Best Ear Protection for Shooting: Earmuffs & Earplugs 2020 Buyer’s Guide

blonde girl firing

Avid shooters know that using the best ear protection for shooting can mean the difference between eardrums that remain perfectly intact and prolonged hearing damage. This is especially true when you’re firing off some rounds at an indoor range. Even if you don’t think you need to use protection, take into consideration that 85-decibels is the sound exposure limit. A normal conversation is 60-decibels, while a loud music concert has a peak range of 100-decibels. When you shoot a firearm, you’re exposing yourself to sounds up to 140-decibels. As you can see, over time, failure to protect your hearing can lead to serious hearing loss.

If you’ve never used hearing protection, then this buyer’s guide on ear protection for shooting can help you choose a pair of muffs that can provide the type of protection you need to prevent serious short term and long-term hearing loss and damage, while discussing the important must-have features to look for that can handle the job.

I’ve tested out top models, narrowing it down to ten pairs of muffs and earplugs that are highly adjustable, versatile, and easy to use. Below, you’ll find a comparison chart that lists each model, how they rated, and their top features.

Ear Protection for Shooting Comparison Chart

ProductColorsTypeIndoor/Outdoor
Use
NNRRating
Awesafe Shooting
Ear Protection

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8EarmuffsBoth22
PROHEAR Shooting Ear
Protection Muffs

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1EarmuffsIndoor28
ProCase Noise Reduction
Ear Muffs

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1EarmuffsBoth28
Mpow Shooting
Ear Protection

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1EarmuffsBoth22
Caldwell Electronic
Hearing Protection

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1EarmuffsBoth23
Walker's Hunting Earmuffs

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1EarmuffsOutdoor23
American Pro Sports
High Fidelity Ear Plugs

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1EarplugsBoth16
Titan Tactical Reusable
Shooting Ear Plugs

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1EarplugsBoth29
Decibullz Custom
Molded Earplugs

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5EarplugsBoth31
SureFire Defenders
Earplugs

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1EarplugsBoth24

Awesafe Electronic Shooting Ear Protection Earmuffs


Our Rating: (5/5)

These earmuffs are low profile, designed for firearm stock clearance, and complete with an adjustable headband that’s designed to improve fit. The 3.5-millimeter AUX input connection works for phone use, MP3 players, and external radios. The microphone is omnidirectional and increases environmental voices when noise is over 82-decibels. This model operates via a couple of AAA batteries. This pair is specifically designed for shooting in the field or at the range. The foldable design makes this model easier to transport. The snap-in ear cushions are replaceable and will extend the life of your earmuffs. Auto shut off is also included. This feature will power down the earmuffs after four hours of nonuse.

Pros

  • Low profile ear cups are designed to prevent interference when shooting
  • Replaceable ear cups
  • Omnidirectional microphone
  • Affordable
  • Available in eight colors

Cons

  • Low sound quality when listening to music

Conclusion

These durable, highly adjustable earmuffs are comfortable to wear and can provide top of the line hearing protection when you’re out in the field or at the range. The comfortable fit promotes longer use and encourages the wearer to use these earmuffs consistently. If you’re looking for ultimate hearing protection, then this pair by Awesafe is an excellent choice.

PROHEAR 036 Digital Electronic Shooting Ear Protection Muffs


Our Rating: (4.5/5)

These earmuffs are designed for indoor use and come with an NRR of 23 decibels, and can reduce any noise over 82-decibels, with a reaction time of 0.5 milliseconds. These electronic earmuffs come with a low-profile ear cup, complete with cut outs for improved clearance. The foldable design makes storing and transporting this pair a cinch. This model is the perfect choice for extremely loud environments. They’re also able to amplify low level sounds, thanks to the built-in mic which can amplify conversations, commands, and other types of ambient sounds, minimizing them to a safe 82-decibels. This model can also instantly block any noise over 82-decibels, which will enhance communication for shooting and hunting.

