I see it every time I go to the range. Just got a new gun and some ammo. Got to pull that trigger as soon as possible, and BANG, goodbye hearing. I try to slip them or their friends some hearing protection when I can. Don't be that guy, invest in some shooting hearing protection because it saves you thousands.
Nearly 2.3 million veterans received compensation for hearing loss from their time in the service. Gunfire, machinery, and being yelled at by NCOs all take their toll.
The most common reason for hearing loss is not wearing hearing protection. Many prefer to forgo their hearing protection in favor of better situational awareness.
Go out and buy some of the soft yellow foam hearing protection at the very least. I think they might cost 10 cents. These simple yellow foam plugs make it so that you can hear in your 50s.
SureFire EP4 Sonic
3M PELTOR TEP-100
Pinkies High Fidelity Ear Plugs
Walker Silencer Earbuds
Walker's Razor Slim
Peltor ComTac III
Peltor Sport Tactical 500
Best Earplugs For Shooting
Best Earplugs for Shooting
1. SureFire EP4 Sonic Defenders
Surefire makes hearing protection for the military, police forces, and even the Secret Service. The SureFire EP4 Sonic Defenders are some of my favorites ear protection devices because of their patented Earlock fit. Once in, they don't come out. Yet, they have a comfortable fit that you can wear them all day.
The Sonic Defenders use a triple silicon flange for 24dB NRR. They come in black, orange and clear. Remove the filter plug, and you can hear like you aren't even wearing them. They will protect you from 82dB+ noise such as gunshots and other loud noises. If you need to, you can add a radio earpiece in through the filter plug and listen in as you shoot.
The Sonic Defenders have a vast number of fans because of their quality and value.
2. Mack’s Shooters Earplugs
Mack's Earplugs get wholly overshadowed by others on this list. The price is a third the cost of the Sonic Defenders, yet Mack's are not as high value. They are great because they are available at Walmart. So, if you lose your earbuds, you can make a quick trip to Walmart and grab a pair for a fiver.
Other than their availability, they are very comfortable. They allow you to shoot for hours. Their NRR is 27. They are great for an AR-15 or a 22LR but not high enough for large calibers. Unfortunately, they don't work well with over-ear headphones for dual protection.
Mack's value is in the price. If you want reusable earplugs, they are cheap and easy. They come with a case and a removable cord so you won't lose them. However, if you have the time to wait for shipping and want a cheap set look at 3M’s Peltor Sport TriFlange. For the same price, you get 3M quality with a 3 pack.
3. 3M PELTOR TEP-100 Tactical Earplug
The Rolls Royce of Earplugs! Their NRR of 30 allows these earplugs to completely block out most dangerous sounds. The electronic microphones in each ear maintain your situational awareness. They are expensive but buy once cry once. You will agree that they are some of the best earplugs on the market.
These Peltor Tactical earplugs by 3M are dominating the list because they work. The TEP-100 is no exception. They are the best form of ear protection available for in-ear protection.
The TEP-100s come in a carry and charging case that needs 3 AAA batteries for up to 16 full charges. Alternatively, you can charge with a USB wall outlet. The rechargeable feature makes these earplugs very useful.
The case is built to take a hit whether you are out hunting or on the shooting range. I love how simple it is to charge the buds. Just place them in the case and it does the rest. It even starts the various charge states, so you know your ear pro is ready when you are.
They are amazingly comfortable. I wore the test pair for 8 hours loading grain into a silo. For those of you who don't know grain makes a sound like gravel being scraped by a snowplow.
Not only could I hear everyone talking in person or on the phone, but also after 8 hours, I removed them and experienced no difficulty hearing whispers or conversations.
These EarPlugs are the real deal. That is why law enforcement and the military use so many of 3M's products. The TEP-100 is explicitly made for situational awareness. Even while loading grain, I could hear everything I was told, thanks to the smart sound filter. If you can afford them, buy these.
Decibullz Custom Molded Earplugs are probably the most comfortable shooting ear protection you can buy…after you fit them properly. You place them in boiling water to soften them up, then create your own custom molded earplugs.
If you don't get the fit right the first time, don't worry. You can mold them repeatedly and it can while to get the correct fit.
The best thing about having custom-fitted earplugs is that they go in and they stay in. They are some of the most comfortable shooting earplugs you will ever wear. After testing this set, my girlfriend stole them and uses them for sleeping.
They come in several colors though I recommend orange so if they do fall out you can find them quickly. If you have them shaped correctly, they won't fall out. They are so comfortable that you will forget you're wearing them.
They have up to 31 NRR and work amazingly with headphones for dual-ear protection while shooting.
