The Best Shooting Hearing Protection in 2024 [Tested]

by Ryan Cleckner

November 17, 2023

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When it comes to hitting the range, there’s one thing that should always be in your arsenal: top-notch hearing protection. As you’ll see, most firearms produce a decibel (dB) level that will cause permanent hearing damage, so hearing protection is a must. However, there are many types of shooting hearing protection, as well as different levels of protection to choose from. So, how do you choose the best shooting ear protection?

In this article, we’re diving headfirst into the world of shooting hearing protection. Whether you’re a seasoned marksman or just starting out, finding the right gear to shield your ears without compromising your shooting experience is key. From earmuffs to earplugs, electronic to passive, I’ll be your guide through the best options available. So, if you’re gearing up for a day at the range or looking to upgrade your protection game, stick around—I’ve got the inside scoop on the best shooting hearing protection for you.

Why You Need Hearing Protection

Every time you pull the trigger, you’re setting off a mini-explosion just inches from your ears. Exposure to intensive noise greater than 140 dB can permanently cause hearing damage and as you can guess, most firearms fire at a lot more than 140 dB. Consistent exposure to this level of noise without protection can lead to hearing loss or tinnitus (ringing in the ears). It’s not just about the loudness; it’s the cumulative effect over time. Even a single shot without protection can cause immediate and irreversible damage.

Therefore, in order to bring down the sound of gunshots to a safe level, you need adequate hearing protection. To do this requires hearing protection that has an NRR rating of 22 or greater. I have made sure that all recommended shooting hearing protection has at least that level. Here’s how I set out to review the best shooting ear protection and curate this list.

How I Set Up To Review the Best Shooting Hearing Protection

Ryan Cleckner waering hearing and eye protection while shooting

As someone who’s spent time behind the scope as a special operations sniper and has a deep-rooted passion for firearms, I’ve learned firsthand the absolute necessity of safeguarding your hearing. I’ve used just about every kind of hearing protection out there and am familiar with most of the big brands and their products in the industry.

However, I really wanted to make sure that this was a comprehensive article, so I discussed with my colleagues the products they favored and ordered anything I hadn’t used myself. After testing them all, I came up with this list of the best shooting ear protection.

Now, when it comes to shooting hearing protection, there are three types. Each type has its situation where it would be best. I’ve given you a quick summary of them here and have discussed them in detail in the buyer’s guide.

  • Earplugs: These fit in your ear, are typically made of foam, and are the least expensive option. The cheapest earplugs are disposable, and although they don’t cost much, they aren’t intended to be used again.
  • Earmuffs: They fit over your ear to block out the sound and are a little more expensive, but they can be used over and over again. 
  • Electronic Hearing Protection: Using electronics, these earmuffs will reduce the sound of the shot, while amplifying your conversation and voice. This is exceptionally beneficial for shooting because it allows the wearer to hear conversations, but still protects them from gunshot noises.

There’s no one hearing protection gear that would be the best fit for every shooter out there. Different people have different problems and budgets, and they require different solutions. That’s why I’ve found the best shooting ear protection for each class and discussed why they are the best fit for their class.

Best Shooting Ear Protection:

The best shooting ear protection is:

  1. Howard Leight Impact Sport Bolt (Best Overall)
  2. Decibullz Custom Ear Plugs (Best In-Ear)
  3. 3M Peltor Sport Earmuffs (Best Ear Muff)
  4. Dr. Meter Kids Earmuffs (Best for Kids)
  5. Peltor Sport Tactical 500 (Premium)

Hearing Protection – Editor’s Choice

Howard Leight: Impact Sport Bolt
  • Editor’s Choice & Best ROI
  • Affordable Electronic Option
  • NRR: 22
See Amazon Price
Decibullz Custom Molded
  • Best In-Ear option
  • Custom molded – super easy and comfortable
  • NRR: 31
See Amazon Price
3M PRO Shotgunner Low Profile
  • Best Ear Muffs
  • Inexpensive
  • NRR: 24
See Amazon Price
Dr. Meter Kids Noise Reduction
  • Best for Kids
  • Inexpensive
  • NRR: 27
See Amazon Price
Peltor Sports Tactical 500
  • Best electronics
  • Bluetooth capability
  • NRR: 26
Check Price

Spec Comparison of the Best Shooting Hearing Protection

NameTypeNRRReduced dB
Decibullz Custom Molded EarplugsCustom-Fit Plugs31-12 dB0.6 oz
Radian ResistorEar Plug32-12.50.8 oz
Peltor Sport Tri-FlangeTri-Flange Ear Plug26-9.5 dB0.64
3M Peltor Sport Shotgunner II Low ProfileEar Muffs24, 27, 30-8.5, -10, -11.5 dB8.8, 10.1, 12.3 oz
Dr. Meter Kids Noise Reduction Ear MuffsEar Muffs27-10 dB8 oz
Howard Leight Impact Sport BOLTElectronic Headset22-7.5 dB1 lb
Peltor Sports Tactical 500Electronic Headset26-9.5 dB1.4 oz
Walker's Razor Slim Shooter Electronic MuffsElectronic Headset23-8 dB15.4 oz

Reviews of the Best Electronic Hearing Protection

Electronic earmuffs are our favorite style of hearing protection for most types of shooting. An Electronic earmuff helps amplify conversations, and hear safe noises, while also protecting you from the unsafe levels of sound from gunshots.