Pros

  • Foldable
  • Built-in mic
  • Amplifies sounds to 82-decibels
  • Low price

Cons

  • Can be difficult to unfold

Conclusion

Instead of using standard foam ear pads to muffle sound and promote user comfort, this company has incorporated gel ear seals which are said to reduce more pressure, preventing painful headaches that are common with other styles of earmuffs. Aside from earning top marks for user comfort, this model also scored big for its long battery life, auto shut off feature and excellent adjustability.

ProCase Noise Reduction Earmuffs


Our Rating: (4.5/5)

Considered one of the most comfortable pairs on the market, this latest model by ProCase features an ergonomic headband complete with soft padding that’s designed to reduce pressure on the head for improved comfort. The large, spacious ear cups promote breathability, while the imitation leather ear covers provide a sound-proof seal. The muffs are made out of durable ABS plastic, complete with noise-dampening foam that’s highly adjustable and will work for kids and adults. The ear cups can rotate at 360-degrees, which makes them very versatile. The foldable design makes storing and transporting these muffs a cinch.

Pros

  • Ear cups can rotate 360-degrees
  • Made out of thick ABS plastic
  • Breathable design
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Lateral pressure against the temple and cheeks

Conclusion

These ergonomic muffs are built tough and designed to provide ultimate protection at the range or in the field. This model is perfect for target shooting, hunting, sports events, woodworking, studying, and any application that takes place in a noisy environment. Their versatility and the fact that they’re so adjustable will allow anyone in the family to use them, so you’ll get more bang for your buck.

Mpow HP094A Electronic Shooting Ear Protection


Our Rating: (4.5/5)

These muffs provide excellent noise reduction, in addition to instant shut-off for sounds above 94-decibels. The shut off feature will kick in within 0.012 seconds. They’re also incredibly comfortable, thanks to the extra-soft ear cushions and padded headband. Because the muffs feature a telescopic rod that’s adjustable, this pair is designed to fit both kids and adults. The muffs come with an external audio jack which will allow you to also use these muffs to listen to music. The ambient sound application feature includes a recessed mic for ear protection that will amplify environmental sounds up to 1.2×1.5. This will provide an enhanced listening experience, while allowing you to communicate with other people in your party in a loud environment.

Pros

  • Ambient noise amplification
  • Padded headband
  • Telescoping rod
  • Instant shut off feature

Cons

  • Headband is not adjustable

Conclusion

These muffs are durable and highly portable. After use, fold the muffs into a compact size for easy transport and storage. This pair’s versatility will allow you to listen to music, communicate with other people in your party, even in loud environments, and all while the muffs provide top of the line hearing protection for hunting, target practice, sports events, and more.

Caldwell E-Max Hearing Protection Earmuffs


Our Rating: (4.5/5)

These muffs earned a twenty-three noise reduction rating and offer both hearing protection and a high quality stereo sound. The padded ear cups and adjustable headband allow you to achieve the perfect fit for proper hearing protection and noise cancellation. The low-profile ear cups and sleek design will provide a close cheek weld for improved shooting accuracy. The mics in each ear will amplify sounds that are below 85-decibels and provide directional clarity. The foldable design makes the muffs more convenient to store and transport, without the fear of damaging the ear cups or headband.

Pros

  • Volume control
  • Designed for all day use
  • Twenty-three noise reduction rating
  • Dual mics
  • For indoor and outdoor use

Cons

  • Can pick up static

Conclusion

This model delivers top of the line hearing protection and are designed for all day use. The twenty-three noise reduction rating will protect your hearing in loud environments, whether you’re at the range, on a hunting trip, or at a baseball game. The dual mic design provides high quality stereo sound, allowing you to carry on a conversation with your buddies, even when you’re at the range. Comfortable, designed for all day wear, and built tough, these muffs provide the type of hearing protection you need, in any type of loud environment.

Walker’s GWP-RSEMPAT-FDE Earmuffs


Our Rating: (4.5/5)

The manufacturer’s goal was to design earmuffs with the lowest profile possible. They deliver an impressive noise reduction rating of twenty-three and come equipped with an adjustable headband that’s designed to provide all day comfort. the muffs are equipped with a couple of omnidirectional mics, dynamic range speakers that provide a balanced, crystal clear sound, and volume control. The ultra-low-profile ear cups will improve user comfort while reducing tension on the sides of the head and the temples.

