When you’re out shooting – whether it be the great outdoors or the shooting range — hearing protection is of the utmost importance. We’ve all gone out to shoot without ear protection; when you pull that trigger, the boom really messes with your ears.
They ring for the next minute or so. And while it seems like it goes back to normal, in truth your ear canals and eardrums have become slightly damaged.
Do that over and over, and you’ll be struggling with hearing damage and hearing loss in your later years. Either you use electronic earmuffs now, or use hearing aids later.
Table Of Contents
- Best Shooting Hearing Protection
- What Is Shooting Ear Protection?
- Why Do You Need Ear Protection for Shooting?
- Considerations Before Buying Ear Protection for Shooting
- Traditional Hearing Protection vs. Electronic Hearing Protection
- How Many Decibels Do You Need for Shooting Ear Protection?
- What Is the Best Ear Protection for Range Shooting?
- What Is the Best Noise-Canceling Electronic Ear Protection for Shooting?
- Best Women’s Ear Protection for Shooting
- Top Shooting Ear Protection Reviewed
Best Shooting Hearing Protection
- Awesafe Electronic Shooting Earmuff
- ACTFIRE Electronic Shooting Ear Protection
- TRADESMART Shooting Ear Protection Earmuffs
- Mpow Shooting Ear Protection
- Walker’s Razor Slim Passive Earmuff
In this article, we’ll go over what shooting ear protection is, why you need it, what to look for when buying your own hearing protector, and how many decibels you’ll want to stifle. Lastly, we’ll let you know what the best earplugs are for the shooting range, the best noise-canceling electronic earmuffs, the best headset for women, and the top overall shooting ear protection you can get for yourself.
Ready, aim, protect!
What Is Shooting Ear Protection?
These are earbuds or a pair of earmuffs that help protect your ears when you’re around high-decibel noises. You can use any type of ear cover to protect your hearing, but there are a few high-quality options you should be honing in on — hearing protection earmuffs and over-the-head headphones.
Yes, you could get away with using foam earplugs, but they don’t provide the same level of ear protection. Furthermore, the additional features of electronic earmuffs — directional microphones, comfortable fit, high NRR ratings — are worth the investment.
Why Do You Need Ear Protection for Shooting?
Because you want to hear later on, duh. It might look dorky to you, but safety earmuffs are worth getting made fun of in the long run. Loud noises are horrible for our hearing. Any sounds above 85 dB damage your ears and could cause hearing loss. And if you’re exposed to those decibel levels over long periods of time, the risk of hearing damage rises exponentially.
It’s the same reason why you wear safety glasses when you shoot. You don’t want shrapnel or empty shell cases pinging you in the eyes. And you don’t want to have ringing ears for a full minute, not to mention saying “huh?” every time someone tells you something in the future. (You know who you are.)
Yes, you do want to be able to hear ambient sounds and be fully aware of your surroundings while shooting. This is especially important when out hunting; you need to be close to the environment, but safe at the same time. Luckily, electronic muffs allow you to both hear ambient sound and avoid hearing loss.
Considerations Before Buying Ear Protection for Shooting
Again, foam plugs might do the trick for a small-caliber handgun or something, but it’s worth going all-out and grabbing some electronic earcups that ensure you stay safe. That being said, don’t simply go on Amazon and click on the first sponsored ad that shows you a pair of electronic headphones.
Here are some things to consider when purchasing your own ear protection:
- Type of Protection (Earplugs, Earmuffs, Electronic Hearing Protection): One more time, for those in the way back. Earplugs are fine and dandy for something like mowing your lawn, but when it comes to shooting over and over and over, they just don’t do enough. Conversely, regular earmuffs are a little bit better, keeping your ears from essentially all sound. However, that might not be what you’re looking for, especially when you hunt and want to be cognizant of the sounds around you. That’s why we recommend electronic hearing protection. The prices of most electronic headsets are reasonable, plus they’re durable (which we’ll get into below).
- Noise Reduction Rating (NRR): The Noise Reduction Rating is a powerful indicator of how great a piece of ear protection equipment is. All electronic hearing protectors have an NRR rating (31), as well as earplugs (33). In fact, combining earplugs and normal earmuffs can raise the NRR to 36, which is really high. The wonderful thing is that electronic headphones have high ratings as well. (Our list of the best ear protection for shooting below showcases the NRR ratings.) At any rate, you want the noise levels to go down when you shoot, no matter what.
