best ear protection for shootingBuying Guide: Best Ear Protection Features and Models

If you’ve ever gone to a popular gun range, you’ll notice a couple of very peculiar abnormalities. One, there is no shortage of the hearing impaired, who have literally worn down their ear drums due to many consecutive years of constant use, with little or no protection for their ears. In fact, eye myself am somewhat tone deaf. Number two, there is also no shortage of adequate protection to prevent this from happening to you, in the form of ear muffs and plugs. Indeed, we take such good care of making sure that we get the perfect gun setup, that we forget, or dismiss what would otherwise be normal precautions, to take good care of our body. Here are a few recommendations, if you want the best ear protection for shooting, along with some attributes and key features that you want to look for to make sure that you are adequately protected.

Pro Ears Predator Gold NRR 26 RealTree Advantage Max 4 Ear MuffsActivated26$$$$4.6
3M Peltor MT15H69FB-47 SV SwatTac II Tactical Headset-BlackActivated20$$$$$$4.5
3M Peltor MT15H7B 370-SV Tactical Pro Neckband BlackActivated30$$$4.5
3M Peltor WS Tactical Sport Communications Headset, 20 dB Noise Reduction, Orange/GreenActivated20$$$$$4.2
Pro Ears Stalker Gold Hearing Protection and Amplification, CM4 CamoActivated25$$$$4.0
Pro Ears Predator Gold NRR 26 Ear Muffs (Black)Activated26$$$$4.0
Pro Ears Pro Mag Gold Electronic Hearing Protection & Amplification Ear MuffsActivated30$$$$3.9

Active versus Passive versus Electronic Ear Muffs

I mentioned earlier how I have become somewhat tone deaf. The reason is because when I was young, I used simple disposable earplugs, because I did not know any better. Don’t fall into the same misfortune, disposable earplugs simply do not block enough sound when you are using the bigger guns. If you are looking for the best ear muffs for shooting, you have to start by looking at exactly what type of headset you are looking at.

First off, there are two types of earmuffs. The first type are called passive, and they block out all sound, Electronic Ear Muffsincluding peoples voices, ambient voices, you name it. They can definitely block off rifle shots, but you’ll have to constantly take them off if you’d like to hear peoples voices, and if you are on a range, sometimes that means a gun shot will go off near you, damaging your ears. There are however special passive earmuffs which are designed to try and allow for low frequency sounds to pass through the muff, although these can be a little more expensive.

These special earmuffs are called active earmuffs, which can include electronic earmuffs. These active headsets are include components inside the headset such as amplifiers, and special materials and air flow, in order to gather sound outside the headset and transmit it back to you so that you can hear what is going on. I personally wouldn’t recommend anything other than active earmuffs.

The third type of earmuffs, which is a subset of activated, are the electronic variety. These require a battery and are much more expensive than simple activated products, however the quality is much better. What these do, is they have several different attenuation features which should cancel out all but the loudest of noises. Afterwards, an amplifier is used to allow certain levels of frequency into the earmuff, while blocking higher frequency shots. Overall, this allows for you to hear peoples voices much more clearly, while high powered gun shots are reduced to simple “pops”.

I’ll say point blank, that you have to make sure that you get the best hearing protection for your ears because you don’t want to go the rest of your life having to deal with the lack of ambient noise, or worse, not being able to hear anything at all. Having said that, there is a distinct difference in price points between the quality of the components that you will find in an active and passive headsets, versus an electronic. Never purchase a low quality electronic headset, as these tend to do a poor job of amplifying sounds and I would rather use a passive headset which completely mitigates all sound as opposed to one of these models.

The NRR Ratings

NRR stands for Noise Reduction Rating, and is the measure of efficiency at which your headset will reduce sound. As a general rule, the bigger the gun, the higher the NRR should be, with small arms caliber guns needing an NRR around 20, and the larger magnum type guns having an NRR between 28 and 33.

As a final word of caution, I would say that about half of all of my friends in this line of business have very pronounced hearing difficulties. Once your hearing is gone, it is gone for good. Don’t risk it over a $20 dollar price differential.