Pros

  • Durable
  • Volume control knob
  • Dynamic range speakers
  • Adjustable

Cons

  • AUX port doesn’t remain closed

Conclusion

Some users complained that the sound quality was less than stellar, so while these muffs do offer excellent sound protection, they fail to provide the type of crystal clear audio that the manufacturer claims they can. The muffs come equipped with an on and off volume control that’s easy to use with gloves on. This model provides the perfect fit thanks to the raised ridges, omnidirectional mics, and a slim profile, complete with a compact foldable design. If you’re looking for muffs that can provide excellent hearing protection, this pair delivers. However, if you also want a pair that also provides crystal clear audio sound for music listening, then you may want to pass this model by.

Earplugs by American Pro Sports


Our Rating: (4.5/5)

These plugs can easily fit inside your ear canal and are specifically designed to fit the exact shape of the canal. These plugs feature high fidelity noise reduction, which is what makes them perfect for use when shooting, loud concert events, sport events, and more. They’re made out of soft silicone that’s hypoallergenic, nontoxic, and comfortable to wear. They’re also covered by a lifetime warranty, so if they tear or break you can return them for a replacement. The included cord will allow you to hang the plugs around your neck, making them highly accessible.

Pros

  • Low price
  • Comfortable
  • High fidelity noise reduction
  • Durable

Cons

  • Plugs can come apart when taking them out of your ears

Conclusion

These versatile plugs can be used for any type of noisy environment, are durable, yet very soft, and are a great choice if you’re looking for hearing protection that’s highly portable and affordable. They’ll work well for hunters and shooting range use, due to the high-fidelity noise reduction feature that will block out loud noise but will still allow you to hear ambient noise.

Titan Tactical 29NRR Shooting Earplugs


Our Rating: (4.5/5)

These earplugs have an NRR rating of 29 and were tested for both outdoor and indoor use. Aside from hearing protection against gunshots, these plugs can also be used for sports events, landscaping work, construction, concerts, and any type of loud environment. The manufacturer also claims that this model is the hearing protection choice for military and law enforcement. While they work well to protect your ears from hearing damage, they will still allow you to clearly hear voices so you can communicate with your hunting buddies or friends at the shooting range.

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Durable
  • Comfortable
  • Allows you to hear ambient noise

Cons

  • Can slip out of the ear canal easily

Conclusion

These plugs are hypoallergenic, made out of soft silicone that’s medical grade, and they come with a keyring aluminum carrying case so you can always keep them with. Durable and priced affordably, these reusable plugs are a great choice for any noisy application.

Decibullz – Custom Molded Earplugs


Our Rating: (4.5/5)

These custom molded earplugs feature an NRR rating of 31, which is pretty impressive. They’re the perfect choice for concerts, work, swimming, shooting, sleeping, travel, sport events, and any type of loud environment. These custom molded earplugs work to easily and quickly fit the exact shape of your ear canal, creating the type of tight seal you need for ultimate ear protection. This set includes molds, three sets of tips in different sizes, and a carrying pouch so you can allows keep these earplugs accessible. These plugs are soft, comfortable, and reusable.

Pros

  • Custom molded
  • 31 NRR rating
  • Soft
  • Reusable

Cons

  • If molding is done incorrectly, sound leakage is possible

Conclusion

The included molds will ensure your new earplugs fit you like a glove. They’ll work well in any type of indoor or outdoor environment, for a variety of applications including shooting and swimming. Versatile, built tough, and designed for extended use, these comfortable plugs fit so well you’ll probably forget that you’re even wearing them.

SureFire EP4 Sonic Defenders Earplugs


Our Rating: (4/5)

These earplugs earned a 24 NRR and come with filter caps. These plugs are highly adjustable and feature a triple-flanged stem design that provides a tighter, more secure seal in the ear canals. They also offer all-day comfort and a design that’s very low-profile. The ear lock retention rings work at seven contact points and are designed to keep the plugs securely in place. They’re made out of medical-grade polymer that’s long-lasting, durable, and soft.