- Durability: If you’re going to spend money on hearing protection, you want that equipment to be dependable and durable. These earpieces need to last a long time, both the hardware and the software. In terms of hardware, you want to make sure your ear protection is made out of hardened materials that can withstand environmental elements. As for the software, you want your headphones to be rechargeable or uses something easy, like AAA batteries. Combining sturdiness with heightened battery life will make for a solid earmuff. Oh, and they should also be water-resistant.
- Size: You also want to have comfortable hearing protection. This begins with size. Thankfully, a lot of the electronic earmuffs out there have adjustable headbands, allowing for maximum comfort, no matter how big or small your noggin is. You can also use the adjustable headband to allow multiple people to use the same pair of earmuffs, like your partner or children.
There are plenty of other features you might want to look for — and we’ll cover them below — but these four facets are absolutely necessary. You want to select the correct kind of protection, a good-to-great NRR rating, unparalleled durability, and decent comfort.
Traditional Hearing Protection vs. Electronic Hearing Protection
Now, some of you still might believe that the tried-and-true earmuffs or earplugs do the trick. We’re here to tell you that not only does electronic earmuffs offer more protection than traditional means of ear protection, but it also gives you advantages out in the field and/or shooting range.
For one thing, electronic hearing protection has the same — if not better — NRR ratings. As the next section will tell you, you want the decibels to go down so that your ears can handle the loud noise of your gun going off. And, full disclosure, both traditional and electronic ear protection give you decent NRR ratings.
Another thing is that electronic earmuffs have a ton of additional features. This includes Bluetooth compatibility (connect your smartphone to turn them into an MP3 player), audio jacks, ambient sound amplification, and volume control. These features are huge advantages when you’re out on a hunt. You can hear the ambient noise of the environment while also hearing what your buddies are saying. At the same time, if a loud noise comes into play (such as a gunshot), your ears are automatically protected.
Finally, not all electronic gizmos are clunky and awkward on your head. Some of them are extremely low-profile, allowing you to wear eye protection at the same time. Plus, most of them are foldable, making them compact and practical, no matter where you’re doing your shooting or other impact sports.
How Many Decibels Do You Need for Shooting Ear Protection?
This is the most important part of your sound amplification electronic shooting earmuffs. Your ears simply cannot handle too many decibels at once. Loud noises bombard your ear canals, and, eventually, it’s game over, you need hearing aids.
As a general rule, any noise above 80 dB is considered dangerous. If you’re going somewhere that has loud noises above 80 dB, no matter what it is (shooting, impact sports, etc.), you should be wearing hearing protection. A gunshot is rated at a whopping 149 dB! Therefore, any shooting you do must require protective earmuffs.
Now, when it comes to the Noise Reduction Rating, you want as high a number as you possibly can. If the NRR is 33, then it reduces any loud noises by 13 dB. So something at 85 dB would become 72 dB, while a gunshot goes down to 137 dB. It might not seem like a lot, but trust us, earplugs or earmuffs with a 30+ NRR are lifesavers.
What Is the Best Ear Protection for Range Shooting?
There are a few choices for the shooting range. First is the Howard Leight Impact Sport by Honeywell. It has an NRR of 22 dB, which is solid and will protect you from the sporadic shooting you’ll be doing. The Honeywell Impact Sport also has built-in directional microphones to allow for amplification of ambient sounds.
Another ideal pair of electronic earmuffs for range shooting is the 3M Peltor Optime 105 or the Peltor Sport Tactical. Both are terrific in their NRR rating (30 dB), and the double-shell ear cups ensure noise reduction from all high-frequency sounds. It’s also made of liquefied soft foam, allowing your ears to stay cool while out at the shooting range.
If you want some earplugs that do the same thing, then definitely go with the SureFire Sonic Defenders. These bad boys have a 25 NRR rating, plus they’re out of the way. Our full recommendation is to pair these Sonic Defenders with one of the other shooting range headphones for maximum ear protection. You can add 5-10 dB to the NRR when you use two. (For example, the Sonic Defenders plus the 3M Peltor Optime 105 gives an overall NRR protection of 35-40, which is out of this world!)
What Is the Best Noise-Canceling Electronic Ear Protection for Shooting?
Top dog for noise-canceling electronic earmuffs goes to the Howard Leight Impact Sport Electronic Earmuff. The wearer of these bad boys won’t be able to hear a thing above 80 dB. It has an NRR rating of 22, and it comes with an adjustable headband.
It’s brother, the Howard Leight by Honeywell Shooting Earmuff, is even lighter than the Impact Sport. Not only that, it has an NRR rating of 30, making it one of the quietest noise-canceling headphones out there. Either of the Howard Leights would make for a terrific choice.
