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Top 10 Best Ear Protection for Shooting

Top 10 Best Ear Protection for Shooting

Hearing protection is an essential part of any gun owner’s equipment. No matter how serious a shooter you are, it’s critical to protect your ears from the loud, intense noises produced by gunfire.

Learn about hearing protection ratings, know how to recognize the best ways to protect yourself from hearing loss, and discover the ten best sets of ear protection for shooting, hunting, competition, and other applications.

Types of Hearing Protection

While any level of noise reduction is better than none, not all ear protection systems are created equal. The primary criteria are form factor, protection type, and protection level.

There are two primary groups of hearing protection systems: Ear muffs and ear plugs.

  • Ear muffs: These are headphone-style hearing protection devices.

  • Ear plugs: These are insertable, typically disposable hearing protection devices, meant to be worn for a few hours and discarded. Higher-quality passive plugs may be reusable or custom-fitted, offering better protection.

Each type of hearing protection system may either be passive or active.

  • Passive system: Provides noise reduction capabilities using sound-dampening materials only.

  • Active system: Combines physical sound-dampening materials and a combination of microphones, speakers, and sensors to adjust the level of hearing protection according to the ambient noise.

Hearing protection performance is measured using the Noise Reduction Rating (NRR). The NRR is a numeric value representing the maximum amount of noise it can block, provided the shooter wears the protection correctly.

According to OSHA, the threshold of pain is 140 dB. A typical unsuppressed firearm generates between 150 and 170 dB. Consequently, the higher the NRR, the safer it is for your ears.

To know the number of decibels a particular hearing protection device blocks, take the NRR, subtract 7, and divide the result by 2. For example, if you wear a pair of shooting ear muffs with an NRR rating of 28, they will reduce your exposure to noise by 10.5 dB. (28 - 7 = 21, 21 / 2 = 10.5)

If you need to maximize your level of protection, the CDC recommends that shooters double-up and wear both a set of plugs and a pair of muffs simultaneously.

The 5 Best Ear Muffs for Shooting

Although they are larger and bulkier than plugs, ear muffs are easier to put on and remove. They are also typically more comfortable to wear over long periods, especially when shooting handguns. Here are five of the best passive and active ear muffs for shooting.

Best overall: Honeywell Impact Pro

Honeywell Impact Pro

The Honeywell Impact Pro is one of the best-performing electronic shooting ear muffs available on the market today. Its multi-directional microphones and speakers amplify ambient sounds between 30 dB and 82 dB, so they reach a safe level of 82 dB while dampening any loud noises. 

They also feature AUX and 3.5mm connectors for wired connectivity to your devices.

Specifications:

  • Type: Active ear muffs

  • NRR rating: 30

  • Weight: 0.98 lbs.

  • Battery: 2x AAA

  • Autonomy: 450 hours

Best value: Howard Leight Impact Sport Bolt

Howard Leight Impact Sport Bolt

The Impact Sport Bolt is an ideal pair of active ear muffs for beginner shooters, casual target practice, or first-time owners of electronic hearing protection. The built-in directional microphones detect and dampen gunfire in less than 0.5 milliseconds while amplifying voices, vocal commands, and other ambient noises, normalizing all sounds to a clear but safe 82 dB.

Specifications:

  • Type: Active ear muffs

  • NRR Rating: 22

  • Weight: 1 lb.

  • Battery: 2x AAA

  • Autonomy: 150 hours with automatic 4-hour shutoff feature

Best premium option: 3M Peltor Sport Tactical 500

3M Peltor Sport Tactical 500

If you’re looking for premium hearing protection, few models on the market are more effective than the Peltor Sport Tactical 500. These electronic ear muffs possess excellent sound dampening properties. They offer cutouts for shooting long guns comfortably, Bluetooth connectivity for your smart devices, and a build quality reminiscent of a pair of premium audio headphones. 

Specifications:

  • Type: Active ear muffs

  • NRR Rating: 26

  • Weight: 0.7 lbs

  • Battery: 2x AA or rechargeable Li-ion

  • Autonomy: 40-90 hours depending on battery

Best for younger shooters: Dr.Meter EM100 

Dr.Meter EM100

The EM100 passive earmuffs are an ideal choice for younger shooters (ages 5-13), providing an excellent combination of hearing protection, lightweight construction, and long-term comfort. The padded headbands and fully adjustable, 360° rotating earcups can fit virtually any child, letting them enjoy your favorite hobby without risk to their hearing.

