Shooting is a particularly challenging environment for wearing hearing protection. It can be quiet for long periods of time during which you need to hear sound or ambient noises around you. Followed by brief periods of intense noise.
The average gunshot sound level is anywhere from 140 to 190 decibels (db). That is more than loud enough to cause immediate hearing damage. So if you are a hunter or sportsman then finding the best ear protection for shooting you can is a must.
Top Choice for Shooting Earplugs
Top Choice for Shooting Earmuffs
When looking for the best hearing protection for shooting there are two major categories you will need to look at, passive and electronic.
Passive hearing protection simply blocks the sound from hitting your ear by using a physical barrier, either inner ear (earplugs) or outer ear (earmuffs). In this case you typically want the highest protection you can get, but there are some minimums you’ll need to consider.
The amount of hearing protection is listed as the Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) and it is rated in db of protection. In other words, how many db the protection lowers the sound level reaching your ears.
For outdoor shooting and hunting you typically want at least 20db of protection. Indoor shooting is louder and requires at least 25db of protection, although upper 20’s are preferable.
Electronic ear protection is generally considered to be the best shooting ear protection overall. It works by amplifying ambient noises using microphones and speakers so you can still hear what is going on. It then cuts off the amplification or lowers the sound level whenever there is a gunshot.
The result is protection when you need it, but you can still hear voices and ambient noises when you don’t.
You can also take a look at personal sound amplifiers, specifically the Walker’s Game Ear.
In this review we’re going to take a look at the best passive and electronic ear protection for both ear plugs and ear muffs. Let’s dive in and take a closer look.
Best Ear Plugs for Shooting
Ear plugs work by blocking the ear canal. They can either be disposable, typically made from foam or wax; or they can be reusable, typically made from silicone with a triple flange design.
When looking at the best ear plugs for shooting we consider two factors, first you want the highest NRR you can get, which for earplugs is around 33db. Second, we want to take comfort into account since they will regularly be worn for several hours on end.
Here are our top 5 best earplugs for shooting:
Howard Leight Laser Lite High Visibility Foam Earplugs
Sometimes the best ear protection for the shooting range is also the simplest. The Howard Leight Laser Lite High Visibility Foam Earplugs are a simple pair of disposable earplugs designed for industrial environments, however, they also make one of the best ear plugs for the shooting range.
These earplugs offer an outstanding NRR of 32db, more than enough for indoor and outdoor shooting. They are also very comfortable. They use a soft, slow recovery foam that is easy to roll and position in the ears and stays put once it is there.
They are affordably priced and come in bulk packaging that makes it easy to always keep a few pairs in your range bag or hunting kit. For a quality basic pair of shooting earplugs you can’t go wrong with the Laser Lite ear plugs.
Peltor TEP-100 Tactical Digital Earplugs
With the Skull Screws ear tips the Peltor TEP-100s boast an outstanding NRR of 30db. This is more that enough for any shooting environment.
On top of the great hearing protection, these also include electronics integration. In a very low profile and comfortable earplug you get all the hearing protection you need with the sound amplification you want. These are definitely the best electronic ear plugs for shooting.
The sound quality doesn’t tend to be as high as you get using over the ear electronic hearing protection, but that is to be expected given the smaller space they have to work with in packaging the electronics components.
The cost is significantly more expensive than other passive earplug options, but if you want the electronic amplification without the bulky earmuffs these earplugs are the way to go.
SureFire EP4 Sonic Defenders
EP4’s were designed from the ground up with the shooter in mind. They use an innovative filter system that reduces the db level of impulse sounds (gunshots) above 85 db. The louder the sound, the more it reduces.
The result is an earplug that acts very similar to electronic hearing protection, but without the need for batteries. Voices are still very clear, but gunshot noises are reduced to a safe level.
Be prepared though, gunshots will still sound very loud and crisp with these in, they just won’t leave your ears ringing. That tends to take people by surprise the first time they wear them.
With an NRR of 24db these are really only appropriate for outdoors shooting so don’t plan on wearing these to the indoor shooting range. The combination of clarity and protection does make these the best hunting ear plugs on our list.
Decibullz Custom Molded Earplug
Decibullz uses a very innovative approach of combining an inner ear silicone earplug with an outer ear canal custom molded putty. The result is a combination inner/outer ear canal protection that provides an excellent 31db of protection and custom comfort at the same time.
For shooting earplugs, the best have over 30db of protection, and Decibullz definitely fall into that category. However, NRR of over 30db are generally seen in disposable earplugs, so this is an outstanding rating for a pair of reusable earplugs.
The custom molding should make them extremely comfortable for long term wear as well. Meaning you’ll be able to spend an entire day at the range, without taking home a set of sore ears as a souvenier.
Peltor Combat Arms Earplugs
The final product on our best shooting ear plugs list are the Peltor Combat Arms Earplugs.
