Hearing protection is a crucial consideration for shooters, as the loud noises produced by firearms can be damaging to the ears.
Without adequate protection, shooters may be at risk of suffering from hearing loss, tinnitus, and other hearing-related problems.
In this post, we’ll delve into the following topics:
- Dangers of failing to protect your ears during shooting or hunting sessions
- The benefits of wearing hearing protection for shooting
- Tips for choosing the best shooting hearing protection
Let’s get cracking;
The Dangers of Shooting Without Hearing Protection
The loud noise levels of hunting rifles can reach 140 decibels or more, which is well above the threshold for safe hearing.
According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), noise levels above 85 decibels can cause hearing damage after prolonged exposure.
The louder the noise, the shorter the time it takes for hearing damage to occur. For example, exposure to a noise level of 140 decibels for just one second can cause permanent hearing loss.
The loud noises produced by rifles can cause damage to the delicate hair cells in the ear canal. These cells are responsible for converting sound waves into electrical signals sent to the brain.
In addition to the hair cells, the high sound levels of hunting rifles can also damage the auditory nerve, which carries the electrical signals from the ear canal to the brain.
The ripple effect is the onset of hearing problems such as tinnitus, which is a persistent ringing or buzzing in the ears.
It is important to note that the effects caused by shooting without proper hearing protection are often gradual and may not be immediately noticeable.
However, over time, the outcome can become more severe, leading to difficulties with communication and other daily activities.
The Benefits of Wearing Hearing Protection for Shooting
The primary benefit of using shooting ear protection is to keep your ability to hear intact, even whether you’re a seasonal or frequent hunter.
The trick here is to choose the best hearing protection.
You can protect your ears from loud rifle shots and ambient noises by wearing earplugs or earmuffs on the shooting range or hunting ground.
Earplugs are small, compact devices inserted into the ear canal for noise reduction.
They are typically made of a soft, pliable material such as foam or silicone and are available in two varieties; reusable and disposable foam earplugs.
Electronic earplugs work by physically blocking loud sound waves from reaching the ear drum, which helps to reduce the noise level that the ear is exposed to.
When wearing earplugs while shooting, the earplugs should be properly inserted into the ear canal to create a seal that blocks out noise.
Some foam earplugs have a tapered shape that allows them to be easily inserted into the ear canal, while others may require rolling or shaping before insertion.
While earplugs can be effective at sound dampening and protecting hearing during shooting, they may not provide as much noise reduction as earmuffs.
They may also be less effective at blocking out high-frequency sounds, which can be more damaging to the ears.
On the flip side, earplugs are small, convenient to carry, and can be worn under a hat or helmet, making them a good option for shooters who need hearing protection that is easy to use and doesn't interfere with their shooting performance.
Earmuffs are large, over-the-ear devices covering the entire ear to block environmental sounds.
They’re made of a hard outer shell with a soft, padded inner lining and are held in place by a headband.
Some earmuffs have adjustable headbands or ear cups that allow for a custom fit, while others may be one-size-fits-all.
Earmuffs can effectively reduce noise levels and protect hearing during shooting, as they provide a higher level of noise reduction than earplugs.
Electronic earmuffs are effective at blocking out high-frequency sounds, which can be more damaging to the ears.
Still, they can be less convenient and comfortable than earplugs because they’re bulkier and less compatible with hats or helmets.
Despite these potential drawbacks, earmuffs can be excellent noise-reduction devices for shooters and hunters looking for maximum protection for their ears.
How to Choose the Best Ear Protection for Shooting
Here are the key considerations when looking for the best shooting ear protection.
Your Rifle’s Noise Levels
Different hunting rifles have different noise levels. Therefore, you want protection devices that can handle your specific rifle noise levels.
So, start by determining how much noise your rifle can generate. That way, you can pinpoint a device that offers enough noise filtering for your needs.
Decide Whether You Want Ear Muffs or Ear Plugs
The choice of ear plugs over earmuffs, and vice versa, boils down to personal preferences.
That said, earplugs are ideal for in-ear protection or when you don’t need to hear range commands. They fit directly into your ear canal, providing a better fit than ear muffs.
On the other hand, earmuffs are great if you want to hear conversations after taking a shot. Plus, they won’t get in your way if you’re wearing a helmet or goggles.
Noise Reduction Rating (NRR)
Look for hearing protection with a high noise reduction rating (NRR).
The NRR is a measure of how much noise the hearing protection can block out. The higher the NRR, the more protection the gear will provide.
Speaking of electronic hearing protection, you want devices with reasonable battery life. That way, you can stay on the shooting range for extended periods without worrying about damaging your inner ear.
The Bottom Line
Hearing protection is essential for any hunter or shooter.
While most ear protection comes with an NRR rating, you should ensure it offers adequate capacity to handle your rifle’s noise levels.
As a rule of thumb, choose high-quality, comfortable and relatively light shooting hearing protection gear.