Hearing is one of the senses that we tend to take for granted. Imagine if your ability to hear suddenly Went away. Continual exposure to extremely loud noises can have a similar effect.
Every time you expose your hearing to noises over 85 decibels, you risk damaging your hearing. Keeping your hearing sharp is the biggest benefit of wearing ear protection when shooting.
What are the Benefits of Using Ear Protection When Shooting?
Protecting your hearing is the greatest benefit. Any sound level of 85 decibels is considered harmful to human hearing. Gunshots are considerably louder than that, and the rapid rise in decibel levels from ambient noise can be devastating to your inner ear.
Also, ear protection can enhance your shooting enjoyment by allowing you to easily converse with your friends while others around you continue to shoot. If you are in a training situation, good hearing protection can allow you to hear instructions easily without distraction from other shooters.
A Buyers Guide to Choosing Hearing Protection
Before heading to your favorite retailer to get hearing protection, there are some considerations you should make and some information you should understand about hearing protection. These are the basic criteria that we used to compile our list of recommended ear protection.
Our Top Picks
- 1 NNR (Noise Reduction Rating)
- 2 Size
- 3 Fitting
- 4 Material
- 5 Electronic Features
- 6 Comfort
- 7 Price
- 8 1.Mack’s Shooters Ear Seals Ear Plugs – Best Passive Ear Plugs for Shooting
- 9 2.Etymotic Gunsport PRO – Best Electronic Earplugs for Shooting
- 10 Pros
- 11 Cons
- 12 3. Mpow 035 – Best Ear Protection for Shooting with Glasses
- 13 4.Peltor Sport Tactical 500 – Best Ear Protection with Bluetooth
- 14 5.Walker’s Razor Slim – Best Ear Protection for Large Caliber Rifles
- 15 Pros
- 16 Cons
- 17 6.MSA Sordin Supreme Pro X – Best Overall in Ear Protection
- 18 7.3M Peltor X-Series (NRR 31 dB) – Best Passive Earmuffs for Shooting
- 19 8.Howard Leight Impact Sport – Best Electronic Earmuffs for Shooting
NNR (Noise Reduction Rating)
The NNR rating system measures the protection that a device provides when worn. To calculate the actual protection you receive from your hearing protection, take the NNR to subtract 7, and divide by two. (NNR-7/2). That gives you the actual number of decibels of reduction in the noise level that you receive.
When considering what hearing protection to purchase, you should consider the size with the person who will be wearing the ear protection and the activities in which that person will be engaged. Don’t fit children with adult size hearing protection. If your shooting activities involve a lot of movement, you may want to opt for a specific style of ear protection.
Hearing protection comes in two basic forms, earmuffs or earplugs. Choosing which form of hearing protection to wear is a matter of personal taste. Both styles provide adequate protection. For some people, it is a matter of comfort more than anything else.
The selection of material for hearing protection applies mostly to earplugs. Earmuffs are typically made from a hard-plastic shell, soft plastic padding, and a metal band connecting the muffs. Earplugs materials include
Both earplugs and earmuffs come with electronic features to improve allow almost unimpeded hearing until a sharp rise in the ambient noise level is detected. The electronics then stop transmitting all sound to the shooter’s ears until the ambient noise level returns to normal. Electronic protection is especially convenient in class or training situations.
Comfort is an important consideration. Ear protection that is uncomfortable to wear will stay in the range bag. Testing the fit and size of any hearing protection before purchasing is a wise move.
Know your budget before you start shopping for your ear protection. Good hearing protection does not have to be expensive. However, the more features that you want in your hearing protection, the more cost you can expect.
How we decided on these products
In selecting hearing protection devices, we considered several factors:
- The Noise Reduction Rating
- Features and Options
- Overall Value
- User Reviews
Noise Reduction Rating and cost, of course, figure in heavily on our decisions. We rely on comments and feedback from users and consumers to judge overall value and quality. Lastly, we compare features and options for each product and then decide which product best fits the qualities for the category.
8 Best Ear Protection for Shooting
1.Mack’s Shooters Ear Seals Ear Plugs – Best Passive Ear Plugs for Shooting
The unique design of Mack’s Shooters Ear Seals Earplugs sets them apart from other earplugs. Mack’s Ear Seals are affordable and offer great protection, even from large caliber rifles that can tax the capabilities of other earplugs.
