic shut-off to preserve battery life. We can see why this is consistently a top seller in this category and highly recommend that you give it a try today. 

Click here to look at pricing on Amazon and get a great deal.

Clear Armor

If you travel a lot for your shooting, then you need a compact hearing protection solution to travel with you. We can’t think of a better option than this one. It’s been given an NRR 34 dB rating, one of the highest you’ll find anywhere, and you can boost that NRR to 39 dB by wearing some earplugs underneath these shooting muffs. The fit is reliable and snug – you won’t feel like it is going to fall off on you. The headband padding is a bit of a distraction, but that’s really the only negative. This is a premium product at a value price and worth a second look.

Click here to look at pricing on Amazon and get a great deal.

Caldwell

These low-profile shooting ear muffs offer you a dual microphone experience for a more accurate representation of the ambient environment. Any sounds below 85 dB are amplified, but the microphones shut-off instantly when they detect any noise above that level. This makes them a great option for shooting, especially at an indoor range, because the experience is automatic and natural instead of muffled and artificial. It runs on 2 AAA batteries which you’ll need to purchase to operate these shooting muffs.

Click here to look at pricing on Amazon and get a great deal.

Honeywell

The aggressive design of these muffs might just help to make them the best ear protection for shooting right now. You’ve also got access to a single knob control that allows you to turn the device on or control volume levels. Connect your preferred audio device to it if you wish as well. You’ll receive an NRR 30 dB rating for a good level of dependability in noise reduction. We also enjoyed the stereo microphone sounds for a more natural ambient experience. The price is a bit high, but it’s worth the investment in our opinion.

Click here to look at pricing on Amazon and get a great deal.

The Ear Buddy

If you prefer earplugs over ear muffs when it comes to shooting and you’re on a budget, then we highly recommend these comfortable ear plugs. They’re ridiculously comfortable thanks to their bell design as long as you place them into your ears correctly. You’ll receive 50 pairs that are reusable and fairly easy to clean, but they do block out all noises since they are made from soft foam. You can also wear these for your daily activities besides what you may need at the shooting range at this price.

Click here to look at pricing on Amazon and get a great deal.

Walkers EXT

To be honest, we weren’t expecting much from a $15 set of ear muffs. These are sound reducing shooting muffs, so you won’t receive any ambient environment boosts. They’re quite lightweight and fit comfortably thanks to the PVC ear pads. The NRR 34 dB rating is solid. You can wear them for just about any firearm and have a pretty good protection experience. The adjustments are enough that even folks with a larger head will be able to take advantage of what this product can do. We were pleasantly surprised by our trial experiences with this item and think you will enjoy it too.

Click here to look at pricing on Amazon and get a great deal.

Peltor Sport Tactical

We discovered that this low profile hearing protection device was better suited to rifle or shotgun use above anything else. The NRR 22 dB rating just isn’t good enough to take these to the range. Now we did like the audio jack and the comfortable headband, but realistically this is more for your casual shooter or recreational hunter. We found the pickups are pretty sensitive to sounds, so you’ll get a bit of feedback when using this product. There’s also a bit of delay after you fire your gun before the ambient noise kicks back in for you.

Click here to look at pricing on Amazon and get a great deal.

3M Combat Arms

These are the earplugs you’re going to want for shooting if you are serious about your firearms. They’ve been approved for use by the US military and by NATO forces and we found the experience with them to be highly positive. Each side of the earplug has a triple flange design for stability. One side gives you impulse protection and the other gives you passive protection constantly. Instead of muffling sounds, we felt like the noise was “softened” to make it more appealing to the ear. Wash with soap and warm water and their highly reusable. These are easily one of the best earplugs for shooting you’ll find anywhere.

Click here to look at pricing on Amazon and get a great deal.

Peltor Sport Ultimate

The design is pretty basic. The ear cups are able to pivot and there is minimal padding on the headband for some extra comfort. What we found was that out of all the hearing protection options in this category, this set provided the best protection against large-caliber firearm impulse sounds. This is because of the dual wall design this product has, giving you a maximum level of frequency attenuation at all levels. You’ll still hear everything, but the sounds will be dramatically reduced.

Click here to look at pricing on Amazon and get a great deal.

The best ear protection for shooting will help to preserve your hearing when the sudden impact sounds of a firearm ring out around you. Once your natural hearing is gone, it can never be fully restored. Be proactive about protecting this important part of life with products like these and you’ll be able to enjoy your passion for shooting in a much safer way.