Best Electronic

Howard Leight Impact Sport Bolt
  • Editor’s Choice & Best ROI
  • Affordable Electronic Option
  • NRR: 22
Check Amazon
Peltor Sport Tactical 500
  • NRR: 26 dB noise reduction rating
  • Ideal for both indoor and outdoor shooters
  • Dynamic Suppression Time
Check Amazon
Walker’s Razor Slim Shooter
  • 2 omni directional microphones
  • Provides sound activated protection over 89 DB at 0.02 reaction time
  • Noise reduction rating of 23DB.
Check Amazon

1. Howard Leight Impact Sport Bolt ($79) : Editor’s Choice

Howard Leight Impact Sport Bolt ($79)

Good hearing protection, upgraded electronics over the standard version, low profile, and a great value! What’s not to love?

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  • Protection A-
  • Comfort A
  • Usability A+
  • Value A+

Our Grade

A

Reader’s Grade

A-

Based on 4 Reviews

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Howard Leight Impact Sport Bolt Specs

  • NRR Rating 22
  • Reduced dB -7.5 dB
  • Microphones 2 Directional Microphones
  • Attack Time .5 ms
  • Weight 1 lb

Howard Leight Impact Sport Bolt Review

When it comes to hitting the shooting range, my go-to choice for ear protection is hands down the Howard Leight Impact Sport Bolt. These earmuffs stand out for several reasons, earning them the spot of the best electronic in my lineup of top shooting hearing protection.

Let me tell you why they’ve secured the top spot. Firstly, they strike the perfect balance between sound amplification and noise reduction. The sound quality is superb, and that’s crucial when you’re in an environment where hearing every detail matters. They’re by far the loudest in a good way. I’ve used a fair share of electronic earmuffs, and their ability to amplify ambient sounds while effectively blocking hazardous noise surpasses others in this price range.

One standout feature that saves the day is the auto-shut-off mechanism. Countless times, I’ve forgotten to power down other sets, draining their batteries when I needed them most. But not with the Impact Sport Bolt. It’s a small detail, but it speaks volumes about the thoughtful design that prioritizes user convenience and longevity.

Having used professional-grade Peltor earmuffs in military settings and several other commercial-grade electronic earmuffs as a sniper instructor, I’ve found that durability can be a significant issue. However, the Impact Sport Bolt has proven itself over the years, outlasting other sets I’ve owned. I’ve accumulated more than one pair because they aren’t just the best in terms of performance; they offer incredible value for their price.

Comfort is another critical factor, especially during extended shooting sessions. These earmuffs check all the boxes: low-profile design for easy use with rifles or shotguns, lightweight build, and exceptional comfort, making them wearable for hours without causing discomfort.

While these earmuffs are fantastic, there are a few areas that could use improvement. Occasionally, I’ve experienced electronic interference when my cell phone is too close, and they lean towards the lower end in terms of sound protection required for some settings.

To enhance these already excellent earmuffs, check out our ear protection upgrades section and look into the Noisefighter ear pads and a carrying case. These upgrades can further elevate your experience and provide additional comfort during prolonged use.

In a crowded market, the Howard Leight Impact Sport Bolt outshines its competition, especially in its price range. While other options exist, they often fall short in either audio quality or design aspects. For instance, the Walker Razors lack in both cup rotator quality and electronics, and the Caldwell e-Max doesn’t match up to the Impact Sports’ overall design.

Overall, investing in the Howard Leight Impact Sport Bolt for your shooting escapades is a decision you won’t regret. They exemplify top-notch electronic hearing protection and are a reliable companion for any shooter, whether you’re a seasoned pro or just starting in the field.

Howard Leight Impact Sport Bolt Pros and Cons

  • Loud ambient volume
  • Auto-Shutoff
  • Low Profile
  • Lightweight (relatively)
  • Inexpensive
  • Low-end of sound protection
  • Electronic noise interference possible

2. Peltor Sport Tactical 500 ($120) : Premium Option

Peltor-Sport-Tactical-500-booth-683x630-1

Peltor Sport Tactical 500 ($120)

Everything about these earmuffs is premium. Compared to other models, these things are noticeably quieter. However, they’re heavier, larger, and more expensive.

