Best Hearing Protection for Shooting & Hunting

Gear We Use
Best Hearing Protection for Shooting & Hunting
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Humans may be the only predatory animals on the planet that don’t seem to care about losing their sense of hearing. At least, you might assume that given how often gun hunters use hearing protection in the field.

The consequence is that like an old wolf who’s gone deaf, hard-of-hearing hunters are less effective. They can’t hear the faraway bugle of an elk or the gobble of a turkey, and that whitetail buck is well within sniffing distance before they hear it crackling through the November leaves.

The good news is that unlike previous generations, we have access to a wide variety of electronic hearing protection that protects our eardrums while preserving our situational awareness. Here are some of the best options for the range and the field.

How to Pick a Hearing Protection Product

First, consider your intended application: do you want to use this hearing protection in the field, at the range, or both? There are all kinds of hearing protection categories, but “plugs” and “muffs” are the most common. Plugs are better in the field. They don’t interfere as much with clothing, hats, or rifle stocks, and they’re lighter and more packable. But they also tend to offer less hearing protection. That’s probably fine for a single rifle shot, but not ideal for continuous shooting.

Muffs usually offer better hearing protection, and it’s essential to own at least one pair for a long day at the range. Especially when practicing with high-powered hunting calibers, you’ll want a good set of muffs to offset those muzzle blasts. But muffs are also bulky, and probably not what you want to be toting along in a backpack up a mountain.

All hearing protection comes with a “noise reduction rating” (NRR). In layman’s terms, the NRR indicates how many decibels a hearing protection device will reduce sound. Most hearing protection designed for shooting is listed with an NRR between 22 and 30. When shooting small caliber rifles and handguns, you can probably get away with 22 or 23. For larger calibers and shotguns, it’s best to find something 26 or above.

That doesn’t mean a set of plugs with an NRR of 22 will cause hearing loss if you fire a rifle once in the field. Like most other types of physical damage, hearing damage gets worse the more often you expose yourself to it. In other words, a full day in a duck blind will require a greater NRR than that single shot on a whitetail.

NRR gets especially squirrely when you factor in fitment. NRRs are calculated based on a perfectly fit hearing protection device. But sometimes plugs aren’t the right size or your shooting glasses keep your muffs from sealing correctly. Whichever hearing protection you choose, make sure you follow all the instructions and get a proper seal.

Ultimately, try to use as much hearing protection as you can in any given situation. If you can get away with foam plugs plus quality ear muffs, do it. That’ll protect you from just about anything. If you can’t, select the device with the highest NRR rating that you can comfortably wear during your intended pursuit. And listen to your body: if your ears start to hurt or ring, or you get a headache, it’s time to up the ante.

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Hearing Protection We Recommend

Product Notes

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