Whether you’re a professional shooter, a hobbyist, or an occasional visitor to the shooting range, protecting your hearing is paramount.
The loud noise produced by firearms can lead to permanent hearing damage if proper precautions are not taken.
This is why investing in the best shooting ear protection is a wise decision for anyone who regularly handles firearms.
Summary of Our Top Picks
After extensive research, we have narrowed down the top three shooting ear protection options on the market today.
|Best Overall||Runner-Up||3rd Choice|
|#1. Disposable Foam Earplugs |
(Affordable, versatile, and disposable)
|#2. SureFire EP3 Sonic Defenders |
(Durable, reusable, and has a Noise Reduction Rating of 24dB)
|#3. 3M Peltor Optime 105 |
(Over-the-head earmuffs, has a Noise Reduction Rating of 30dB, and is ideal for very high noise levels)
Shockwave, Meet Inner Ear
When a firearm is discharged, it creates a shockwave that travels at high speed. This shockwave, when it reaches the delicate structures of the inner ear, can cause significant damage.
This is why high-quality ear protection is necessary. It absorbs and reduces this shockwave, safeguarding your inner ear from potential harm.
“Proper” Hearing Protection
Proper hearing protection not only reduces the harmful noise levels but also fits comfortably and securely, ensuring that you can focus on your shooting without worrying about your ear protection falling out or causing discomfort.
11+ Best Shooting Ear Protection of 2023
1. Disposable Foam Earplugs
Disposable foam earplugs are a popular choice among shooters due to their simplicity and effectiveness.
They are made from a soft foam material that expands to fit the ear canal, providing a snug fit and excellent noise reduction.
Despite being disposable, they are durable enough to withstand prolonged use.
These earplugs are also highly portable, making them perfect for those who need to travel with their ear protection.
Their lightweight design ensures that they do not cause any discomfort, even when worn for extended periods.
- Made from soft, expanding foam
- Lightweight and portable
- Excellent noise reduction capabilities
- Comfortable to wear for extended periods
2. SureFire EP3 Sonic Defenders
The SureFire EP3 Sonic Defenders are a step up from standard foam earplugs. They are designed to protect your hearing without interfering with your ability to hear routine sounds or conversations.
This is achieved through the use of innovative filter caps that block out potentially harmful noise while allowing lower-level sounds to pass through.
They are made from a hypoallergenic polymer that is comfortable to wear and durable. The triple-flanged stem design fits securely in the ear, ensuring that your protection stays in place even during vigorous activity.
- Innovative filter caps allow routine sounds while blocking harmful noise
- Made from a comfortable, durable, hypoallergenic polymer
- Triple-flanged stem design for secure fit
3. 3M Peltor Optime 105
The 3M Peltor Optime 105 is a set of over-the-ear headphones that provide superior noise reduction in high noise environments.
They feature a twin-cup design for maximum attenuation and comfort. The soft, foam-filled earmuffs fit comfortably over the ears, reducing noise by up to 30 decibels.
They also feature a padded headband that can be adjusted for a custom fit. Despite their robust design, they are surprisingly lightweight, making them comfortable to wear for extended periods.
- Twin-cup design for maximum noise attenuation
- Soft, foam-filled earmuffs for comfort
- Adjustable, padded headband
- Reduces noise by up to 30 decibels
- Lightweight and comfortable for long-term use
4. 3M Shotgunner II
The 3M Shotgunner II earmuffs are specifically designed for shotgun shooters, offering a combination of effective noise reduction and comfortable design.
They feature a low-profile design that reduces interference with the stock of the gun, making them ideal for clay pigeon shooters or anyone who uses a shotgun.
These earmuffs provide excellent noise reduction, protecting your hearing from the loud noises associated with shooting while still allowing you to hear necessary environmental sounds.
The adjustable headband ensures a secure fit, and the lightweight design makes them comfortable for extended wear.
