Ear protection is one of the best and cheapest forms of following proper gun safety rules. In my opinion, hearing protection should be worn on at times when you are shooting guns or around others that are shooting.
The best ear protection for shooting comes in all shapes and sizes and for all budgets.
Whether it be your standard ear plugs or more advanced hearing protection ear muffs, protecting your ears from the damaging noise that firearms make is extremely important.
Over time, that noise can do some serious damage to your hearing and can leave a long lasting impact.
A lot of my buddies didn't wear proper ear protection when they were young and just starting out hunting and they would definitely recommend that you follow proper gun safety rules and get yourself some decent ear protection now.
The average gun shot will register anywhere from 140 to 160 dB whereas it is considered a dangerous sound when the dB reaches about 85. Damage to your hearing can happen pretty fast considering the dB from your gun are almost double the dangerous level so it is important to have proper protection.
The United States has come up with a hearing protection rating method called Noise Reduction Rating (or NRR). I am not going to pretend that I know anything about the calculations that went into developing the NRR scale however what I can tell you is that the higher Noise Reduction Rating, the better. If you are exposed to a dB of 100 and are wearing ear protection rated with an NRR of 25, you are essentially only exposing yourself to 75 dB.
As I said, ear protection for shooting can be very cheap ear plugs that will do the trick and protect your hearing, or you can invest in some high tech ear muffs that have noise cancelling features and adjustments that will protect you from loud muzzle blasts but still allow you to hear others around you. Technology has created ear muffs that will only activate during loud noises and yet you can still hear those creatures crawling around when you're out hunting! Man, do I ever wish I had access to this type of technology back in my day.
When I am out hunting or shooting at the range, I always carry extra ear plugs in case there are others that either forgot or don't have proper ear protection. The last thing I want is to be out shooting with a few buddies and their kids and for the kids not to have proper ear protection. You can buy a box of ear plugs for under $10 that will last you forever!
Do you need ear protection for .22 lr? Something that I hear from a lot of guys is that they don't need ear protection when shooting their .22lr or a 17hmr because the noise isn't loud enough to do any damage. I disagree. Even the crack of the 22 can do damage over time and especially for kids. Protect your ears at all times! Whether you are our varmint hunting with your kids or shooting your long range rifle, always wear some sort of noise cancelling device.
Types of Ear Protection for Shooting
There is really 3 basic types of ear protection for shooting and it is a matter of preference for which one suits your needs.
1. Foam Ear Plugs
The first and definitely the cheapest is your standard foam disposable ear plugs. These work great and for the price they are hard to beat. I always carry these with me when I am shooting or hunting in case someone else needs some hearing protection. There are of course different levels of quality with foam ear plugs however they all seem to do a pretty decent job and offer basic protection and muffle noises around you.
2. Polymer/Silicone Ear Plugs
The second, and a step up from the foam ear plug, is a more durable and long last ear plug that is made out of higher grade material and are meant for multiple uses. You can find these types of ear protection in medical grade and hypoallergenic materials for added noise reduction and comfort. These come in varying NRR ratings and the highest NRR will offer the shooter the best protection from the muzzle blast.
3. Ear Muffs
The third option is a set of ear muffs which are made out of durable material and will last the longest. Within ear muffs, you can see all sorts of variety and technology. For instance, some have the ability to plug in your iPhone or other device so that you can listen to the radio or your own playlist! These again will come in all different Noise Reduction Ratings so make sure to do your research to find the best ear protection for you. Some ear muffs are also equipped with technology that actually amplifies some sounds such as conversation or a creature in the woods and protects you from damaging noises.
Best Ear Protection for Shooting Reviews
Howard Leight Impact Sport OD Electric Earmuff Review
OK if you are looking for the best ear protection for shooting and don't want to spend a fortune and want all the bells and whistles in a product that is a #1 Best Seller than look no further. This product is great for the price and includes features that are usually found on higher end hearing protection devices. It comes with 2 AAA batteries and Impact Sport says that these electric ear muffs will last around 350 hours on one set. It also has a pretty cool feature that shuts them off after 4 hours which saves battery life when you put them away forgetting to turn them off.
The Howard Leight Impact earmuffs are compact and fold up nicely when not using them so they don't take up a whole lot of room. When you unfold them they are a standard size and weight is not an issue. When purchased through Amazon, they come with the standard audio cord which allows you to listen to music through the ear muffs and still have proper hearing protection. Another great feature is the noise amplification feature which you can turn up so you can hear quiet conversation or even an animal breaking bushes around you when hunting.