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  • Protection A+
  • Comfort A-
  • Usability A
  • Value A-

Our Grade

A

Reader’s Grade

B+

Based on 3 Reviews

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Peltor Sport Tactical 500 Specs

  • NRR Rating 26
  • Reduced dB -9.5 dB
  • Microphones 2 Recessed Microphones
  • Attack Time N/A
  • Weight 11.4 oz

Peltor Sport Tactical 500 Review

When it comes to noise protection, these Peltor Sport Tactical 500 truly set the bar high. Picture stepping into a sound-proof room—that’s the level of quiet these babies deliver. It’s a noticeable “wow” moment, trust me.

What sets these apart, beyond the amazing noise reduction, is the combination of top-notch electronics and Bluetooth capability. Among all the electronic earmuffs I tried, these stand out as the most premium without a doubt.

However, while they’re in the top tier, a few factors held them back from clinching the absolute top spot in my ranking. The Bluetooth functionality, while fantastic for listening to podcasts or music from your phone, does have its limitations. The ambient noise level can’t be cranked up as high as the number one pick on my list.

Then there’s the volume adjustment—it’s not as intuitive as some other models. Instead of a simple volume adjustment wheel, it uses up and down buttons. It takes a bit of clicking up until you hit the maximum setting, signaled by an audible beep. It’s a slight inconvenience compared to more user-friendly designs.

Size and weight are other considerations. They’re substantial, and you can feel the heft when moving your head. This bulkiness does interfere a tad when handling a rifle or shotgun, which can be a downside for some users.

Price-wise, they’re definitely an investment. Coming in nearly three times the cost of our top pick, they’re not the most budget-friendly choice out there. While they offer premium features and unparalleled noise reduction, the considerable price difference could be a deciding factor for many shooters.

But let’s not dwell too long on the negatives because these earmuffs are still phenomenal in their own right. For instructors or range masters needing maximum sound blockage, these are the go-to option. Plus, they aren’t limited to shooting activities—I find myself reaching for these when mowing the lawn. The Bluetooth connectivity allows me to enjoy podcasts while getting outdoor chores done.

In an indoor range setup where you crave superior sound protection, these earmuffs shine. They were the standout performers during our sound booth testing, bar none.

If you’re in the market for the quietest earmuffs and willing to invest in a larger, premium set, look no further than the Peltor Sport Tactical 500.

Peltor Sport Tactical 500 Pros and Cons

  • Super quiet
  • Sturdy build quality
  • Bluetooth audio
  • A bit too large and heavy
  • Expensive

Reviews of the Best Earmuffs for Shooting

Although we love the mentioned electronic ear muffs, they aren’t always necessary.

Standard shooting earmuffs are less expensive and can be a very handy option for hearing protection when shooting (especially as an extra set for someone else or for kids).

#1 3M Peltor Sport Shotgunner II Low Profile : Best Non-Electronic Muffs

3M Peltor Sport Shotgunner II Low Profile

For non-electronic earmuffs, these are our favorites because they’re simple, sturdy, and quiet.

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  • Protection A+
  • Comfort A
  • Usability A-
  • Value A+

Our Grade

A

Reader’s Grade

B

Based on 1 Reviews

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3M Peltor Sport Shotgunner II Specs

  • NRR Rating 24, 27, 30
  • Reduced dB -8.5 dB, -10 dB, -11.5 dB
  • Weight 8.8 oz, 10.1 oz, 12.3 oz

3M Peltor Sport Shotgunner II Low Profile Review

I’ve put the 3M Peltor Sport Shotgunner II through its paces, and it’s a solid pick for non-electronic ear protection in the shooting gear lineup. What stands out immediately is its straightforwardness; these earmuffs don’t boast fancy electronic features, but they nail the essentials exceptionally well.

Comfort and functionality are key, and this set nails both. The size, weight, and price point hit that sweet spot. When you’re out on the range for extended periods, comfort is crucial, and these earmuffs excel in that department. They snugly fit without feeling too tight, and the headband design minimizes any discomfort, even during prolonged wear.

One of the standout features for me is the design. The tapered cuffs are a smart addition; they don’t interfere when handling rifles or shotguns, ensuring a seamless shooting experience. The collapsible feature makes them incredibly portable without sacrificing durability. Cleaning is a breeze with the removable foam insert—an underrated feature that keeps maintenance simple.

Now, the noise reduction rating of 21 decibels might raise concerns for some with louder calibers like .308 or 6.5 Creedmoor. I’ve found it adequate for standard shooting scenarios, but for those higher-caliber situations, I tend to err on the side of caution and double up with foam inserts for added protection.

These earmuffs are more than just a personal pick; they’re versatile enough to serve as a backup pair for fellow shooters on the range or for general use when I prefer keeping my electronic set in my range bag. It’s the reliability and comfort without unnecessary frills that place these earmuffs as the go-to choice for those seeking efficient, no-nonsense ear protection.