5. Pinkies High Fidelity Ear Plugs
Pinkies Ear Plugs are a favorite when you are looking for discreet and comfortable ear plugs. They are clear. So, most of the time, other people won't know you are wearing them. They're perfect for when you get into those conversations at the range that you would rather avoid.
Pinkes' NRR is 25 like most of ear plugs on the list. This means that if you are shooting a larger caliber, you will need a set of headphones to get you to that magical NRR of 40. Pinkies come with a hard aluminum carrying case that fits nicely on a keychain.
6. Walker Silencer Earbuds
Walker Silencer Electronic Earbuds are for the shooter who wants to hear his or her surroundings, have a conversation with a shooting or hunting partner, or just need some situational awareness.
These solidly built best electronic earplugs filter out any sounds over 85dB to a low comfortable 25dB. They are powered by #10 batteries and get up to 80 hours of battery life. They aren't as simple as the non-powered earbuds, but they work much better.
If you can afford it, I would opt for the Silencer Bluetooth for crystal clear audio for phone calls or music when out in the field. The Bluetooth also uses a rechargeable battery in a rugged carrying case that charges while remaining protected.
Bonx has a new way of thinking about earbuds. They don't just dampen sound; they use cellular technology to create a radio between your hunting and shooting partners.
The system works through Bluetooth on your cell phone, so you don't need to be able to see your partners to be able to talk to them. The open ear design allows you to hear ambient noises while the tight-fitting earbuds block loud impulse sounds.
The best feature is that you can have multiple people on your radio wavelength, allowing you to talk to your whole group. Perfect for flushing game or winning an airsoft tournament. The waterproof design allows them to be used not just for shooting but fishing, snowboarding, and other outdoor sports.
The voice activation is especially useful for shooters because you never need to take your hands off your rifle. The system is fast and easy to use. Unfortunately, everyone in your party will need their own earplugs. But, it is worth it.
I can't say enough good things about Bonx's group chat. They allowed our hunting group to bag a massive number of snow geese. It is the modern-day walkie talkie.
8. Soft Yellows
If you haven't used these before, you probably can't hear me anyway. The soft foam plugs are used by everyone for their first time shooting, running a chainsaw, or even mowing the lawn.
The iconic disposable earplugs may seem like they don't even belong in the list, but they serve an essential purpose. They increase the NRR by an additional amount for when you need more than the standard 21.
The 3M Earplugs carry a 33 NRR rating that makes them not only the smart choice for dual noise reduction but also one of the best single systems as well. They also don’t stop you from maintaining a good cheek weld on your rifles.
Some of the Best Earmuffs For Shooting
1. Howard Leight by Honeywell
These are the most popular ear protection on our list other than disposables. Howard Leight makes a fantastic product. They often go on sale, for under $30 so keep your eyes open.
Howard Leight has a tremendous electronic noise cancellation of anything above 82dB. Their NRR is 22, so if you are shooting a larger caliber, you want to double up on your hearing protection.
Howard Leight's are electronic earmuffs with a directional microphone on each side of the headphones. These allow you to have directional awareness while shooting--perfect for talking to your spotter or making sure you hear the kid running around the range.
Howard Leight's fold up into a relatively compact package for storage. You can even purchase a great protective case from Honeywell for holding your headphones and batteries.
Speaking of batteries all you need is two AAs. They offer a great battery life. It has been 5 years since I first started using my pair of Howard Leights. Thanks to the auto-shutoff, I don't believe I have replaced the batteries once.
The Howard Leight also has a built-in aux port for when you want to plug in your phone for music, videos or just phone calls on the range. Great for when it's time to mow the lawn or when waiting in a stand.
Maintenance on the headphones is almost non-existent. If you manage to wear out your ear cups, they can be removed, and a new pair added thanks to the snap-in system.
Howard Leight by Honeywell is your starting point. They are the best bang for your buck. Once you purchase a pair, you will love them. Their only downside is they can prevent a solid cheek weld if you are not used to shooting with hearing protection headphones.
2. Walker's Razor Slim Electronic Earmuff
Walker's Razors have an NRR of 23. They are the perfect Headphone protection if Howard Leights are interfering with your cheek weld. Their slim muff design doesn't have as much bulk when shooting in-line stocks like the AR platforms while still maintaining excellent noise reduction.
Walker Razors are a favorite because of the bang for the buck. They have outstanding noise reduction without losing features like directional microphones, audio jack for radios or MP3 players, and robust volume control.
You might be able to find the Howard Leight cheaper than the Walker Razor. However, if you can't establish a firm cheek weld, you can get them for free and still not be happy.