Pros

  • Noise reducing filter
  • Designed for all-day wear
  • 24 NRR rating
  • Low price

Cons

  • Can be difficult to get inside the ear canal

Conclusion

These plugs are designed to protect your hearing, without having a negative impact on your ability to hear ambient sounds, so you can still carry on a conversation and hear other types of low ambient noise. These plugs work to allow in sounds that are at a safe level, while preventing any harmful noise that’s above 85-decibels from making its way past the plugs. Tough, and designed for all-day wear, these plugs can be used for a wide variety of applications from shooting to sport events.

Ear Protection for Shooting Buyer’s Guide

The average gunshot noise rating comes in at about 140-decibels. However, higher caliber guns can make even more noise. Each time a person pulls the trigger without using ear protection, they’re basically subjecting their ears to more than 55-decibels above the recommended noise level. Over time, this can lead to permanent hearing loss.

Using hearing protection will reduce this amount to a safer level.

Some people think that because they’re shooting outside that the sound has more places to travel, so hearing protection is not necessary. However, this is not true. If you’re shooting outside, then the chances are you’re using a rifle, which must be placed close to the head in order to aim accurately. Whether you’re outside or inside, the sound of a gun going off is going to have a negative impact on your hearing.

Now, before I dive into the features to look for before you buy, let’s take a look at some of the important benefits these ear protection devices have to offer.

Benefits of Ear Protection for Shooting

A woman aiming a rifle.

The biggest benefit of using hearing protection is obviously the fact that it will protect your ears from loud sounds by reducing the level of noise that’s able to enter your ears.

However, there are other benefits as well, depending on the hearing protection chosen. These benefits can include:

  • The ability to hear normal conversations while muffling the sound of shots
  • Protection of the bones of the inner ear and the ear canals
  • Wearing hearing protection each time you visit the range or you’re hunting out in the field can prevent noise-induced hearing loss
  • Allows you to shoot longer, without the risk of side effects to your hearing such as headaches, tinnitus, or mild to severe hearing loss
  • Models that are designed to amplify ambient noise can also increase your chances of bagging a deer on the hunt since you will be able to hear the sound of footsteps more clearly.
  • Muffs that come with a jack allow you to plug into your MP3 player or smartphone and enjoy listening to your favorite music when you’re at the range.

Now that you know more about some of the many benefits these devices have to offer, let’s learn more about the different features they offer, and which ones indicate quality and can enhance your next shooting experience.

These plugs and muffs can be used for more than just shooting. In fact, they can be used for sport events, concerts, and in any type of noisy environment.

Other Important Features

The type of hearing protection you choose should be based on comfort and the level of protection you need.

There are a couple of types of hearing protection for shooters that are designed to protect the wearer’s ears from damage; earplugs and earmuffs. There are pros and cons that come with choosing each type of protective device. Many hunters believe that earplugs are not as safe to use when hunting because they’re not as adjustable as earmuffs, making it difficult to hear ambient noise and communicate. Others feel that earmuffs are too cumbersome and can get in the way of shooting if you’re using a rifle or shotgun.

Types of Ear Protection for Shooting

Below, I’ll go over both options and how they can provide the type of protection you need, whether you’re at the range or hunting with your buddies in the backcountry.

Earplugs

Earplugs are made up of acoustic filters that will allow you to hear noise around you clearly and easily, but they also offer automatic noise suppression in order to protect your hearing from gunshots. This feature consists of a small internal valve that will automatically close when it’s struck by sound. These plugs are often made out of silicone or a type of dense foam. They’re highly portable and lightweight, yet the best option is a custom molded pair that’s created from impressions taken from your ear canals. These offer the most comfortable fit, not to mention a tighter seal. Some models will come with cords or straps that you can use to hang them around your neck and keep them highly accessible.

Earmuffs are a great alternative, if you find earplug use to be uncomfortable.

Earmuffs: Electronic and Passive

When you’re shopping, you’ll come across a couple of different types of earmuffs; electronic and passive. The electronic models will run off a battery, while the passive models will not come with any type of electronic component. Both types have their own pros and cons.