In the realm of non-electronic options, the 3M Peltor Sport Shotgunner II secures its spot for its balanced blend of comfort, practicality, and overall effectiveness in mitigating noise. If you’re in the market for a dependable set of earmuffs that prioritize core functionality, these are unquestionably worth considering.

3M Peltor Sport Shotgunner II Low Profile Pros and Cons

  • Quiet
  • Comfortable
  • Inexpensive
  • No electronics

#2 Dr. Meter Kids Noise Reduction EarMuffs : Best for Kids

Dr. Meter Kids Noise Reduction EarMuffs

A great set of non-electronic earmuffs for children.

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  • Protection A+
  • Comfort A
  • Usability A+
  • Usability A+

Our Grade

A+

Reader’s Grade

A+

Based on 1 Reviews

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Dr. Meter Kids Noise Reduction Ear Muffs Specs

  • NRR Rating 27
  • Reduced dB -10 dB
  • Weight 8 oz

Dr. Meter Kids Noise Reduction Earmuffs Review

I recently got my hands on the Dr. Meter Kids Noise Reduction Earmuffs, and let me tell you, they’ve been a game-changer for my ten-year-old. These earmuffs have become a staple not just for our shooting sessions but for any loud events, whether it’s a music gig, a sports game, or when we’re amidst the clamor of equipment on the farm. What’s really made them stand out for me is their kid-friendly design and how seamlessly they adjust.

From the get-go, I noticed how effortlessly these earmuffs adapt for kids. Unlike the bulkier adult versions, these come with a smart adjustment mechanism. With a simple tug on the side, thanks to the hinged ear muff and metal arch, resizing them is a breeze. Once they’re snugly on, they create an impressive noise barrier.

The cushioning was another winning feature. It contours perfectly around my son’s head, even when fully extended for a comfortable fit. Ours came in a vibrant blue, a practical color choice for kids. What really impressed me was the versatility these earmuffs offer. You can tweak them for varying levels of noise reduction just by adjusting the fit, making them adaptable to different environments and noise levels.

What earns these earmuffs their spot as the “Best for kids” in my book among all the options out there is their thoughtful design catering specifically to children. Regular earmuffs, even the electronic ones, often pose fitting issues for kids—they’re either too big and uncomfortable, prompting kids to remove them, or they sit improperly, failing to provide adequate protection. But these Dr. Meter earmuffs tackle that problem head-on. They’re smaller in size, offering a snug and secure fit for kids, while boasting a commendable Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) of 27, which is crucial for effective hearing protection.

As a parent, finding gear that ensures my child’s safety without compromising comfort is a top priority. And these earmuffs have not only met but exceeded my expectations. They’ve become an essential part of our gear for any noisy setting, and I can’t recommend them enough for parents looking for reliable, comfortable, and effective hearing protection for their kids.

Dr. Meter Kids Noise Reduction Earmuffs Pros and Cons

  • Excellent noise protection
  • Smaller size for better fit for kids
  • Inexpensive
  • Multiple colors
  • Not electronic

Reviews of the Best In-Ear Protection for Shooting

Earplugs are extremely handy when it comes to protecting your hearing when shooting.

A quality set of in-ear plugs can not only provide great protection, but they are also super compact and easy to keep in a pocket to keep close for when they’re needed.

Also, earplugs are available as disposable models, which makes them a super inexpensive option to keep a few extra sets stashed away for whenever you need hearing protection in a pinch, or you need to hand them out to others who don’t have their own. Here’s a note: disposable earplugs for others are always a gift – you don’t want them back after they’ve been used.

#1 Decibullz Custom Molded Ear Plugs : Best In-Ear Plugs

Decibullz Custom Molded Ear Plugs

The Decibullz custom-molded ear plugs are an incredible option for hearing protection and our go-to set of plugs for shooting.

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  • Protection A+
  • Comfort A+
  • Usability A
  • Value A+

Our Grade

A+

Reader’s Grade

A+

Based on 2 Reviews

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Decibullz Custom Molded In-Ear Plugs Specs

  • NRR Rating 31
  • Reduced dB -12 dB
  • Weight 0.6 oz

Decibullz Custom Molded Ear Plugs Review

The Decibullz Custom Molded Ear Plugs have proven to be an exceptional find. What initially drew me to these plugs was their innovative approach to customization, a feature that truly sets them apart in the realm of ear protection.

During the hustle of the SHOT Show, I stumbled upon Decibullz at the industry’s media day at the range. Within a matter of minutes, they molded a set of earplugs specifically for me, showcasing their quick and hassle-free customization process. Instantly, I was enamored with the snug fit and unparalleled comfort they offered.

It was remarkable how these earplugs caught the attention of many amidst a sea of firearms and gear. Recommending them as the “must-see” item of the show raised a few eyebrows, but the reactions spoke volumes. Each person who tried them echoed the same sentiment: “these things are amazing!”