- Low-profile design reduces interference with gun stock
- Excellent noise reduction capabilities
- Adjustable headband for a secure fit
- Lightweight and comfortable for extended use
5. 3M Optime 101 (Behind the Ear)
The 3M Optime 101 Behind-the-Ear earmuffs provide a unique design that fits behind the ear, making it extremely comfortable for prolonged use. It’s an excellent choice for individuals who do not like the pressure of traditional over-the-head ear protection. The earmuffs provide effective hearing protection, reducing harmful noise while allowing ambient sounds.
This model features a lightweight, low profile design that doesn’t interfere with other safety equipment, like safety glasses or hard hats. It is adjustable to fit various head sizes and is easy to put on and take off.
- Unique behind-the-ear design
- Lightweight and low profile
- Compatible with other safety equipment
- Adjustable for different head sizes
6. AXIL TRACKR
AXIL TRACKR is a standout in the realm of shooting ear protection. It combines digital sound suppression and amplification technology. This means it can suppress harmful gunshot noise while amplifying ambient sounds and conversations, ensuring situational awareness.
It’s designed to be comfortable and secure, with a snug fit that stays in place even during prolonged use. These electronic earplugs are rechargeable, featuring a long-lasting battery life, making them perfect for extended shooting sessions.
- Digital sound suppression and amplification technology
- Comfortable and secure fit
- Rechargeable with long-lasting battery life
7. Howard Leight Impact Sport
Howard Leight Impact Sport earmuffs are among the top-rated ear protection for shooters because of their effective noise reduction and comfortable design. They feature built-in directional microphones that amplify range commands and other ambient sounds to a safe 82 dB, providing more natural listening and enhanced communication.
These earmuffs also have an automatic shut-off feature that kicks in when ambient noise reaches 82 dB. The earmuffs are adjustable for a secure fit and feature a slim design that won’t interfere with firearm stocks.
- Built-in directional microphones for enhanced communication
- Automatic shut-off feature at 82 dB
- Adjustable for a secure fit
- Slim design that doesn’t interfere with firearm stocks
8. Howard Leight Impact Pro
The Howard Leight Impact Pro earmuffs offer superior noise reduction, making them ideal for indoor ranges, high-volume shooting, and high-caliber firearms. They feature patented Air Flow Control technology for optimal attenuation across all frequencies and an automatic shut-off feature for convenience.
These earmuffs are designed for comfort, with a padded headband and soft ear cushions. They also include an auxiliary input and cord for connection to MP3 players and scanners.
- Patented Air Flow Control technology for optimal noise reduction
- Automatic shut-off feature
- Comfortable padded headband and soft ear cushions
- Auxiliary input and cord for connection to MP3 players and scanners
9. Walker’s Razor Slim Muff
Walker’s Razor Slim Muff provides a balance of comfort, noise reduction, and sound quality. The ultra-slim profile doesn’t interfere with firearm stocks, while the two omnidirectional microphones provide clear, balanced sound. The earmuffs also feature a comfortable headband and compact folding design for easy transport.
These earmuffs come with Sound Activated Compression (SAC), which protects your hearing by compressing loud noises to a safe level without shutting off amplification.
- Ultra-slim profile
- Two omnidirectional microphones for clear sound
- Comfortable headband and compact folding design
- Sound Activated Compression for safety
10. Pro Ears Pro Tac Slim Gold
The Pro Ears Pro Tac Slim Gold is a premium option for shooting ear protection. It features advanced Dynamic Level Sound Compression technology, which quickly reduces loud sounds to safe levels while amplifying quiet sounds, allowing you to maintain situational awareness.
These earmuffs are designed for comfort and durability, with Pro Form Leather ear cushions and a rugged construction. They also have an adjustable headband to ensure a secure, comfortable fit for all-day wear.
- Dynamic Level Sound Compression technology
- Comfortable Pro Form Leather ear cushions
- Durable construction
- Adjustable headband for a secure fit
11. MSA Sordin Supreme Pro X
The MSA Sordin Supreme Pro X is a top-of-the-line option for shooting ear protection. It’s equipped with high-quality speakers and microphones that provide excellent sound reproduction and directionality. This means you can hear ambient sounds clearly while still protecting your ears from harmful noise levels.