The detachable connection cord allows the use of Mack’s Ear Seals with other hearing protection devices for more protection.
- Simple design is easy to use
- Doesn’t interfere with eye protection
- No batteries or recharging.
- Hard to remove when the cord is not attached
- Some people find them uncomfortable
- Shorter life span than muffs and require more frequent replacement
2.Etymotic Gunsport PRO – Best Electronic Earplugs for Shooting
If having versatile, comfortable, and effective electronic ear protection without cumbersome earmuffs, the Etymotic Gun Sport PRO in the earplugs may be what you need.
These little gems also provide amplification for low-level sound as well as premier protection from high noise levels. Wearing the Etymotic PRO ear protection system maintains constant hearing protection while on the range yet allows easy conversation.
- Low-Level sound amplification
- 25 dB Noise Reduction Rating
- Changeable ear tips allow maximum comfort
- The foam ear tips that come with the plugs don’t last long.
- Uses hearing aid batteries with short life
3. Mpow 035 – Best Ear Protection for Shooting with Glasses
Everyone should wear eye protection when shooting, just like they should wear ear protection. If you shoot with earplugs wearing glasses is no problem. However, if you prefer earmuffs, it is a different story.
Fortunately, MPow Ear Defenders with their large thick foam ear cup cushions allow comfortable long-tern wear with glasses.
- 34 dB Noise Reduction Rating
- ANSI 51.39 certified
- Adjustable headband
- Can have lots of heat buildup in the earcups
- Smaller people may have trouble getting a good seal
- The folding headband may make it hard to keep a good adjustment set
4.Peltor Sport Tactical 500 – Best Ear Protection with Bluetooth
If you need to stay connected while you are shooting or hunting, Peltor Sport Tactical 500 Smart Electronic Hearing Protectors with Bluetooth connectivity will keep you in touch. For More information, read this review.
Peltor is a leading name in hearing protection. The Peltor Sport Tactical 500’s have all the best features you need in hearing protection at a reasonable cost and their availability is unequaled.
- 26 dB Noise Reduction Rating
- Bluetooth enabled
- Voice tracking technology seeks voices within background noise and filters accordingly
- Bluetooth connection may inject noise into the earmuffs
- Bluetooth sound is less than optimal
- Some parts of the Sport Tactical 500’s feel cheaply made
5.Walker’s Razor Slim – Best Ear Protection for Large Caliber Rifles
Maximum protection when shooing large caliber rifles can often mean bulky earmuffs that can interfere with achieving a good cheek weld on the stock or maintaining the proper sight picture in the scope.
Not so with the Walker’s Razor Slim Electronic Muffs. Their slim design allows proper cheek weld and scope sight picture alignment. The electronic technology instantly shuts down any transmission of sound louder than 85dB to the wearer.
- Ergonomic design with multidirectional microphones
- 23 dB Noise Reduction Rating
- Ultra-low-profile design for comfort and ease of use
- Mono sound instead of stereo
- May not fit larger heads well
- Cannot be used as passive hearing protection
6.MSA Sordin Supreme Pro X – Best Overall in Ear Protection
If you spend hours on the range wearing ear protection, you want the best if protection and the most comfortable fit possible. The MSA Sordin Supreme Pro X comes in as our Best Overall in Ear Protection based on these two factors.
Most professional shooters, be they competition shooters, instructors, or range safety officers, consistently pick the MSA Sordin Supreme Pro X as their choice.
- 22 dB Noise Reduction Rating
- Gel cup caps for extended wear comfort
- Attachable to ballistic helmets and external communications equipment
- Battery connections can be finicky
- Uses AA batteries and battery life can be short.
7.3M Peltor X-Series (NRR 31 dB) – Best Passive Earmuffs for Shooting
You don’t’ need to spend a ton of money on ear protection to get a great NRR and comfort. The 3M Peltor X-Series earmuffs can provide excellent hearing protection in a budget package and be quite stylish at the same time.
- 31 dB Noise Reduction Rating
- Double headband for comfort and durability
- Open headband to reduce heat buildup
- Large earcups may not fit some people
- No adjustments on the headband
You can spend more on passive earmuffs, but you won’t get better protection for your hearing.