Best Women’s Ear Protection for Shooting
By far, one of the best earmuffs for women when it comes to ultimate protection is the 3M Peltor SV Tactical Pro. Peltor Tactical, in general, is very good, but this thing pulls zero punches; the headset weighs less than a pound, plus it has a solid 26 NRR rating.
Another fantastic way to stay protected out in the field as a female is to get the Howard Leight by Honeywell Women’s Shooting Sports Safety Combo Kit. Not only does the electronic earmuffs have a 25 NRR rating, but this kit also comes with safety glasses. It’s a double whammy of safety, making sure your eyes and ears are protected and healthy for years to come.
Top Shooting Ear Protection Reviewed
First up is a headset from the Awesafe company. This offers both noise reduction and sound amplification for whenever you need either. Armed with an NRR rating of 22, it’s an ideal outer layer of hearing protection. (We’d suggest pairing these with high-quality earplugs.)
These feature low-profile earcups for your firearm’s stock clearance, as well as for comfortability purposes. There’s an AUX input, along with a connection to external radios, MP3 players, and your phone. The built-in Omni-directional microphones help you hear what the environment is doing.
Easily foldable and powered from two AAA batteries, the Awesafe Electronic Shooting Earmuff is a really good choice (especially if you are trying to be frugal).
Next are the ACTFIRE safety earmuffs, clocking in with an NRR rating of 23. Whether you’re shooting, hunting, or mowing the lawn, these impact pros offer all the hearing protection you need.
The sound you can hear through internal amplifiers is very stereo, realistic and clear; plus, you can also identify the location of the sound. The paint they use to coat the headsets is extremely durable, preventing damage to the surface and never fading after long-term UV exposure. It comes with an audio input and they don’t use glue when assembling the earmuffs, ensuring a better seal and greater noise reduction.
This is a non-U.S. company, but they put a lot of time and effort into these earmuffs. We feel that if you try the ACTFIRE Electronic Ear Protection Earmuffs, you won’t be disappointed!
A cool aspect of the TRADESMART shooting earmuffs is that it comes as part of a combo kit. For about the same price as you would pay for only a pair of electronic earmuffs, you get these premium earmuffs — which feature a technologically advanced, twin cup, six-piece noise filtration system — AND safety glasses and traditional earplugs.
This company truly thought of everything. They knew that by adding regular earplugs, they were increasing the overall NRR of their hearing protection system. Not only that, the earplugs themselves have an NRR rating of 33. That means when used together, the earmuffs and plugs offer a 38 NRR rating, which is top-of-the-line. Tack on the anti-fog, scratch-resistant safety glasses that fit perfectly with the earcups, and you are fully protected from your firearm.
If you’re looking for the complete package, TRADESMART has thought of everything for you.
Mpow is a big name in shooting protection, and they come out swinging with their professional electronic earmuffs. With a 22 NRR rating, adjustable headband, and noise cancelation, these babies get the job done without messing with your shot.
If you turn on active listening mode, you can hear your friends talking or ambient sounds nearby without removing the headphones. The knob on the right earcup allows you to adjust the volume as needed. And even with all that, it still protects you from the loud noises. It does this by reverting to passive noise cancelation once something like a gunshot occurs. This active mode shutoff is automatic, which is a really nice feature.
It comes with a 3.5 mm audio input and is foldable for ease of transport. All in all, Mpow headphones are hard to beat in terms of quality and durability.
Last on our list of the best ear protection for shooting, we have an earmuff from Walker’s Game Ear. These ultra-low-profile earcups are designed with a sense of style, which is unique in the shooting safety industry. You can choose from a variety of styles, including “Don’t Tread On Me” and “Come And Take It” slogans on the earcups.
They don’t just look cool — they get the job done too. The NRR rating for these headphones is 26, one of the best ratings on this list. The headphones feature sound-dampening due to composite housing, as well as a comfortable headband with a slim yet durable metal wireframe.
If you want to make a definitive statement out on the shooting range, then definitely go with the Walker’s Razor Slim Passive Earmuffs.
If you’re an avid hunter or visit the shooting range frequently, then it’s ideal for you to choose the best hearing protection possible. Check out our list and recommendations, pair them with what to consider from before, and take action for your ear health.
You want to be able to go out shooting for a long, long time. Ensure you can do that while protecting your hearing with some shooting earmuffs. Trust us, it’s worth the investment.