What makes Decibullz stand out is their approach to custom-molded earplugs. Traditionally, achieving a custom fit meant investing both time and money at a gun show, undergoing a lengthy molding process for a hefty price tag. Decibullz revolutionized this by empowering users to mold their own plugs at home for a fraction of the cost.

The simplicity of molding these earplugs at home is a game-changer. A quick dip in warm water followed by molding them to your ears ensures a personalized fit. And the best part? If you aren’t satisfied with the fit, a reheating session allows for adjustments until you achieve perfection.

Moreover, the versatility of Decibullz is striking. Their interchangeable center insert feature allows users to effortlessly swap for different functionalities, whether it’s an acoustic filter or even radio earpieces. It’s adaptability at its finest, catering to various preferences and needs.

Regarding performance, these earplugs deliver on their promises. They provide exceptional noise reduction, to the extent that in certain situations, the silence they offer is almost too profound.

In this list, I ranked Decibullz as the best in-ear protection for several reasons. They offer top-tier protection, unparalleled comfort, and all this at an incredibly reasonable price point.

I recommend getting at least one pair of Decibullz custom-molded earplugs before considering investing in pricier electronic earmuffs. They truly redefine the standard for in-ear protection, delivering an experience that’s both tailored and effective.

These earplugs embody innovation, offering a tailored solution without compromising on quality or affordability—a must-have addition to any shooter’s gear arsenal.

Decibullz Custom Molded Ear Plugs Pros and Cons

  • Custom fit
  • Inexpensive
  • Modular
  • Extremely quiet
  • None

#2 Radian Resistor

Radian Resistor

Radian Resistor

These disposable ear plugs are an inexpensive no-nonsense solution that belong in everyone’s range bag.

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  • Protection A
  • Comfort B+
  • Usability B
  • Value A+

Our Grade

A-

Reader’s Grade

A+

Based on 1 Reviews

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Radian Resistor Specs

  • NRR Rating 25
  • Reduced dB -12.5 dB
  • Weight 0.8 oz

Radian Resistor Reviews

While the Radian Resistor 32 Foam Earplugs have earned their place in this list, it’s important to note that they serve as an excellent supplement to standard ear protection rather than a complete replacement. These earplugs shine as a backup solution, perfect for those moments when you need a quick and disposable option.

Their disposability is a notable advantage. Packaged in individual poly bags, these earplugs offer convenience and hygiene, making them an ideal choice for on-the-go situations or when sharing ear protection is necessary. Their disposable nature ensures that I always have a reliable option handy without worrying about wear and tear.

What’s more, knowing that these earplugs have undergone rigorous testing in accordance with ANSI standards in Radians’ cutting-edge acoustic testing lab adds an extra layer of confidence in their performance and reliability.

However, I wouldn’t consider these earplugs as a one-size-fits-all solution for extended use. While they perform admirably for short periods, especially in a pinch, extended wear might bring about some discomfort, as is common with many disposable foam earplugs. As such, I view them as an essential addition to my gear, ready to step in when needed but not as a standalone solution for long hours of protection.

Their disposability aligns perfectly with their purpose – providing a quick and reliable defense against noise-induced hearing loss. Despite not being a replacement for standard ear protection, their ease of use, disposability, and effectiveness make them a valuable asset in any toolkit, ensuring I’m always equipped to safeguard my hearing.

Radian Resistor Pros and Cons

  • Bulk packaging
  • Inexpensive
  • Can be inconvenient
  • Must be inserted properly
  • One-time use

#3 Peltor Sport Tri-Flange

PELTOR SPORT TRI-FLANGE

Peltor Sport Tri-Flange

These Tri-Flange ear plugs are a reusable ear plug option with a lanyard for easy wear when not in use around your neck.

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  • Protection A-
  • Comfort C
  • Usability A
  • Value A

Our Grade

B+

Reader’s Grade

B

Based on 1 Reviews

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Peltor Sport Tri-Flange Specs

  • NRR Rating 26
  • Reduced dB -9.5 dB
  • Weight 0.64 oz

Peltor Sport Tri-Flange Review

I’ll be honest—when it comes to the Peltor Sport Tri-Flange earplugs, they aren’t my cup of tea. It’s not that they aren’t functional; they just don’t quite suit my ears the way I’d prefer. Yet, despite my personal reservations, there’s a reason these made it to the third spot on our list of the “Best in Ear Plugs.”

One thing that stands out about these earplugs is their affordability and reusability. They offer a budget-friendly option for those looking for decent ear protection without breaking the bank. The Tri-Flange design has worked wonders for many of my colleagues; it’s just unfortunate that my ears don’t seem to agree with this particular style.

