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Now Hear This
No Excuse Why You Shouldn’t Wear Proper Ear Protection
By Kevin Madison
With each pull of the trigger our ears are exposed to sounds up to 150 decibels (dB). A single exposure to a blast of more than 120 dB, or repeated exposure to 90 dB, can lead to permanent damage to your hearing. With the availability of different hearing protection there’s no reason why any shooter—whether it be big or small-bore rifle, shotguns, or pistols—should be without hearing protection.
The products available to shooters fall into three basic categories: foam ear plugs, ear muffs (both passive and electronic), and electronic ear plugs.
Foam Ear Plugs: Surprisingly, the inexpensive foam ear plugs found at nearly every sporting goods store for practically pennies a pair are generally the highest rated protection of any hearing protection device. Many come with a rating of NRR 32dB, if used correctly.
The Ear Buddy: While there are numerous options for foam ear plugs, The Ear Buddy are surprisingly comfortable and easy to put in and take out. Simply roll the end into a tight cylinder, then place into the ear canal. It’s recommended to hold in place for 30 seconds allowing the foam to expand.
Cost: For a jar of 50 pair, expect to pay less than $20.
Hearing Rating: 32dB NRR
Ear Muffs: There are two types of ear muffs: passive and electronic.
Passive ear muffs help solve the ease of use issue and can be found in a wide range of noise reduction rating levels, from many models in the NRR 22-24 dB range but also quite a few around NRR 30dB, so shop wisely if you choose this route. Prices for passive ear muffs generally range from $10 to $30.
Electronic ear muffs not only block sound in the same manner as passive muffs, but through electronic means, allow you to pick up low volume noises like voices at the same time restrict the impact of a firearm ignition. Prices for electronic ear muffs can have a huge range, from $50 to over $400 depending on features and protection offered.
Cabela’s S.T.R 9X Electronic Muffs: For the money, it’s hard to beat these electronic ear muffs. With 9X hearing enhancement sound is amplified to 50dB, nine times the power of normal hearing which allows you to hear things that you’d never hear otherwise. They come with four wind-resistant, high frequency microphones, sound-activated compression reducers that reduce muzzle blasts to 24dB. They come with adjustable volume knobs on each ear muff, are comfortable to wear, and conveniently fold up for transportation and storage. They’re powered with two AAA batteries, which are included.
Hearing Rating: 24 dB NRR
Electronic Ear Plugs: Designed to block out and protect you from loud blasts electronic ear plugs also allow normal sounds to come through or even amplify quieter noises depending on the model. They come in two styles: ‘one size fits most’ and custom fit. Along with keeping your ears protected from 23 to 30dB, they also allow you to hear natural sounds around you, sometimes even considerably better than without them. Prices range from $150 to $500.
GSM’s Silencer Ear Buds: For shooters that want hearing protection that is unobtrusive, comfortable and effective, the Silencer Ear Buds from GSM Outdoors fill a niche that goes beyond a standard pair of ear muffs. They come with the company’s Sure-Lock system, which allows you to custom fit the contoured fins and foam buds to your ear perfectly. Simply choose one of the six sizing fins and foam tips that best fits your ear canal. The sounds of gunfire are drastically reduced to 25dB, which is a nice range to have. They also come with Omni-directional microphones and speakers that deliver a crisp sound. Each set comes with four number 10 batteries, which have 80 hours of use. They also come with a lanyard, and carrying case.
Hearing Rating: 25 dB NRR