8.Howard Leight Impact Sport – Best Electronic Earmuffs for Shooting
One of the benefits of electronic earmuffs for hearing protection is the capabilities included with the electronics. The Howard Leight Impact Sport earmuffs come with good NRR and offer excellent hearing protection plus the ability to amplify low-level sound up to 4 times.
Any sound over 85 dB gets blocked, and any ambient sounds amplification up to 22dB. Low-level sound amplification is particularly handy if you are in a class where you need to hear an instructor.
- 22 dB Noise reduction Rating
- Volume is adjustable
- Auto shutdown after 4 hours
- No ANSI Certification
- Pads don’t seal well on some people
- Batteries are not rechargeable
What Should I Look for in Shooting Ear Protection?
There are 88 main things that you should look for in ear protection while shooting. Those are:
Noise Reduction Rating
Get as high a number as possible with the other features you want.
Durability and Quality
There are a lot of cheap ear protection devices on the market. Make sure the ear protection you select is durable and made of quality materials for long use.
Above all, check the fit of the ear protection that you choose. All too often, ear protection stays in the range bag instead of being worn because it doesn’t fit properly.
How Many decibels Should Shooting Ear Protection Provide?
Hearing protection ranks by its Noise Reduction Rating. The higher the NRR, the greater the protection afforded to the wearer. We suggest that your hearing protection provide an NRR of at least 20 dB and more if possible.
What Ear Protection Does the Military Use
That is a question that is a little hard to answer. Different styles and manufacturers of hearing protection are provided to military personnel, depending on their assignment and job duties.
By and large, military personnel in combat zones are issued earplugs, commonly of the foam variety. When on the training range, military personnel use standard-issue hearing protection that is provided to the military by several contractors. In some instances, the individual soldier may bring and use their choice of hearing protection during training.
What Ear Protection Do Police Departments Use.
Law enforcement, much like combat soldiers, depends on hearing to be situationally aware. Most patrol officers don’t wear hearing protection as a matter of routine.
The need to easily communicate by radio, verbally, and to hear ambient noises easily is a major reason most patrol officers don’t wear hearing protection. On the range, most departments have issue hearing protection that officers can use. However, most officers provide their hearing protection for range training and practice. Their preferences seem to track the overall shooting population.
How Loud Can Guns be in Decibels
These numbers reflect standard measurements of decibel levels for various calibers and gauges of guns. There may be variations depending on the gunpowder load, the type of firearm, and the length of the barrel.
Common Pistol Calibers
- .25 ACP – 155.0 dB
- .32 LONG – 152.4 dB
- .32 ACP – 153.5 dB
- .380 – 157.7 dB
- 9mm – 159.8 dB
- .38 S&W – 153.5 dB
- .38 Spl – 156.3 dB
- .357 Magnum – 164.3 dB
- .40 S&W – 156.5 dB
- .41 Magnum – 163.2 dB
- .44 S&W Magnum – 164.5 dB
- .44 Spl – 155.9 dB
- .45 ACP – 157.0 dB
- .45 COLT – 154.7 dB
- 12 Gauge Shotgun – 155 dB
- .22 Pistol or Rifle – 140 dB
Common Rifle Calibers
- 7mm Magnum – 166.5
- .30-06 – 163.6
- .270 – 161.9
- .243 – 160.6
- .30-30 – 160.5
- .45-70 – 160.1
- 7mm Mauser – 159.2
- .308 – 159.0
- 5.56 X 45mm (.223) – 158.9
- .17 HMR – 147.1
- .22LR – 143.8
Information courtesy of Lankford, J.E., Meinke, D.K., Flamme, G.A., Finan, D.S., Stewart, M., Tasko, S., Murphy, W.J. (2016). Auditory risk of air rifles. Int J Aud, 55(sup1), S51–S58.
Always Be Protected
No matter which style of hearing protection you choose, in the earplugs or earmuffs, they are of no use if they are in your range bag and not on your head. S
elect your ear protection wisely so that it becomes a regular part of your shooting pastime. You will appreciate your efforts in the future. I hope this guide and information helps you make a better decision in choosing your ear protection for shooting.