The Combat Arms were designed specifically for use with the military. They are one of the best ear plugs for the gun range, and for working in consistent noise environments. This is due to their innovative dual sided design.
The yellow end offers noise activated protection up to 22db that is perfect for the gun range or hunting where you will have loud bursts of impulse noise, while the olive end provides constant protection for passive noise at an NRR of 22db.
This can be a handy feature to have on a gun range where you may experience different types of hazardous noises, and is the reason these earplugs made our top 5 list.
Best Ear Muffs for Shooting
Ear muffs cup the ears to block noise rather than sitting inside the ear canal. Many of the best earmuffs for shooting also include electronics integration.
This is because the earmuffs offer significantly more room in which to include the electronics. This means that they can be integrated at a much more competitive price.
You can take a closer look at electronic earmuffs here.
Whereas the price difference with passive and electronic ear plugs may be several hundred dollars, the difference between passive and electronic ear muffs may be $50 or less. This makes the electronic versions of earmuffs much more attractive and as a result you’ll find that they feature heavily in the earmuffs portion of our shooting hearing protection reviews.
Let’s look at the top models in more detail.
Howard Leight Impact Sport
The Impact Sports are the top selling earmuffs in the Hunting and Shooting Earmuffs category on Amazon. This is a well deserved spot for an outstanding set of earmuffs, and one of the reasons they earned our the top spot of all our shooting ear protection reviews.
The Impact Sports have an NRR of 22db. This makes them good for outdoor shooting activities and hunting. They can be used for indoor shooting as well if they are doubled up with inner ear protection.
They feature directional microphones that are recessed and covered with foam to protect them from wind noise, which is something that can tend to plague electronic hearing protection.
The Impact Sports have a long battery life and slimline design for comfort. The combination of the two makes these a great pair of earmuffs to use for a day at the range.
ClearArmor Safety Earmuffs
While these may not have electronics integration, they do have an incredible NRR of 34db, the highest of any product we are looking at today. These are one of the best shooting hearing protection for indoor ranges, where there tends to be extremely high noise and less reason to be able to hear ambient noises.
The ClearArmor Safety Earmuffs are very comfortable as well. They have a full ½” of foam on the headband, by far the most of any of the earmuffs we are looking at today.
They do have large earcups that are a bit bulky and can be a drawback, but in terms of overall performance and comfort these are definitely one of the best hearing protection for the shooting range.
Peltor Tactical Pro
Peltor is widely recognized for producing the best electronic ear protection for shooting. Peltor built this reputation by building products for US Special Operations Command, and this expertise has carried over into their commercial products.
The reason Peltor has a reputation for the best electronic ear muffs for shooting is they use a compression technique rather than a clipping technique. Other brands shut off amplification whenever there is a gunshot, while Peltor compresses the sound to safe level. This gives a superior experience while shooting and listening for voices or other ambient sounds.
The Tactical Pros are the top of the line offering from Peltor for the commercial market. They have an NRR of 26db, which is good for both indoor and outdoor shooting.
Howard Leight Impact Pro
The Impact Pro’s offer the highest NRR of all the electronic hearing protection on our best ear muffs for shooting list. They have an outstanding NRR of 30db, this means you’ll be well protected no matter how loud the shooting environment you are in.
The Impact Pros are designed for comfort in addition to performance. They feature large ear cups and soft foam padding around the ears that will let you wear these earmuffs for hours on end with no discomfort.
For all the protection and features these earmuffs provide they are probably the best value for the price earmuffs on our list. If you think a pair of heavy duty electronic earmuffs will make the best protection for the range for you, then you certainly won’t be disappointed with the Impact Pros.
Walker’s Razor Slim Game Ears
The Razor by Walker’s is the slimmest electronic earmuff we’re looking at in this review. These earmuffs won’t feel bulky on your head or interfere with anything else while you are shooting.
Their NRR is a respectable 23db, which makes them very competitive with the top selling Impact Sport model.
Walker really focused on style and aesthetics with the Razor. They have a very aggressive profile that consumers love and come in a variety of colors to match your individual preferences.
These aren’t all style though; they provide outstanding clarity and top-notch electronics. If you are looking for a combination of form and function then definitely take a closer look at the Razor’s.
As you’ve seen in our shooting hearing protection review, there are a lot of great options out there to suit your individual needs and preferences.
Remember to start with you’re protection needs first when making a decision. If you shoot primarily at an indoor range it won’t do you much good to select hearing protection designed for outdoor shooting.
After you’ve determined what level of protection you need look at the best inner ear and outer ear options that match up to your needs. From there you can select other features that may appeal to you.
There are a lot of great earplugs and earmuffs out there and you may need multiple types for different situations, for instance, electronic earmuffs for hunting and a pair of passive earplugs to use indoors.
No matter what products you decide on, I think you’ll find that any of the options on this list will leave you very satisfied with your purchase.
Images sourced from Amazon.com