If you love guns, you probably remember going to the range for the first time, most likely with your dad, uncle, or grandpa. He probably made you put on a silly pair of antique ear protectors or earplugs, didn’t he?
You probably glanced around the shooting range and saw a bunch of old-timers without eyeglasses or ear protection, blasting away, and asked your guardian if, really, all this was necessary.
And your grandpa scoffed, mumbled something about losing his hearing during the war, and told you that you’d thank him for forcing you to wear hearing protection when you were older. And guess what?
Your grandpa was right. Ear protection is very important, especially if you’re a frequent shooter. Repeated shooting without ear protection can lead to deafness, tinnitus, and a bunch of other nasty hearing loss injuries that you don’t want any part of.
So read on to see how you can find the best ear protection for shooting available on the market today.
Things to Take into Consideration
Here are some quick basics about buying hearing protection, in case you need a refresher:
- A single gunshot peaks at about 140 dB. This spike alone is enough to cause hearing damage – shooting a gun even once, without hearing protection, can damage your hearing permanently.
- For long-duration hearing protection (8+ hours of constant noise), you’d need to reduce the dB threshold of the noise to under 85.
- Gunshots have a short duration; you don’t need to block that much sound.
- This is why shooting protection typically offers somewhere around -25-37 dB of protection – that may not sound like a lot, but remember that the decibel scale is logarithmic – 110dB is 10*10*10 times less powerful than 140dB.
- That’s the difference between standing next to a jet engine, and working with a table saw.
So, now that we’ve convinced you that it’s for your own safety, just like your grandpa when you were 12 and shot your first .22, we’ll provide you with all the info you need to invest in some functional, comfortable, and above all, safe, hearing protection.
Top 10 Ear Protections for Shooting Chart
There are two major types of shooting muffs on the market today, and each has its drawbacks and advantages.
Let’s go over the major differences quickly.
- Standard Ear Protection. The best ear protection for shooting is often the simplest – these ear protectors are just like the earmuffs you probably wear while doing yard work, except they’re made of much higher quality materials that are designed to absorb higher levels of shock and noise.
They’re generally made of layers of foam and plastic composites, and even metals. A hard plastic or metal outer shell helps reflect some of the noise from the surrounding areas, and further interior sound protection is provided by layers of ultra-absorbent foam that increases the air resistance of the sound, thus reducing the sound’s amplitude.
They’re as simple as they are effective, and they make up the bulk of our lower-cost choices on this list. But if you want the hearing protection of classic ear protectors with some added bonus features, you may be interested in one of the newer types of ear protectors to hit the market.
- Electronic Ear Protection. While these devices are more expensive, they’re loaded with plenty of bonus features, at least compared to standard ear protectors.
The main feature they offer is smart sound amplification – a -37dB NRR is great when you’re shooting a gun, but that also means that you may completely block out the sound of the person next to you trying to speak to you after you shoot.
These electronic devices augment this problem by adding a microphone that monitors ambient noise levels, and amplifying sounds under 82dB to a safe threshold, and cutting off when noise rises above that level.
They generally offer an NRR comparable to standard ear protectors, but pack features like headphone jacks and other goodies.
Of course, you’ll pay a price premium for these headphones, and you’ll need to remember to replace the batteries, so these probably aren’t good choices for people who don’t go shooting all the time.
Top 3 Best Ear Protection for Shooting Reviews
These are at the top of the list for a reason – they’re inexpensive and comfortable, while offering unmatched hearing protection.
While some choices on our list remain in the low and high 20s when it comes to NRR, these ClearArmor Safety Ear Muffs have an earthshattering -37dB NRR, making them a great choice if you are looking for serious hearing protection, and don’t like wearing earplugs underneath your shooting protectors.
For reference, if your gunshot clocks in at 140 dB, and these reduce the noise by -37db, the noise level goes from “Screaming Jet Engine Afterburner” to “Light Bulldozer Construction Work”.
In spite of their lower price, they’re still pretty high in quality – industrial grade materials and a smart swivel cup design, as well as a foldable and adjustable body, make these earmuffs as convenient to wear and transport as they are to wear to the range.
The second spot on our list is taken by these quality muffs from Decibel Defense. They’re about the same price as the ClearArmor muffs, but they manage to pack a -37NRR into a slightly slimmer profile, which makes them a bit more versatile if you’re looking to wear them somewhere besides the shooting range.
They also have a slightly flashier design, with some blue accents and fun colors incorporated into the body; however, they’re not as easily adjustable, and their folded profile is a bit bulkier than the ClearArmor muffs.
Overall, they’re a great choice and perfect for anyone looking for maximum protection.
These are a great, even more inexpensive alternative if you’re on a tight budget. Despite being cheaper than the two top overall picks, these earmuffs manage to pack a -34dB NRR at the lowest price of any earmuff on our list.
So if you’re going by a pure $-per-NNR calculation, these muffs are certainly the best value.
They’re lookers, too – they come in four colorways, including a basic black, as well as some flashier red, yellow, and blue alternatives.
Even though they’re inexpensive, they’re rock-solid – they fold well, feel heavy and protective, and include a great warranty, so you can feel safe in your purchase.
We hope that our detailed info and reviews will help you find the best hearing protection for shooting; whether you’re spending a day at the range or out shooting some clay pigeons for target practice.
No matter your skill level or how often you shoot, you should always wear protective headgear.