Patient Focused Hearing Solutions

What Is the Best Ear Protection for Shooting?

a pair of orange foam ear plugs

If you are a keen shooter, whether it is something you dabble in occasionally or something you do almost religiously, you need adequate ear protection.

Excessive noise is one of the leading causes of hearing loss. Every year, thousands of people experience hearing loss from loud noises, and in most cases, it could have been prevented with some simple hearing protection. While audiologists can work with you to find hearing aids to help you to restore some of your hearing, prevention is always better than cure. Noise levels are measured in decibels (dB). The higher the number, the louder the noise. Sound over 85 dB is considered dangerous to hearing. To put that into context, here are the decibel levels of some common, everyday noises:

  • Whispering: 30 dB
  • Normal conversation: 60 dB
  • Busy traffic: 70-85 dB
  • Motorbike: 90 dB
  • Music through headphones on full volume: 100-110 dB
  • Plane taking off: 120 dB

The majority of firearm calibers fire at 140 dB or more. For this reason, ear protection is essential when shooting. To bring down the noise to a level that is safe and comfortable, you need hearing protection that has an NRR rating of 22 or greater.

What are the different types of ear protection available when shooting?

When it comes to ear protection when shooting, there are three main types that you could potentially use:

Earplugs: Generally, this is the least expensive option of the three, so if you are on a tight budget, this is the one you may be looking at. They are usually made of foam and fit into the ear. The cheaper ones are single-use and are thrown away after being used which does not make them the most environmentally friendly of options. 

Earmuffs: These fit over the ears and work by blocking out the sound. They are usually a little more expensive than earplugs but are designed to be used repeatedly. These can be used in conjunction with earplugs for extra-protection if necessary.

Electronic hearing protection: These are a lot more expensive, but if you are a serious, regular shooter or a professional, these can also be the best choice. They use electronics to let a safe amount of sound through. Sometimes, they even work to amplify those sounds. However, any noises over a certain level are blocked from entering the ear canal. These are particularly useful for shooters as they allow the person to hear conversations while protecting their ears from the sound of the gunshots being fired. 

What sort of hearing protection do you need?

There are three significant factors that affect your hearing loss: distance, time and number of decibels. As far as distance is concerned, the farther away you are from the muzzle or action, the lower the sound.  With respect to time, gun blasts are not a constant stream of sound. Of course, some shooters are going to fire several rounds in fast succession. Therefore, when it comes to hearing protection, it is important to focus specifically on the initial blast decibel level. To do this, as we mentioned above, you need to be looking for ear protection that offers an NRR of 22 or more.

Noise reduction rating (NRR) is a unit of measurement used to assess the efficacy of hearing safety devices to minimize sound intensity within a specified environment. The higher the NRR, the greater the noise reduction. You should aim for ear protection with a noise reduction rating of at least 22.

A noise reduction of 30 is desirable, particularly if you are operating louder and larger firearms. To be on the side of caution, you can use the following NRR levels to decide the best match for the type of gun you have:

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

This is not to suggest that it is harmful to shoot a large long gun with NRR 22 headphones but if you want to be as safe as possible, you might want to consider something a little higher rated. 

To receive an NRR, a protective device must be reviewed and certified by the American national standards (ANSI) in compliance with the occupational safety & health administration.

Get in touch today

When it comes to questions about ear safety, our audiologists know exactly what they are doing. If you need to find out more or are worried about the health of your ears, get in touch with us today by calling Advanced Audiology Services LLC at 810-388-9400.