The discomfort I experienced primarily stems from the design itself. The smooth plastic tends to make them slip out occasionally, and the flanges, which are meant to hold them in place, end up causing more discomfort than I’d like. Plus, with an NRR rating of 26, they fall a bit short compared to other options on our list that boast higher ratings in the 30s.

That said, if this design works for you, they do offer good quality. I’ve seen them work well for others who find this style comfortable and effective. It’s just a matter of personal preference and perhaps the uniqueness of my own ears that makes them less suitable for me.

In terms of noise reduction, while they might not have the highest rating, they still provide a significant level of protection. They can certainly help muffle loud sounds at the shooting range, but they might not be as effective as some other options we’ve recommended.

Ultimately, they made it to our list because they do serve a purpose and have been successful for many users. It’s essential to acknowledge their value even if they don’t align perfectly with my preferences.

If you’re someone who doesn’t mind this style and is looking for a budget-friendly option that has worked well for many shooters, the Peltor Sport Tri-Flange earplugs might just be the right fit for you.

Peltor Sport Tri-Flange Pros and Cons

  • Resusable
  • Lanyard helps hold ear plugs
  • Relatively low NRR
  • Uncomfortable

Editor’s Choice: What I Actually Own and Use

When I head to the range or head out for a hunt, I either take my Howard Leight Impact Sport Bolt earmuffs or my Decibullz custom-molded earplugs.

In my standard range bag, I keep my Howard Leights, with their Noisefighter gel pads, in a carrying case (both below), my Decibullz plugs, and a bottle of Radian Resistor foam earplugs.

This allows me to choose between my earmuffs or my earplugs depending on the style of shooting, and it allows me to hand out a set of foam earplugs to anyone who forgot their ear protection.

For most pistol and rifle work, I use my electronic earmuffs. However, if I am going to be on a rifle for a while, I will often use my Decibullz. If I’m shooting clay targets with a shotgun, I almost always use my Decibullz because of their low profile.

At home, I have a second set of Howard Leight earmuffs because they are so great for letting someone use – especially if I am teaching them so that I don’t have to yell. Of course, I also have kid-sized earmuffs for my children.

Upgrades for Your Hearing Protection

Just because you’ve gotten some hearing protection doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t make it even better. Here are a couple of our must-have accessories for shooting hearing protection.

Noisefighters Gel Filled Ear Pads

If you’re planning on picking up a pair of electronic earmuffs, you seriously need to consider these gel pads. These pads are more than just an accessory; they’re a game-changer in the world of ear protection. Seriously, the difference they make is remarkable.

Yes, they might seem a little unconventional on my Howard Leights, but that’s because I’m constantly wearing them. It’s the comfort that truly stands out with these gel pads. They fit snugly around the ears and even accommodate shooting glasses without pressing them uncomfortably against the sides of my head. That level of comfort during extended shooting sessions is priceless.

One of the standout features for me was how these pads are specifically designed to integrate with eyewear. It not only enhances the comfort but also contributes to maintaining a better seal around the ears. This design can significantly reduce noise leakage by up to 10 decibels, which adds up in safeguarding your hearing over time. And trust me, that’s a pretty big deal in the realm of shooting ear protection.

What’s impressive is the thoughtful design and durability of these pads. They’re flexible and cushiony, capable of withstanding extreme temperatures from negative 100 to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. While I might not be shooting in those extreme conditions, knowing their resilience is a testament to their quality.

Maintaining these pads is a breeze too. A simple wipe with warm, soapy water keeps them in good shape, although it’s important not to submerge them due to the tiny air hole at the bottom.

Comparing these to higher-priced alternatives, the Noisefighters Gel Filled Ear Pads hold their ground remarkably well. For regular shooting purposes, they perform just as effectively, if not better, in many aspects. If you’re not fixated on overly tactical features, these pads offer more than enough.

Ultimately, if you’re serious about shooting and prioritize your ear protection, investing in these pads is a smart move. They’re not just durable and comfortable but could potentially save your hearing in the long run. And when it comes to ensuring the best shooting ear protection, these gel pads definitely make a compelling case for being at the top of the list.

Carrying Case for Howard Leight Impacts

When it comes to safeguarding my electronic earmuffs, the carrying case I found truly does the trick. It’s not just about protecting my gear—it’s about ensuring my hearing protection stays intact and reliable, ready for whenever I hit the shooting range.

This case isn’t just sturdy; it’s a smart blend of durability and flexibility, which I find pretty reassuring. Its nylon cover and hard shell provide that necessary toughness while allowing for a bit of give, preventing any unnecessary strain on my earmuffs.

Opening it up reveals a thoughtful interior design. The microfiber lining inside is a thoughtful touch; it cradles my earmuffs delicately, guarding them against scratches or bumps. The mesh pocket for spare batteries or cables is a definite plus, ensuring I have all the extras I might need neatly tucked away.