These earmuffs are both waterproof and dustproof, making them ideal for outdoor use. They also feature a comfortable, adjustable headband and soft, replaceable ear cushions.
- High-quality speakers and microphones for excellent sound reproduction
- Waterproof and dustproof
- Comfortable, adjustable headband
- Soft, replaceable ear cushions
12. Axil GS Extreme 2.0
The Axil GS Extreme 2.0 offers a unique blend of custom fit, comfort, and advanced hearing protection. These earplugs feature advanced digital algorithms that enhance and protect hearing simultaneously. They can amplify the sounds you want to hear while suppressing loud, harmful noises.
They’re designed for comfort, with medical-grade, hypoallergenic materials that are safe for all-day wear. The custom-fit design ensures they stay securely in place, even during active movement.
- Advanced digital algorithms for enhanced hearing protection
- Made from medical-grade, hypoallergenic materials
- Custom-fit design for secure fit
Factors to Consider When Buying Ear Protectors For Shooting
When it comes to shooting, whether for sport, hunting, or professional purposes, protecting your hearing is crucial.
The loud noise of gunfire can lead to serious, long-term hearing damage if appropriate precautions aren’t taken.
One of these precautions is using high-quality ear protection. In this section, we’ll explore the key factors to consider when buying ear protectors for shooting.
Understanding Noise Reduction Rating (NRR)
The first thing to look for in shooting ear protection is the Noise Reduction Rating (NRR). This number, measured in decibels, indicates how much the device reduces ambient noise.
The higher the NRR, the more protection the device provides. For shooting, you should aim for a minimum NRR of 20.
However, for larger firearms or indoor shooting, where sound can be amplified, an NRR of at least 28 to 31 is recommended.
Comfort and Fit
Comfort and fit are crucial when choosing ear protection. If the device is uncomfortable or doesn’t fit well, you’re less likely to wear it consistently, which defeats its purpose.
Look for ear protectors with adjustable features, such as headbands or ear cups, to ensure a snug fit. Consider also the weight of the protector; lighter models will be more comfortable during prolonged use.
Over-Ear vs. In-Ear Options
Ear protectors come in two main types: over-ear and in-ear. Over-ear models, also known as earmuffs, provide a high level of protection and are easy to put on and take off.
They tend to be more comfortable for extended wear, but they may interfere with the proper positioning of a firearm.
In-ear models, or earplugs, are more discreet and less likely to interfere with firearm use. However, they may not provide as much protection as over-ear models, especially if not inserted correctly. Some people find them less comfortable, especially for prolonged periods.
Passive vs. Electronic Ear Protection
Passive ear protection devices simply block out noise, while electronic models can amplify quiet sounds (like conversation or animal movements) and automatically shut off amplification when a loud noise (like a gunshot) is detected.
This feature allows for better situational awareness and communication. However, electronic ear protectors are typically more expensive than passive ones.
Durability and Maintenance
Your ear protectors are going to be exposed to harsh conditions, especially if you’re using them for outdoor shooting or hunting.
Look for models that are built to withstand these conditions. Check the manufacturer’s information regarding maintenance and care to ensure the longevity of the product.
Compatibility with Other Gear
If you’re going to be wearing other gear, like hats, glasses, or additional headgear, make sure the ear protectors are compatible.
For instance, some earmuff designs may not fit well with certain types of safety glasses, causing them to lift off the ear and reduce their effectiveness.
Price and Brand Reputation
Finally, consider the price and the reputation of the brand. While you don’t necessarily have to choose the most expensive option, keep in mind that quality often comes at a cost.
Do some research on the brand’s reputation, read reviews, and consider whether the price is justified by the features offered.
Frequently Asked Questions
What DB should shooting ear protection be?
Shooting ear protection should have a Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) that reduces the sound of gunfire below 120 decibels (dB). Gunshots, depending on the caliber and firearm configuration, tend to register closer to 150-170 dB.
