Have you ever shot your handgun, rifle, or muzzleloader without proper hearing protection? Talk about LOUD! The impact those decibels have on your ears is enough to give you hearing loss. Unnecessary hearing loss.
Loud noises are never good for your well-being, and hunting is no different. One moment, you’re stalking in the woods, nothing but the snap of twigs and the twittering of birds. The next moment, POW! The forest is alive with gunshot and your ears are ringing.
Luckily, we live in the twenty-first century! Electronic hearing protection is readily available for hunting and shooting needs. In this article, we’ll go over what electronic hearing protection is, whether it’s needed or not, the benefits, and what to consider before buying some of your own. Then, we dive deep into the best electronic earmuffs in the market today.
It’s time to listen up!
We’re sure you’ve heard of earplugs, right? Well, electronic hearing protection is like earplugs on steroids.
The way it works is they look like regular old earmuffs. However, with electronic earmuffs, you can hear all of the surrounding sounds at normal volume. Sometimes, it’s even clearer, such as someone’s voice or sliding another round in the chamber. But when the sound gets dangerously loud — like a gunshot — the speakers in the earmuffs are automatically deactivated, creating a lack of sound.
So unless you fire your gun, you can hear everything you need to hear. Once you pull the trigger, though, the electronic earmuffs will revert to being state-of-the-art noise blockers until the noise goes back to a safe level.
Most of the top electronic hearing aids are over-the-ear, meaning they look like your typical radio earmuffs or any kind of headset. They’re almost never in-ear, as in foam plugs or earbuds that you insert into your ear canal. What this does is it gives you high-quality noise cancelation with the ability to hear what you need to. That way, your buddy can point out specific details of the hunt and you can safely shoot without messing with your hearing protection.
All shooting ear protection has a Noise Reduction Rating or NRR rating. This is a system that measures the reduction of sound exposure to decibels in hearing protection devices. Essentially, the higher the NRR rating, the better equipped that device is for blocking out dangerous noise.
How to Analyze NRR Ratings
The math behind the Noise Reduction Rating is quite simple: Whatever the NRR is, subtract seven from that number and divide it by two. (Ex: an NRR of 37 means 37 – 7 = 30. 30/2 = 15.) That new number — 15, in our example — is the number of decibels that shooting ear protection device reduces loud noises.
So, if a gunshot is 100 dB to the naked ear, then the electronic ear protection only brings it down to 85 dB. This is why you want electronic hearing aids with a really high NRR.
Should I Wear Hearing Protection While Hunting?
The short answer is a definitive YES. Hearing protection while hunting is vital for your hearing and overall wellbeing. If you leave your ears unprotected during gunfire, you risk permanent hearing damage. Hearing protection is basically like putting a silencer on your gun. (Side note: Depending on which state you hunt in, it’s legal to actually put silencers on your gun. Silencers will also help protect your ears.)
Rather than risk permanent hearing loss, it’s much easier, safer, and healthier to wear protective headphones.
The same goes for eye protection, while we’re at it. Safety glasses are just as important for your overall hunting health. The point of hunting is to have a good time and/or attain food for the family. You also probably love to do it. So why wouldn’t you want to do it for as long as you possibly could? Keep your eyes, ears, and body healthy by wearing hearing protection, shooting glasses, and staying in relatively good shape.
Benefits of Electronic Hearing Protection for Hunting
Electronic ear protection is crucial for hunting. Here are some of the actual benefits of using electronic earmuffs:
You get advanced amplifier technology: What does sound amplification really mean? Well, it gives you sound compression. Sound compression lets you hear all of the environmental noise, no matter how loud or quiet it is. However, once the decibel level is too loud and gets into unsafe territory, it’s blocked by compressing the sound to a manageable level. So it doesn’t technically all go away — instead, you hear it at a normal decibel level. This obviously gets into the next advantage…
Your ears are saved: As we said in the previous section, ear health is crucial for your future hunting years. With standard ear cups and foam that absorbs sound, safety ear muffs give you the protection you need from gunfire, or even from any type of heavy machinery or impact sport.
You can still talk to others while wearing them: This is a great feature because you always need to be able to communicate while hunting. It’s needed for both staying safe and knowing what the environment is like. It’s the best of both worlds: Reducing loud sounds and staying in contact with your comrades.