Earmuff style hearing protection devices can provide top of the line hearing protection when you’re shooting, but some can also allow you to listen to music. They may also come equipped with a mic that is designed to amplify any low-level sounds. This will come in handy when you need to hear a conversation when you’re hunting, or you’re trying to listen and identify the location of your target in the brush.

Electronic options amplify sound thanks to a mic located in each ear cup. Some types of muffs will double as headphones allowing you to plug into an electronic device to listen to music. Many muffs come loaded with a variety of features that will improve your hunting experience, but not all of them can provide the type of protection you need to prevent hearing damage.

Many hunters prefer this type of hearing protection since they’re adjustable and come loaded with some extra great features. You can also have more control over how much ambient noise you hear via a volume adjustment knob for both style options. However, if you often shoot with long guns, then you’ll quickly find out that some of the bulkier models can get in your way when you’re trying to take a quick shot.

Electronic Earmuffs

Most models of electronic muffs come with basic ear cups that come with foam that’s sound-absorbing, just like other types of muffs. This means, even if the battery dies, your hearing will still be protected. The biggest difference between these muffs and passive is the mic located on the outside of each muff. When the muff’s volume is turned up all the way, these muffs will allow you to hear better than what you can hear without using muffs, which is why many people wear them in the field. Early models of electronic muffs came with a stop gauge. If the device sensed a loud sound that was above a certain DB level, the amplifier would switch off. Once the sound stopped, the amp would switch back on. While this works well, the resulting audio experience for the ear can sound somewhat clipped. If someone close by is shooting while shooters are holding a conversation, then it will sound like their muffs are turning on and off. Older models also only came with a single mic, which made it difficult to determine the direction that the sound was coming from.

Amplification

Most modern models feature top of the line amp technology, which provides sound compression. This will allow a shooter to hear all types of low-level environmental sounds such as the wind, footsteps, and conversations, but when a loud noise occurs, the sound is compressed to a lower volume instead of switched off. So, instead, of the sound cutting in and out, the sound is continuous.

The biggest advantage to using this type of earmuff is the shooter won’t have to take their hearing device off to have a conversation. Once they do so, someone nearby could start to shoot unexpectedly, which can be very jarring and can lead to hearing damage.

Modern electronic models will come with more than one mic, making it easier to determine which direction the sound is coming from. In a tactical hunting environment, this is very important.

The biggest issue with an electronic pair of muffs is their need for a power source. While most models will come with batteries that are rechargeable, other models may need to use disposable batteries, which can die quickly. However, electronic style models often provide better amplification of ambient noises. Some models may also come with an MP3 audio jack that will allow you to listen to music. If you’re someone who often prefers to enjoy going to the range alone, this can be a great extra feature to have and one that will effectively drown out the sound of your shooting.

Passive Earmuffs

This type of muff works without the use of batteries. They consist of a couple of ear cups and a headband and are designed to provide the same level of hearing protection. While most models don’t come with any special features, the fact that they don’t come with any type of electronic components also means that they will last significantly longer compared to electronic models. Additionally, their NRR ratings should be very similar but these muffs may not have the ability to amplify conversations or ambient noise, which may be a drawback for some users.

The best ear protection or the job will depend on:

  • Shooting environment
  • Expected noise level
  • Ear canal size

When you’re shopping for hearing protection muffs there are many different factors to choose from, such as:

Usage

Are you someone who heads to the range several times a week or goes hunting once or twice a month? Obviously, if you only hunt once a year or very rarely make it to the range, then you may not need to invest as much in a pair of muffs as the avid shooter or hunter.

Application

shooting range

The type of hearing protection device you use will also depend on how you need to use them and where. Some people will purchase muffs for concerts, sports events, hunting, or shooting at the range. Typically, for shooting, you’ll definitely need a higher level of protection. You may also want to use a pair that will allow you to hear ambient noise while blocking out the loud sound of gunshots. Fortunately, there are many models on the market that are designed to do just that.