Therefore, the higher the NRR of your ear protection, the better. As a rule of thumb, small-caliber weapons require a minimum NRR of 20, while larger firearms or indoor shooting ranges where gunfire sound can be amplified may need hearing protection with a rating of at least 28 to 31 NRR.
What hearing protection do special forces use?
Special forces often use advanced electronic hearing protection that not only suppresses harmful gunshot noises but also amplifies ambient sounds for better situational awareness. Brands like Peltor, Sordin, and SureFire are popular choices, offering high NRR ratings, comfortable designs, and features like noise-canceling microphones for clear communication.
What is the highest DB ear protection?
The highest NRR available for ear protection in the U.S. is 33 dB, which can be found in certain earmuffs and disposable foam earplugs. However, it’s important to note that even with the highest NRR, no ear protection can block out all noise. It simply reduces the level of noise entering your ears.
What are the best noise Cancelling ear protection?
The best noise-cancelling ear protection typically includes electronic earmuffs that use active noise cancellation to reduce low-frequency sounds while protecting against sudden loud noises like gunshots. Some top-rated options include the 3M Peltor TacticalPro, Howard Leight Impact Pro, and MSA Sordin Supreme Pro X.
What earplugs cancel all noise?
No earplugs can entirely cancel all noise, but some high-rated ones can significantly reduce noise levels. These include foam earplugs with a high NRR, such as the 3M E-A-R Classic Earplugs and the Moldex 6800 Pura-Fit Soft-Foam Earplugs, both offering an NRR of 33 dB.
Can noise Cancelling earbuds be used for shooting?
Noise-cancelling earbuds are not recommended for shooting as they may not provide adequate protection against the loud noise of gunshots. It’s recommended to use ear protection specifically designed for shooting, such as earmuffs or earplugs with a high NRR.
Are foam ear plugs good for shooting?
Yes, foam ear plugs can be effective for shooting, especially if they have a high NRR. They are affordable, easy to use, and portable. However, they must be inserted correctly to provide maximum protection.
Is Noise Cancelling the same as hearing protection?
No, noise cancelling and hearing protection are not the same. Noise cancelling typically refers to technology that reduces unwanted ambient sounds, often through the use of microphones and special processing to create an “anti-noise” signal. On the other hand, hearing protection reduces all noise levels, protecting your ears from harmful noise exposure.
Are electronic ear muffs worth it?
Yes, electronic ear muffs can be worth the investment for frequent shooters. They not only protect against harmful noise levels, but many models also amplify quiet sounds, allowing for better communication and situational awareness. They are often adjustable for comfort and may include features like audio input jacks.
Is over ear or on ear better for noise cancelling?
Over-ear headphones are generally better for noise cancelling as they fully cover the ears, providing a seal that helps block out ambient noise. On-ear headphones, while more compact, rest on the ears and do not provide the same level of isolation.
How many dB is safe for the human ear?
Sounds at or below 70 dB are generally considered safe for the human ear, regardless of the duration of exposure. Prolonged exposure to noises above 85 dB can cause hearing damage or loss.
Is 25 dB noise cancellation good?
Yes, a noise reduction rating (NRR) of 25 dB is considered good and can effectively reduce the noise level, making it safer for your ears. However, in very loud environments such as shooting ranges or construction sites, a higher NRR might be needed.
Is dB and NRR the same?
No, dB (decibel) is a unit used to measure the intensity of a sound, while NRR (Noise Reduction Rating) is a standard used in the U.S. to indicate the level of noise reduction provided by hearing protection.
What is Class 4 hearing protection?
In Australia and New Zealand, Class 4 hearing protection is the highest classification and offers an NRR equivalent to 25 to 30 dB. This class of protection is suitable for high noise environments.
Choosing the right shooting ear protection is a critical step towards safeguarding your hearing health.
Whether you prefer the simplicity of foam earplugs, the advanced features of electronic earmuffs, or the custom fit of digital earplugs, there’s an option on this list to suit your needs.
Remember, the best shooting ear protection is the one that you’ll wear consistently and comfortably.
So make your choice based on your personal preferences and the specific demands of your shooting environment.