I tested this case with my trusted Howard Leight earmuffs, and let me tell you, the fit was snug and secure. It took a bit of finessing to get them settled just right, but once they were in, they were nestled perfectly. Closing the case was a simple task, and the reassuring click sealed the deal for me—it felt like a fortress around my gear.

What really won me over was the peace of mind this case brings. No more fretting about my earmuffs getting jostled or damaged amidst my other shooting gear. It’s a small investment that pays off in a big way, ensuring my essential hearing protection stays in top-notch condition.

Buyer’s Guide to Shooting Ear Protection

There are quite a few different types of earmuffs and ear protection devices available on the market. Some can be incredibly cheap and portable, like the tiny disposable plugs you put inside your ears. Other styles can cover your entire ear and are more comfortable when wearing. With so many options to choose from, it can be hard to decide on what to buy.

Well, in this section, we’ll talk about the factors affecting hearing loss, the specs you need to pay attention to, and the types of headphones on the market.

Things to Consider

What Types of Hearing Protection Should You Get?

There are three main types of hearing protection, and each has its pros and cons. Let’s take a look at those types and see which ones best fit your needs, as well as some of the specifications you need to know in order to make the right choice for a specific product in those three:

Earplugs

Earplugs for noise protection come either as disposable earplugs or as reusable earplugs.

Disposable earplugs are by far the cheapest ear protection you can buy. These tiny plugs can also be very effective, with some offering 30dB and better noise reduction protection. They’re usually made out of some kind of foam or moldable polymer. In order to get the most use out of them, you squish them into a small cylinder, which you then insert into your ear canal. The plugs then “re-inflate” to form a tight molded seal to your ear channel.

But there are permanent earplugs as well. These are made out of a heavy-duty polymer. Some are made to be specially molded for better comfort like the Decibullz while others like the Tri-Flanges are not.

On the downside, earplugs might not fit all ear channels, and they will muffle out all sounds. Some people are also allergic to the materials, and others find them to be chafe.

  • Most effective form of hearing protection
  • Ear plugs have an exceptionally high NRR rating
  • Lightweight and portable
  • Share with guests who don’t have their own
  • Disposables are dirt cheap often coming in large boxes
  • Most effective form of hearing protection
  • Not inserting properly can lead to them falling out
  • If dropped, you’ll more than likely need a new pair
  • Moldable plugs can become bulky to wear underneath muffs or headsets
  • Muffle all sounds including range communications

Earmuffs

Earmuffs can also offer you great ear protection. These earmuffs usually have a headband with foam pads that covers the entire ear. Most earmuffs can be worn over the top of your head or to the back of your head.

Earmuffs are relatively affordable and comfortable. They are also highly durable.

The only downside to this type of ear protection is that earmuffs can be heavy and bulky. They can also feel hot and sweaty in warm weather. Also, earmuffs often don’t provide as much ear protection as earplugs might offer. This means you need to be careful when buying these to ensure you get sufficient protection.

  • Comfortable to wear
  • Super easy to put on and take off
  • Affordable
  • Easily used with ear plugs in order to receive enhanced ear protection
  • Super durable even if tossed around
  • Bulky and may snag in tight spaces
  • Sweaty and sticky in warmer weather
  • Not as effective as plugs
  • Using with headwear can be uncomfortable or impossible to wear
  • Can interfere with your cheek weld on long gun buttstock

Earmuffs With Sound-circuit Technology

Sound-circuit technology earmuffs are designed to screen out loud blasts of the firearm but allow you to hear the natural sounds around you. This is an incredible feature for shooters because the loud and damaging noise of gunfire is muffled, but you can still hear your instructors or friends on the gun range as they speak.

These earmuffs are usually quite comfortable, relatively compact, and can be accompanied by a huge variety of special features, such as Bluetooth.

The main downside to these types of earmuffs is that batteries are required for them. Also, while there are different levels to the electronic earmuffs, you can surprisingly get them for cheap.

  • Allows you to hear communication around you through use of installed microphones
  • Comfortable
  • Some can connect to Bluetooth allowing use of cell phone while wearing
  • Have special features
  • Usually a more expensive option
  • Not waterproof
  • Not as effective as ear plugs
  • Batteries required
  • Heavy

Specs to keep in mind when choosing electronic ear protection

When choosing electronic hearing protection, you should keep the following specs in mind:

Microphone Direction and Number:

In order for electronic headsets to have the capability of letting you hear softer sounds, they need to employ the use of microphones and speakers.

Microphones on the outside of the ear cups will pick up sounds and transmit them to the speakers inside the cups. Ideally, you’d want one microphone/speaker set per ear cup, with them arranged directionally and this is what you’re most likely to find with your earmuffs. You would only really need two sets for active combat and tactical situations. Having one set per cup works just fine for range, hunting, or practice situations.