Ear Cup Fit

If you’ve decided to go with earmuffs, then the ear cup design is something you’ll need to consider. When you’re shopping for hearing protection, make sure that you purchase a set that will fit correctly. The wearer’s entire ear must fit under the cup. The cups should fit flush against the user’s head. If the ear cups don’t fit properly, then the earmuffs will be useless.

Shooting Type

The next consideration is the type of shooting you do. Do you only shoot long guns or do you normally shoot handguns?

If you shoot long guns, what types do you shoot? Do you prefer to shoot ARs only? This will be important since the ear protection you purchase must be compatible with long guns. The wider the ear cup style, the more they can interfere with shouldered rifles or shotguns. Most people who use long guns recommend going with earplugs, since they fit directly into the canal and won’t get in the way of taking a shot off the shoulder like earmuffs can.

NRR

NRR, or noise reduction ratings, is a unit that measures how effective a protective hearing device is. This scale will range from as low as 22-decibels up to 30-decibels, however, you will find some options that come with an even higher NRR rating. When you’re shopping, keep an eye out for models with a higher rating since these will be the models that are able to offer a better level of protection. However, it’s also important to keep in mind that a model with a higher NRR rating can also make it difficult to hear any type of ambient noise. The hunter should try to find a model that will filter out any type of high decibel noise while also working to amplify any low noises.

All types of ear protection devices should come equipped with a type of NRR rating. If you’re not able to find this number, then contact the manufacturer prior to purchasing.

Durability

In terms of durability models that come with electronic features are more prone to breaking. From the cups to the jack for media devices to the hinges that connect to the headband, you can run into issues if you’re not careful with your muffs.

Earplugs are not as durable as earmuffs and tend to tear after removing them from the canal several times. Most are made out of soft materials such as polymers or silicone, so they don’t offer the type of durability that earmuffs do.

Size

Muffs can be pretty bulky, and some feature-heavy models can also be cumbersome and uncomfortable to use for longer periods of time. They may even take up too much space in your pack, if they don’t feature a foldable design. Because some models can be very fragile, it’s important that you store and transport them correctly to prevent damage.

In terms of size, you’ll want to pay attention to the headband and the ear cups. While a larger ear cup size often means better noise reduction, they can also get in the way when you’re trying to shoot.

Some headbands are highly adjustable, while others aren’t, which can limit who can use them. Look for a highly adjustable headband, which will allow you to achieve a custom fit, so the muffs don’t fall forward or backward during use.

Earplug sizes are pretty standard; however, you can also find moldable earplugs, which will allow you to use a mold to ensure the plugs fit your specific ear canal size perfectly.

Comfort

Comfort is a big deal. Ear cups that are not heavily padded can cause irritation with longer use. A headband that’s not padded can also make the muffs uncomfortable, causing tension around the head and at the sides of the face.

Earplugs that are too big for your ear canal can cause soreness, pain, and irritation after extended use.

Why Hunters Need Hearing Protection

Most shooters will not walk into an active shooting range without ear protection. However, hearing protection is often neglected or ignored by most hunters. With hunting, your hearing is very important, but every shot without the use of hearing protection can cause significant hearing damage. Shooting a firearm can cause damage even when you’re hunting or when a shot is taken at range. While this seems obvious to most shooters, most veteran hunters tend to forget or blow off the idea that a shot or two outdoors can have an impact on their hearing.

Despite the fact that when you hunt, you’re only taking one shot at a time, the shot is still 165-decibels, which is loud enough to cause permanent damage. While all types of hunters are at risk, the bird hunter is at more of a risk because they will shoot several rounds a day from blinds, where they will have to deal with the blast from fellow hunters in addition to blasts from their own rifles.

Shooter’s Ear

Shooter’s ear, also known as hunter’s ear, is a type of condition that results in asymmetrical hearing loss that’s caused by the way a shooter’s ear is exposed to the sound from a gunshot. The ear that is next to the muzzle blast will take most of the damage. Every time the ear is exposed to loud sounds there’s a risk of hearing loss. While in many cases, this type of hearing loss is gradual, extremely loud sudden bursts will cause significant damage to the bones of the inner ear. It can also cause a rupture of the eardrum. Because of this risk, it’s just as important for the hunter to wear hearing protection as it is for the indoor range shooter.