For the price, these Howard Leight Impact Sport earmuffs are pretty much the best available hearing protection at a great price. Now I know that sounds overly optimistic but read through all of the reviews and you will see that these are a great product and will fit your budget.
-Amplifies sounds 3x
-Audio input connection
-Automatically blocks sounds over 82dB
-NRR Rating of 22
Caldwell Low Profile E-Max Electronic Ear Muff Review
A very comparable product to the Howard Leight Impact Sport earmuffs, the Caldwell Low Profile E-Max electronic ear muffs are even more affordable however I would suggest that they are slightly bulkier and won't offer quite the same slim profile at the Howard Leight muffs. Caldwell makes solid products and there ear muffs are built solid and will be durable for hunting and shooting. Note that these ear muffs do not include the AAA batteries however it does come with the auxiliary cord. For my ear muffs, I use a decent set of rechargeable batteries and keep a spare set with me just in case.
Like the Howard Leight muffs, the Caldwell Low Profile ear muffs come in a few different colors and you'll see that some colors are more expensive than others so be careful to order the correct ones. One feature that stands out with these earmuffs is that the 2 microphones actually turn off for a split second for sounds above 85 dB for the shooters protection and safety through gun blasts. They have 2 microphones, 1 in each ear cup, to give the shooter the ability to distinguish the amplified sounds and be able to tell which direction the sound is coming from.
These are a solid choice of ear protection for shooting and I would say the biggest difference between these and the Howard Leight Impact Sport ear muffs is the fact that these don't come with AAA batteries and these feel a bit bulkier however that may also be part of the reason that they have a slightly higher NRR rating.
-Auxiliary input included
-2 microphones amplify sounds
-low profile design
-NRR Rating of 24
Howard Leight Honeywell R-01902 Impact Pro Electronic Shooting Earmuff Review
These Howard Leight ear muffs are in the same family as the first ear muffs reviewed however these are their top of the line model, the Impact Pro. What is the difference between the Howard Leight Impact and the Impact Pro? The biggest difference is the quality of the hearing protection is rated 30 NRR vs 22 NRR on the Impact model. However as the NRR rating goes up with the added hearing protection, so does the size of the ear muffs. An inverse relationship. If you don't mind a bit bulkier ear muffs and are looking for that added protection when shooting, the Impact Pro model will be a good fit.
Of all the ear protection products for shooting we've reviewed, the Howard Leight Honeywell Impact Pro shooting earmuff definitely provides the best protection for your ears. With its noise amplification feature, you will still be able to hear others when whispering or an animal breaking a stick around you, but will be protected from that load blast of your rifle or shotgun.
-Amplifies sounds up to 4x
-Auxiliary connection included
-Extreme NRR Rating of 30
Ear Pro By Surefire 4 Sonic Defender Ear Plugs Review
If you don't like the feel of the larger ear muffs and don't like resting your rifle up against them, then another great option are these high quality and durable ear plugs that are meant to be used multiple times. The Ear Pro by Surefire Sonic Defender ear plugs are made out of hypoallergenic, medical grade polymer that is soft and durable providing solid hearing protection when shooting.
They are quite comfortable and normal sounds are audible while wearing the ear plugs. Their patented technology blocks out harmful sounds over 85 dB essentially making these sounds safer. I use this type of ear protection when hunting with friends because I don't always like the sound that the rifle makes when it touches against hard plastic of the ear muff.
-Hypoallergenic, medical grade polymer
-NRR Rating of 24
3M OCS1135 Ear Soft Yellow Neons
Ok I know I really don't have to review standard ear plugs but I wanted to include them here to show you how cheap they are. This is a pack of 200 for under $20. Do yourself a favor and get a bulk pack of ear plugs and bring a few with you when you are hunting or shooting. These are a great backup in case you loose yours.
These are you standard construction type ear plugs however they work great for shooting and hunting.
Best Ear Protection for Shooting Conclusion
Proper ear protection for shooting is a must in my books. I've seen too many guys and gals damage their ears by not being properly outfitted with hearing protection when shooting. It's never too late to start wearing ear protection and you can buy decent products on a very limited budget. Whether you are shooting your .308, 30-06, pistol, or shotgun, ear protection should always be worn.
In my opinion, the best ear protection for shooting and hunting is the Howard Leight Impact Sport ear muffs. They are compact, durable, and provide great hearing protection while also including some pretty cool features such as noise amplification and the auxiliary cable so you can listen to you iPhone or some other device while shooting at the range. I never thought I would enjoy it until I tried it and now I can't shooting without my playlists!