You can also hear more than ever before: Not only do you hear surrounding sounds, you hear them in sharp clarity. Without headphones, you get a bunch of ambient noise swirling around, creating a cacophony of noise that you can’t separate and analyze. With electronic earplugs, you get razor-sharp sounds from your environment that you can pinpoint the location of. This enhances your hunts by giving you all the information you need to make a clean, accurate shot.
Tons of microphones to help you locate sound: Audio input has never been better. Nowadays, electronic earmuffs are fitted with directional microphones in each muff. This helps you locate the direction of sound, so you’re never confused as to where voices or ambient noise is coming from. A hearing enhancement like this definitely improves your overall hunting experience.
Adjustable headbands: This is a nice feature for those who share their electronic ear protection with their friends or family. You can use the same set of headphones for whoever is doing the shooting.
Easy to use: Most shooting ear protection use AAA batteries, which are simple enough to come by. Others are even rechargeable. That means longlasting battery life and continuous use. Not only that, with adjustable headbands
Bonus! – Bluetooth connection and music: It’s always great when a device can double as entertainment. Some electronic headsets come with an audio jack, or they’re Bluetooth compatible. This means your hearing protection can also turn into an MP3 player! So if you’re at the shooting range or plinking soda cans in your backyard, you can shoot safely with your favorite music in the background. (At a safe sound level, of course.)
Insulation makes for an overall terrific hunting experience. Your eardrums will thank you, and you don’t have to sacrifice your ability to hunt by picking up whispered conversations and ambient sounds. All of these advantages can be found in the best electronic hearing protectors, which we reviewed below.
Does Electronic Hearing Protection Work?
For the most part, yes, electronic hearing protection does its job beautifully. Armed with directional microphones, environmental sound amplifiers, and high-quality speakers built-in to give you all of the ambient noise with none of the loud sounds, the majority of these devices keep your ears healthy.
Of course, there are other conventional ways of protecting your ears from loud shots. Traditional foam earplugs and basic, non-electronic headphones can assist a little. But with the current technology and the fact that these devices do indeed work, electronic passive earmuffs are the ticket to ultimate hunting.
Considerations Before Buying Electronic Hearing Protection
Now, just because most electronic headphones are quality, that doesn’t mean you should pluck the first one you see off of Amazon. Here are some things to consider when buying your own pair of electronic earmuffs:
Noise Reduction Rating (NRR): As we mentioned before, NRR is a crucial statistic you need to know. The highest possible NRR rating for earplugs is 33, while the maximum rating for earmuffs is 31. You can use both at the same time; using both can result in an NRR protection level of 36, which means a noise reduction of 14.5 dB in total.
Attack Time: This references how fast the amplifier turns on and off due to the introduction of super loud noises. The faster the attack time, the less cut off you’ll be from surrounding sounds. It also is an indicator of how safe they are. As long as the attack time cuts off sound amplification quickly enough, you won’t run the risk of eardrum damage. Faster attack time also benefits sound compression, improving the fidelity of noise.
Compression vs. Stop-Gate: These are two types of sound technology. Sound compression allows you to hear a continuous stream of sound. A stop-gate amplifier gives you an on-off sound during the amplifier shut-off. Compression tech is preferred.
Durability: When you’re out in the wilderness, you need all of your equipment to be rugged and stand up to harsh elements. Therefore, you need electronic hearing protection that can withstand tough environments. Quality of materials and lifetime warrantees will go a long way in determining which ear protection is right for you.
Size: Thankfully, many electronic earmuffs have adjustable headbands, so this may not be an issue. If it isn’t adjustable, though, then you’ll have to know your estimated head size. Of course, go with the one that can fit your noggin.
Independent Earcup Controls: This characteristic is pretty cool. While some earmuffs give you singular control over both earcups, independent controls let you adjust each earcup separately. For shooters and hunters, this is especially needed so you can modify the hearing protection based on personal preference or to accommodate for minor hearing loss in one ear. Rarely are both ears on the same page in terms of hearing and eardrum damage. With independent earcup controls, you can get even sound.
Now that you know what to look for in electronic hearing protection, let’s finally take a look at the best hearing protection you can get today.