How Hearing Damage Occurs

You need to have a better understanding of how the ear works in order to understand how the noise from a gunshot can seriously damage your hearing. A person’s hearing will depend on a series of events that can change sound waves into electrical signals. The auditory nerves carry the signal to the brain through a series of steps.

Sound waves enter the outer ear, traveling through the ear canal, a very narrow passage that leads to the eardrum. The incoming sound waves cause the eardrum to vibrate, sending the vibrations to small bones located in the middle ear.

These three small bones are called:

  • Stapes
  • Incus
  • Malleus

The sound continues to the cochlea located in the inner ear. It’s filled with fluid and shaped like a snail. A thin elastic partition runs throughout the cochlea, splitting into lower and upper portions. This thin elastic partition is called the basilar membrane since it works as a base on which important hearing structures rest.  As the vibrations cause the fluid to ripple in the cochlea, a wave forms alone the membrane. Sensory cells that rest on top of the membrane ride this wave. These sensory cells move up and down while stereocilia, microscopic hair-like projections that sit on top of the sensory cells, bumping and bending against an overlying structure. The bending will cause a type of pore-like channel to open up. Once this occurs, the chemicals will rush into the cell and create an electrical signal.

The auditory nerve will carry this signal to the brain where it is then translated into sound.

Most types of noise induced hearing loss is caused by the damage to the sensory cells. Unfortunately, these cells do not grow back.

Signs of Noise Induced Hearing Loss

When you’re exposed to the sound of gunshots over a long period of time, you will gradually start to lose your hearing. Since the damage from this type of exposure to loud noise is slow, you may not notice it initially. However, over time you may notice that sound becomes muffled or distorted, so you may find it hard to understand conversations that take place in loud environments. The damage caused by shooting without wearing hearing protection can lead to severe hearing loss that can only be treated with the use of hearing aids.

In more severe cases just one extremely loud burst of noise, such as a gunshot close by, can rupture or permanently damage the three bones located in the middle ear. This type of damage is permanent and immediate.

Exposure to loud sounds can also cause roaring, buzzing, or ringing in the ears, which is a condition that’s known as tinnitus. While this condition can subside over time, it some cases it can continue constantly, or sporadically, for the rest of a person’s life. Tinnitus can occur in one or both ears.

How to Prevent Noise Induced Hearing Loss

man and girl in shooting range

This type of hearing loss is completely preventable. If you wear your hearing protection devices when shooting, even outdoors, then you can protect your hearing for life.

Remember:

  • If you think you are suffering from hearing loss, have your ears tested
  • If you’re unable to protect your hearing and can’t reduce the noise, leave the environment
  • Wear earmuffs or earplugs whenever you’re involved in a loud activity
  • Any noise above 85-decibels can damage your hearing

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Ear Plugs Better than Earmuffs?

The biggest advantage of using ear plus is the level of protection they can provide. Since they’re designed to directly fit into the ear canal, the plugs offer more protection than earmuffs, however, they will also significantly hinder your ability to hear ambient noise, which can be dangerous when they’re used for hunting purposes.

What NRR is Recommended for Shooting?

All hearing protection devices must have an NRR rating, by law. The highest NRR rating you can purchase is thirty-three. Products with twenty-eight to thirty-one NRR is recommended for shooting indoors.

How Many DBs can Kill You?

150 decibels are loud enough to rupture the eardrum, however, in order to kill a person, it would require a decibel rating of 185-200.

How Do I Choose Hearing Protection?

Before shopping for hearing protection, consider how much protection you need. This will depend on the type of application you’re using them for. Decide whether ear plugs or earmuffs will offer the most comfortable fit for you. In many cases, earmuffs are a safer choice, especially when used for hunting.

Final Thoughts

The best ear protection for shooting can safeguard your hearing from serious damage. The models I’ve included in this guide each earned a high safety rating, scored well in terms of durability and comfort, and will provide the type of protection you need to preserve your hearing. This guide is designed to show you how these devices work, how they can protect you, and the important features to look for in order to ensure you end up with a model that will prevent both short term and long-term hearing loss.

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