Best Earplugs for Shooting and Hunting – Complete Guide 2016
Some people like reading or practicing yoga to relieve stress. Others prefer shooting and hunting. This can be an expensive and demanding sport; but for those who choose it as a hobby, there is nothing compared to the thrill of hitting a target at the shooting range, or the adrenaline rush that comes with finally bagging a deer after hours of waiting.
Even so, shooters and hunters are constantly putting themselves at risk of hearing loss, due to the loud noise emitted from guns. Sounds above 85dB are considered dangerous for the ears, but just a single gunshot can ring up to 140dB! While we’re sure shooters would like to enjoy a successful hunt and a satisfying session at the range, we don’t want that to be at the expense of our hearing.
Many people ignore one of the most basic safety rules of shooting: wear the best earplugs for shooting. In fact, studies show that less than half of those practicing with paper targets at the shooting range wear proper hearing protection, and this figure is even less with hunters in the wild. This might stem from a belief that hearing loss will not happen to them. Some go for years without wearing any, only to realise later that they’ve damaged their hearing beyond repair. The symptoms might not appear immediately, but shooters often develop tinnitus and other hearing complications over a period of time, especially when they return for hunting season each year, inadvertently exposing themselves
Arming oneself with the knowledge and tools to protect our ears can help save on health complications down the road. These tools can be in the form of ear muffs or ear plugs. The former is common, but some users dislike them due to their bulkiness, which might be okay at a shooting range where targets are mostly stationary, but will get in the way when hunting in the wild. For those with stealth in mind or dislike big muffs, ear plugs are the way to go. Not only are they relatively affordable, they go a long way in ensuring the risk of hearing loss is reduced significantly.
Detailed research should be done before purchasing the best earplugs for shooting and hunting. Here are some things to look out for:
Noise Reduction Rating (NRR)
To comply with US Environmental Protection Agency standards, all hearing protection devices must be inspected before they go on sale. This includes ear plugs. After lab tests, they are awarded a Noise Reduction Rating (NRR), which gauge how many decibels of sound the plugs are able to reduce. The higher the number, the better they are at reducing sound. Generally, a level between NRR22-33 is considered good. For electronic ear plugs, this might even vary by allowing users to hear natural sounds from their environment, instead of conventional plugs with a flat NRR.
There are many types of shooting ear plugs in the market. The simplest and cheapest ones are usually made from foam. Small, disposable and versatile, they offer an inexpensive layer of protection. Their soft material is also comfortable and can be worn for longer periods. Moldable ear plugs such as those made from wax are also good for passive protection, and are comfy and affordable. Reusable ear plugs featuring acoustic filters are a solid choice for hunters, as they safely let sound through, helping users to maintain awareness of their surroundings while protecting them from dangerous noise levels emanating from gunshots. Now thanks to the advent of technology, electronic and custom ear plugs have made their way onto shelves, providing superior protection for pro shooters and hunters.
As with everything else, look for the best fit. The best earplugs for shooting that don’t fit right will hurt the ears, and ones that are too small will not block sound properly. Hunters regularly need to wait for game to appear, so the plugs should be able to sit snugly for hours at a time. Avoid plugs with cords or lanyards, which will create unnecessary noise and limit your movement.
Color might not matter much at the shooting range, but out in the woods, nothing sticks out more than a pair of bright pink ear plugs, sending prey scurrying for cover. Choose a shade that blends well into the surroundings.
10 BEST EARPLUGS FOR SHOOTING AND HUNTING
|1. Westone Defend Ear Digital Shooter Hearing Protection Ear Plugs||Provides hearing protection of 30 dB||$$$||5.0|
|2. SAS Safety EarPro Earplugs||Ergonomic design and multi-flanged stem||$$||4.4|
|3. No Noise Shoot Generation Ceramic Filter Ear Plugs||The best ceramic filter in the world||$$||4.3|
|4. Pluggerz Shoot Ear Plugs||Anti-allergic silicon material||$$||4.3|
|5. Mack’s Shooters Ear Seals||Noise Reduction Rating – 27 dB Foam||$||4.2|
|6. Surefire 4 Sonic Defender Ear Plugs||24dB Noise Reduction Rating (NRR)||$$||4.2|
|7. 3M PELTOR TEP-100 Tactical Digital Earplug||Micro B USB charging Port Sealing Rings||$$$||4.2|
|8. Howard Leight by Honeywell SmartFit Corded Multiple-Use Earplugs||Patented Conforming Material Technology uses body heat to custom-match the contour of the ear canal||$||4.2|
|9. Howard Leight by Honeywell Quiet Band Earplugs||Soft, ergonomic foam pods||$||4.1|
|10. Etymotic Research GSP15 GunSport Pro Series High-Definition Electronic Earplugs||Hearing enhancement mode, which provides up to 5X amplification||$$$||3.9|
While some ear plugs can be used for multiple purposes such as in manufacturing, for sleep or travelling, there are also plugs designed especially for shooting, hunting and outdoor recreation. A long-time provider of custom digital hearing protection, Westone is no stranger to providing hearing protection for shooting sports. Their Westone DefendEar plugs provide good coverage, with an NRR of 30dB and three amplification levels of up to 86dB; making it to the top of our list of best earplugs for shooting and hunting.
As any outdoor enthusiast or hunter will tell you, wind is a big noise factor when out on the field, and these plugs are included with wind noise reduction capabilities. Their unique digital amplification technology allows for low level ambient sounds to be heard with crystal clear clarity – unlike conventional ear plugs which may block sounds altogether.
This means that hunters will still be able to hear environmental noises clearly to help them track their prey, or in the case of shooting on a range, be able to carry on normal conversations. At the same time, the electronic circuit instantly recognises loud noises and suppresses them, protecting users from loud gun shots.