3. Peltor ComTac III
Peltor ComTac III is the hearing protection of choice for special forces, military, police, and shooters that want the best protection you can buy. Built to work with the Advanced Combat Helmet, you can tell these are built to last in combat. You aren’t likely to break a pair out on the range.
The ComTac III has a ton of features most civilians won't use such as dual inputs for ASIP and MBITR radios. However, you can purchase an aftermarket input jack for your tunes if you want to listen to music while shooting.
The features you will love are the incredible noise reduction and the talk-through system. The talk-through system allows you to hear your buddies talking on the range or hear animals in the field. If you want to be able to speak quietly to your shooting partners, you want a pair of these headphones.
4. Peltor Sport Tactical 500
Peltor Sport Tactical 500 is essentially the civilian version of the Peltor Comtac. They don't have fancy radio features, but they are Bluetooth compatible. This means you can take a call on the range without worrying about losing your hearing to a sudden gunshot.
The Sport Tactical 500s use Clear Voice Tracking. This is a fancy term for saying that the microphones are built to pick up human voice frequencies while suppressing gunshot frequencies.
The technology works! We were able to have a full conversation while shooting at an indoor range with short-barreled ARs and AKs without any problems.
The headband is comfortable. Since it weighs only 1.4 pounds, it didn't feel like I was carrying tons of weight on my neck. If you want premium headphones without paying military prices, these are the headphones for you.
5. Baby Banz Earmuffs
If you take your children shooting, be sure to pick up a pair of these ear muffs for shooting. They are great shooting earmuffs. Comfortable and easy to fit on most children. These safety ear muffs will help protect their hearing well into their teens--when, unfortunately, they won't listen anyway!
Teaching a youth firearms training class, I include a set into the price of the class. Any kid that doesn't have a hearing protection device will go back to their parents in pain. We choose Baby Banz instead of In-Ear plugs to decrease ear infection rates.
Most importantly, they work. If you want your child to have the best protection, grab a pair before you teach them how to shoot.
Hearing Protection what you need to know
Noise Reduction Rating (NRR)
A firearm produces a 149dB soundwave that can obliterate your ability to hear for the rest of your life. Decibels or dB is a logarithmic scale that means for every increase of dB+1 it is an exponential increase in the "loudness" of the sound.
I'm not going to hit on the science, but basically, gunshots are between 120-170dB. Just to help you understand loud sounds: The loudest tone is 194dB. A rocket launch is 180dB. A 12 gauge is 165dB. A normal conversation is 60dB.
The Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) is the amount that hearing protection dampens sound.
The NRR is effectively only 29dB even with dual hearing protection. The science behind this is some complicated math that I won't bore you with. It means that even with Soft Earplugs, you cause hearing damage after enough exposure to high sound levels.
If you don't want to be paying thousands of dollars when you are in your 60s to be able to hear, get your Ears on.
In-ear vs. Headphones
The correct answer is both. Noise reduction is complicated. You can't stop all harmful sounds from a gunshot without a suppressor. You will want both soft foam and over-ear protection. For the cost, it is a no brainer to wear a pair of 3M soft foam earplugs underneath your electronic headphones.
In-ear form or silicon headphones are good at protecting your eardrum from damage. However, over time they can become uncomfortable and potentially cause infection. Purchase disposable or washable headphones. Don't worry, nothing made our list that isn't washable.
Electronic Headphones allow sound to pass through while mechanically stopping sounds over 82dB. If you need to be able to hear range commands, talk to your friends, or listen to the sounds of the forest waiting for that deer, buy a high-quality set of electronic headphones.
The microphones of the sides allow you to hear ambient sounds while blocking most sound waves that can cause damage to your hearing.
Cup size not just of bras
The most critical factor in hearing protection is comfort. If you don't enjoy wearing a headset, you will forget to put it on and damage your hearing. All the headsets on this list are adjustable. If they don't feel right on your head because they are too small or too large, send them back.
This is especially important for children and infants. Much like a seat belt, if it isn't worn correctly, it doesn't provide as much protection.
On the range, you will want to have hearing protection on children, especially infants. Don't worry; Baby Banz will have you covered. They also work great for bars, concerts, and when you want to call the stork for a new brother or sister.
Ear Protection is like brushing your teeth
You protect your ears the best you can while you’re young so you can still hear when you are old. If you are looking at the cost of hearing protection and thinking you can get by with a couple of sets of foam disposables, stop and think about how much more it will cost when you want to have your hearing back.
The most expensive hearing protection on our list is the Peltors ComTac III and the additional cost of the Peltor TEP-100 Earplugs. These purchases will cost less than one trip to your ENT in the future. Hearing protection isn't buy once, cry once. It is buy once, no NEED to cry once.