Specifications:

  • Type: Passive ear muffs

  • NRR Rating: 27

  • Weight: 0.5 lbs.

Best passive earmuffs: 3M Peltor Optime 105

3M Peltor Optime 105If all you need is a pair of practical, high-quality earmuffs with no electronics or additional features, you can’t go wrong with the Optime 105. These passive earmuffs feature a high-durability stainless steel headband and a double-shell ear cup design, protecting your ears with an impressive NRR rating of 30.  

Specifications:

  • Type: Passive ear muffs

  • NRR Rating: 30

  • Weight: 0.77 lbs.

The 5 Best Ear Plugs for Shooting

Shooters who frequently use long guns (e.g., competition, duty, combat) may find ear plugs more practical than ear muffs. Not only do they provide your head with a little more freedom of movement, but they also won’t interfere with your stock when aiming. Here are the five best active and passive ear plugs.

Best overall: 3M Peltor TEP-100

3M Peltor TEP-100

The 3M Peltor TEP-100 is a pair of tactical ear plugs designed for high-intensity situations in any environment. They provide the shooter with hearing protection levels comparable to premium muffs but with none of their bulk and weight. The ergonomic ear tips are replaceable and available in three sizes, each with its own NRR rating. The earphone elements are highly durable and IP67 water-resistant.

Specifications:

  • Type: Active ear plugs

  • NRR Rating: 23 / 26 / 30 (depending on ear tips installed)

  • Weight: 0.7 lbs.

  • Battery: Charging case powered by 3x AA or USB

  • Autonomy: 16 hours

Best value: 3M E-A-R TaperFit

3M E-A-R TaperFit

The classic pair of disposable foam ear plugs remains one of the best hearing protection tools for shooters on a budget, and 3M’s E-A-R TaperFit plugs are one of the best in their class.

With an NRR rating of 32 and a quantity of 200 plugs per case, these polyurethane foam plugs are the most cost-effective ear protection devices available today.

Specifications:

  • Type: Passive ear plugs

  • NRR Rating: 32

  • Weight: 11.4 ounces (per box)

Most practical: Howard Leight Quiet Band

Howard Leight Quiet Band

If you’ve ever seen Hickok45 put on his ears before shooting, this is the model he uses. The Quiet Band combines a pair of high-efficiency ear plugs and a retaining band, allowing you to keep them worn around your neck when not in use.

They offer excellent hearing protection (NRR 25) for their size and are easy to use and clean. Additionally, they are inexpensive, making it easy to keep several pairs for backup usage or guest shooters.

Specifications:

  • Type: Passive ear plugs

  • NRR Rating: 25

  • Weight: 4.8 ounces

Best electronic: Etymotic GSP-15 GunSport-PRO

Etymotic GSP-15 GunSport-PRO

The Etymotic GSP-15 is the pair of professional-grade electronic ear plugs that serious shooters need. It’s designed for range instructors, hunters, competition shooters, and other firearm enthusiasts.

The GSP-15’s electronic hearing protection system features two modes: Automatic Hearing Protection (High mode) for maximum sound dampening, and Hearing Enhancement (Low mode), letting vocal commands through while blocking gunfire and blasts.

Specifications:

  • Type: Active ear plugs

  • NRR Rating: 25

  • Weight: 0.45 lbs.

  • Battery: A10 hearing aid batteries

  • Autonomy: 300 hours

Best passive: Howard Leight MAX-1

Howard Leight MAX-1

If you need maximum hearing protection above all else, look no further. The MAX-1 polyurethane foam ear plugs are the highest-rated passive hearing protection devices in the United States, with an NRR rating of 32.

You can use them standalone or in conjunction with a pair of ear muffs to achieve the best hearing protection possible, making it possible to shoot even the loudest firearms comfortably.

Specifications:

  • Type: Passive ear plugs

  • NRR Rating: 33

  • Weight: 3.2 ounces (per box)

 

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