What’s more important than how many microphones there are is the type of microphone. Some microphones are just better than others. Directional mics will let you know where the amplified sound is coming from. High gain mics are often more sensitive, thus picking up more sound. These are great but tend to pick up more static and feedback.

Attack Time:

This is a very undervalued parameter to know about electronic headsets. This is the response time in which a headset reacts to noises above a certain threshold.

For example, if a headset is rated to reduce noises above 82 decibels, you’d want to know how fast it starts blocking those high-volume noises once they happen. This time should be in milliseconds.

So, basically, the faster the attack time, the less time a loud noise has to reach your ears. Furthermore, this makes communications with those around you much better as well.

What Noise Reduction Do You Need?

There are three factors that affect your hearing loss: distance, time, and decibel level. With regard to distance, the further away you are from the muzzle or action, the lesser the sound. Regarding time, gun blasts are not a continuous stream of sound. Sure, many of us will fire off multiple rounds in quick succession. Therefore, when it comes to ratings for firearm ear protection, we only need to focus on the initial blast decibel level when looking at hearing protection.

Your ears can only handle a maximum noise level of 140 dB before instant hearing damage occurs. An average Glock handgun produces 162dB, whereas a Remington 700LTR can produce 167dB. This means that without proper hearing protection, the firing of a basic sidearm can cause immediate and permanent hearing loss.

In order to protect yourself from that, you need to reduce the noise level to at least 140 dB, although 120 dB or lower is better.

Therefore, the real decibel reduction level you will need from your shooting hearing protection should be lower than 140 dB.

However, when shopping for the best shooting ear protection, they don’t label themselves as Decibel level. Instead, they use the Noise Reduction Ratings.

Recommended Noise Reduction Ratings (NRR) for Shooting Protection

Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) is a unit of measurement used to determine the effectiveness of hearing protection devices to decrease sound exposure within a given workspace. In order for a protective device to get an NRR, it must be tested and approved by the American National Standards (ANSI) in accordance with the Occupational Safety & Health Administration.

The higher the NRR number, the greater the noise reduction will be.

You should look for ear protection that offers a noise reduction rate of at least 22. A noise reduction of 30 is ideal, especially if you are operating louder and larger weapons.

To be on the safe side, you can use the following NRR levels to determine the best fit for the type of gun you are using.

Lower caliber handguns – minimum NRR rating: 22
Larger bore handguns and long guns – minimum NRR rating: 25
Large caliber handguns, larger long guns, and shotguns – minimum NRR rating: 27

This isn’t to say that you’re unsafe shooting a large caliber handgun with NRR 22 headphones, but if you were to and wanted to be on the safer side, or perhaps you’d be doing this for a prolonged period of time, then you might want to double your hearing protection to increase your NRR rating.

Conclusion

Protecting your hearing is critical when you are out shooting because once it’s lost, it is extremely hard to get back. Hopefully, I’ve left you with enough knowledge to get started and remember, always wear hearing protection when you pull the trigger.

If you’re here looking for protection gear to stay safe while shooting, I also recommend checking out our article on the best shooting eye protection as well.

FAQs

What are the different types of shooting ear protection available?

Shooting ear protection comes in various forms, including ear plugs and ear muffs. Ear plugs, typically made of foam or other materials, fit into the ear canal to block out noise. Ear muffs, with padded ear cups, cover the entire ear to provide noise reduction.

What is the purpose of electronic hearing protection?

Electronic hearing protection is designed to offer both hearing protection and the ability to amplify ambient sounds. They utilize microphones and speakers to allow wearers to hear conversations and range commands while still safeguarding their ears from loud noises like gunshot noises.

How do noise reduction ratings impact ear protection?

Noise reduction ratings, often abbreviated as NRR, indicate the level of noise reduction provided by ear protection devices. Higher NRR values signify greater noise reduction, offering better protection against loud sounds such as those found in shooting ranges.

Are there any specific features to consider for maximum hearing protection?

For maximum hearing protection, look for features like electronic earmuffs or ear plugs with high noise reduction ratings. Additionally, features such as gel pads, proper fitting ear cups, and adjustable volume control in electronic protection can contribute to enhanced protection against loud noises.

What is the recommended ear protection for extended periods at the firing line?

For prolonged periods at the firing line, comfortable ear protection is crucial. Consider options with soft ear cups, custom molded earplugs, or in-ear protection designed for extended wear to ensure both comfort and adequate noise reduction.

How does wearing ear protection prevent hearing damage?

Properly chosen and worn ear protection creates a barrier against loud noises, reducing the impact of loud sounds on the inner ear. This helps prevent hearing loss and potential permanent hearing damage caused by exposure to gunfire or other loud noises at shooting ranges.

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About Ryan Cleckner

Ryan is a former special operations sniper (1/75 Ranger) and current firearms attorney, firearms industry executive, university lecturer, and bestselling author of the Long Range Shooting Handbook.

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