Top Electronic Hearing Protections for Hunting Reviewed
First up on our list claims it’s solid for the shooting range, but we believe it to be just as effective out in the wilderness as well. Awesafe Ear Protection gives you a comfortable fit while protecting you from impact sports like hunting.
For starters, these bad boys sport low-profile earcups, so it clears the way for you to rest your cheek on your firearm’s stock. It also has an adjustable headband for a secure fit. It has an auxiliary input and can connect to radios, phones, or MP3 players. Operating on two AAA batteries, this durable headset can last a good long while.
Here are some more specs:
Built-in Omni-directional microphones increase environmental sound when the noise is over 82 dB, providing enhanced hunting communication.
Noise Reduction Rating: 22
It comes with a carrying pouch, which prolongs durability.
It also comes with a 5-year quality guarantee on the electronics.
Compact, durable, and gets the job done; you can’t go wrong with Awesafe Ear Protection.
The Howard Leight Impact Pro is one of the most well-known devices out there in the earplug world. It’s very comparable to the Awesafe Ear Protection in that is has the exact same level of directional microphones (amplifies to a safe 82 dB), the same NRR (22), a similar AUX input, and also uses two AAA batteries.
However, there are a few features that make these shooting earmuffs stand out:
It has an integrated power/volume knob for maximum volume control.
It has an automatic shut-off feature after four hours, which helps to increase battery life.
Its overall battery life is approximately 350 hours.
So the Howard Leight by Honeywell is a tad more durable than the Awesafe, while also giving you complete sound control. Tack on the fact that the Howard Leight Impact Sport is one of the most prolific headsets in the industry, and you’ve got an easy choice. One that you can be happy with.
Walker’s Razor is another well-known electronic earmuff that comes with both amplification and suppression whenever you need either.
They have their own Razor ultra-thin rubberized cups to keep your hearing protection out of the way when it comes time to shoot. It also is equipped with two Omni-directional microphones (a standard feature for our list of the best). Not only that, it provides sound activated protection for anything over 89 decibels with 0.02 reaction time (or attack time, as we talked about earlier). That’s stupid fast.
Add to that an NRR of 23 — slightly better than the above two — and it’s need of only AAA batteries to power the device, and you’ve got yet another solid option. If you were to go with Walker’s Razor, do it for the uber-quick reaction time and subtle bump in noise reduction.
Next up is the Caldwell E-Max earmuffs, which are on this list for a ton of reasons.
For one, they’re low profile. The lightweight design is impact-resistant, making it probably the most durable headset on this list. It also folds compact for easy transport. Plus, these have padded headbands and comfortable ear pads for the best overall experience. The cushioned ear cups are also adjustable, making for a snug, secure fit. This ensures proper noise cancelation and ideal protection.
More features include:
Low-profile design to get you close to your firearm, allowing you to be both comfortable and accurate.
NRR rating: 23
Amplifies low sounds below 85 dB and compresses any loud noises above 85 dB.
Runs on AAA batteries.
Has adjustable volume control and an audio jack.
This thing has it all. Truthfully, it’s a difficult toss-up between this one and Walker’s Razor. But if you appreciate comfort and control, you’d be hard-pressed to find something better than the Caldwell E-Max.
Last but not least comes from the company Ucho (which, funny enough, is Polish for “ear”). Their soft, foam-padded headband offers a comfy fit, while adjustable pins fit all head sizes. It’s also super durable, with materials that are not easy to break, including retractable stainless steel at the end of the headband.
But their biggest claim to fame is their industry-leading NRR rating of 34! The earpads are made of an extra-durable, thick outer cup, high-density foam, a second cup for further isolation of sound and vibration, and even more ear cushion technology to ensure a superb acoustic seal.
Lightweight and easy to store, these headphones are what you want to silence your world and keep you laser-focused on the hunt at hand. By far the best NRR on this list and made with durability in mind, you definitely need to consider the Ucho Shooting Earmuff as your next hunting purchase.
Electronic hearing protection is a must must must when it comes to your next hunting excursion. Avoid permanent hearing loss and get closer to the ambient sounds of nature with your own electronic headset. Look over what to consider and our list of top devices again and choose the one that best suits your hearing safety needs.
Keep your eyes (and ears) peeled out there, and happy hunting!