If you’ve ever shot a firearm you realize the need for hearing protection. The high decibels emitted by the report of a rifle, handgun, or shotgun can do permanent damage to your hearing over time, especially if you are indoors or shooting out of a vehicle if the need arises. Even just everyday items such as a lawnmower, tractor, and tools can really damage your hearing and when it is gone it is not coming back. This article will go over the different types of the best shooting ear protection.
Best Shooting Ear Protection: Foam Ear Plugs
Foam ear plugs are actually fairly effective if they expand well in the ear. The main perks are they are disposable so if you happen to lose one you won’t have to worry about losing an expensive piece of equipment. The other as you can guess is the price. Foam ear plugs are very affordable and are made by a great number of manufacturers. I’ve had good luck with both just the basic round plugs as well as the tapered foam plugs. Both seem to expand well and fill the ear canal. Most foam ear plugs have a decibel reduction rating of around 25-32 decibels which is quite effective used alone or with in conjunction with an over ear option. The bottom line is if you need a cheaper option that is both lightweight and very convenient these will definitely help protect your hearing. Hearos and Mack's are both good affordable options.
Best Shooting Ear Protection: Surfire Ear Pro
These are simple ear plugs that are made of a hypoallergenic soft rubber type polymer or foam that fit into your ear and with their shape lock into your ear somewhat. There are different models but the three I have experience with are the EP3, EP4, and EP7. The reason I choose to use these models is they all have a removable filter cap that you can leave open while talking and be able to hear things around you normally but with the filter cap closed will block anywhere from 24-28 decibels depending on the model you choose. In my eyes the EP3 and EP4 models are essentially the same the main difference is the EP4 has an extra polymer baffle on the part that inserts into the ear to fit larger ear canals and make a better fit for larger ear canals but seems to help anyway with a smaller ear. Both of these models will block 24 decibels with their filter caps closed. An anecdote worth noting is I have shot Ar-15’s with the filter plugs out and did not have my ears blown out so even with the filter caps out they do offer some decibel reduction in case you are like me and forget to close the caps which is a great feature for us forgetful people. The EP7 model that I really like also has a foam tip instead of the medical grade polymer tip of the EP3 and EP4 model. This does do a little more for decibel reduction with a rating of 28 decibel reduction rating. To me the big thing is comfort if you like the foam type the EP7’s memory foam ear piece will feel better and do a great job. Overall my personal favorite is the simple EP3 they are simple and effective. They come with a detachable lanyard to help keep you from losing them (which I need help with) and are compatible with radio communication systems if that is important to you.
Best Shooting Ear Protection: Ear Muffs
Ear muffs are fantastic for helping reducing decibels from firearms as well as any machinery or tools you may use at home. There are a lot of great companies that produce these at affordable prices and most are extremely durable. A great example is the Clear Armor 141001 with a very impressive 34 decibel reduction rating. The Clear Armor ear muffs are a traditional type ear muff with some great protection and are foldable for more compact storage as well as help them from getting broke. The next ear muffs I would recommend are the Walker’s Game Ear Pro low profile ear muffs. The benefit to the low profile is they do not stick out as far as some of the traditional types such as the Clear Armor mentioned above. I personally like the low profile style more but that is just a preference. These are also foldable so they will store in a compact fashion and are very affordable and is one of the big things I like about them. Remember If you are shooting indoors or shooting next to someone who has some kind of muzzle brake, using these in addition to either EarPro’s or traditional foam ear plugs will really help to eliminate that noise and is probably the best shooting ear protection combination.
Best Shooting Ear Protection: Electronic Hearing Protection
Electronic hearing protection is the way of the future of hearing protection. With more noise cancelling technology being developed I have no doubt that in a few years we will have some amazing options come to the market. The huge bonus with electronic hearing protection is the fact you can hear everything except the shot because the noise gets cancelled out. The amplification of sounds can be adjusted with a volume control on the headset so in some cases you may be able to hear better than normal with a good pair. A staple for this type of ear protection are the Howard Leight by Honeywell. They can amplify normal sounds to 82 decibels making most things in nature much louder than normal so you can hear better which is great for hunting. It offers a 22 decibel reduction rating when a shot is fired or if something around that threshold happens to make noise. They are low profile and foldable making them very convenient easy to put in your range bag. They run off of two AAA batteries, I suggest using Duracell Quantum batteries, making them easy to replace. The other pair of electronic ear protection I recommend are the Caldwell Low-profile E-max model. These work pretty well but not as well as the Howard Leight ear muffs. The benefit is they are cheaper and do a great job. My main issue is the little foam protectors on the microphone come off very easily and when you are sitting down predator hunting with the wind in your face without those you hear a whole lot of amplified wind and not much else. ( A little super glue holds them on for good). Overall they are a great option and have a DRR (decibel reduction rating) of 23. They shut off all sound if something over 85 decibels is picked up. Closing the bolt on an AR will cause the noise cancellation to happen so it really does a good job of stopping the sound in no time. I like them for their price and they also run off the same two AAA batteries.
Best Shooting Ear Protection: Conclusion
In summation I just really want to stress no matter what type you choose please be consistent with actually USING them, and I don’t mean just with shooting. Next time you are going to run a chainsaw, bigger machinery, saws, hammer on metal please use some hearing protection because as I said before these loud noises do damage over time and we all know an old rancher or machinist who can’t hear so we know the consequence. Especially make sure to teach your children or loved ones the benefit of hearing protection because getting them in the habit at a young age, when their hearing can easily be compromised, will help them prevent hearing loss. Back to the actual ear protection there are some nice accessories for some of these such as cases to protect and keep them handy which may be a benefit to you especially if you want to keep them clean or keep them from getting squashed when you toss them in your truck or a drawer in the shop. Like I said if money is tight buy a box or tube of foam ear plugs and just use them. They aren’t great but they do the job and are the lightest option and certainly don’t get in the way and the ones you use are going to be the best shooting ear protection. Thanks for reading and check out some of our other posts and be ready for a special giveaway for our subscribers.