The plugs’ low profile design makes it a comfy and universal fit, while the electronic parts are removable for easy cleaning, upgrades and repairs. Their batteries have to be replaced fairly regularly since there is no off switch, which drains them, but otherwise, they are one of the best pair of plugs for shooting and hunting.
Each set includes right and left color-coded ear plugs, 2 spare wax guards, a brush with magnet, six batteries, 5 different sized quality foam tipis and a zip pouch storage case.
<<Latest customer reviews and prices of Westone Defend Ear Digital Shooter Hearing Protection Ear Plugs>>
Originally developed for the military, the SAS Safety Earpro Earplugs comes in as one of the top on our list of best earplugs for shooting. Made from soft, hypoallergenic medical-grade polymer, the plugs are designed to lower dangerous noise levels above 85dB while allowing safer sound levels to be heard. The rubbery material is squishy and fits into the ear easily.
The ergonomic shape and multi-ribbed stem follow the shape of the ear, allowing for maximum comfort and making sure the plugs sit snugly in the ears while wearing headgear such as helmets, or when a user is on the phone.
With a good NRR of 24dB, the EP6 has patented Hocks Noise Braker filters to block out loud sounds from entering your ear canal at full force. For extra protection, users can also attach stoppers. Available in medium and large sizes. When worn correctly, they are a good fit as they lock onto the ear.
Tested in a shooting range, they provide adequate hearing protection, but allow for users to easily hear conversations and instructions from the shooting range instructor. They are recommended for situations such as tactical environments, where there will be loud noises at intervals.
The plugs come in an SAS Safety clamshell packaging and includes a robust carrying case.
Ceramic filters are set to be the ‘new generation’ of hearing protection against gun blasts from hunting and shooting. A product of the Netherlands, the No Noise Shoot Generation Ceramic Filter Ear Plugs are made from hypoallergenic thermoplastic material and are silicone free.
This unique material allows for frequencies such as voice and nature sounds to be clearly audible, whilst blocking intermittent loud noises. Hunters will still be able to hear the light footfalls of approaching prey, and protect their hearing when they fire their shot.
Precision sound filters positioned deep within the ear’s hearing channel ensures that the maximum level of sound waves will be filtered with no leaks. Made from high quality zirconium oxide, No Noise’s patented filters reduce bad noise and amplify good noise in high-definition. The Venturi-shaped channels running through the filter’s centre absorbs sound waves better as opposed to traditional straight channels, creating the effect of dampened sound without muffling them.
No Noise’s thermoplastic outer shell provides supreme softness and comfort, so users can wear them for long periods of time. When worn with ear muffs, the plugs offer added protection against loud noises, especially in indoor shooting environments.
Granted, they can be hard to pull out of the ear because of the short length, but nothing a pair of tweezers can’t handle. Proper care and washing can help prolong the usage. The plugs come in a nice aluminium tube canister for safe keeping.
Foam ear plugs are often for single use only – which means that you buy and then throw them away after a hunting or shooting session. Reusable ones, on the other hand, like the Pluggerz Shoot ear plugs, can last for a few weeks with proper care and cleaning.
Made from silicone, these comfy ear plugs are easily adaptable due to their shape and hypo allergic material, making them gentle enough for frequent use. The soft, triple-flange design and simple push-in insertion also make for a good seal against noise. However, the stem for removing the plugs is quite short and might require some effort to remove the plugs.
They feature special filters with sound enhancing capabilities that allow for users to hear conversations and communicate clearly, as well as protecting the ears from deafening gun blasts. While hunting with friends or in a tactical shooting environment, being able to hear your teammates is very important to bag successful pray as much as keep safe from untoward accidents.
In the Pluggerz range, the Shoot series offer the heaviest duty protection and are good for indoor range shooting where sound tends to be more severe due to confined space. In terms of cost and value, these can be better than regular foam ear plugs, if comparing quality and sound clarity between the two categories. Although slightly pricier than foam plugs, they are still less expensive than electronic ones. With proper care and service, they can last for months of frequent usage. Cleaning with warm water, soap and drying thoroughly can prolong their shelf life. Includes a pocket-sized zip up storage pouch.
If price has been your reason for not wearing ear protection while out shooting, then there’s no excuse with the Mack’s Shooters Ear Seals.One of the cheapest alternatives on the market, the plugs have not two, not three, but four flanges for an effective seal.
Made from soft foam, the plugs have a rating of NRR27dB, higher than many other ear plugs in the market within this range. Mack’s one of a kind, dual-durometer design is made for comfort and easy insertion. ‘Tails’ or strings attached to the buds make for easy removal. And since users are not constantly firing, the plugs come with a convenient, detachable neck cord, designed for environments where the shooting starts and stops.
Too often than not, ear plugs are done to suit larger ears, and the incorrect size can cause pain and discomfort when worn for extended periods of time due to pressure build-up. Since Mack’s has a medium-sized plastic core, not only are they comfy but also great for smaller ear canals. They are easy to clean, washable and reusable. Unlike with some foam ear plugs, which can expand more rapidly after a wash, these keep their shape and performance even after washing, and come with a box for storage and to protect against dirt and the elements.
Our only complaint is that while they seem to fit well in the ears, there have been cases where the plugs slip out, especially when firing larger calibre weapons. Their loud, blue colour is also hard to blend in while hunting.
If you’re looking for a pair of mid-range shooting ear plugs, the Surefire 4 Sonice Defender is a decent option that will not break the bank. Users can choose to insert the stoppers for a decent 24dB NRR protection against loud noise levels above 85dB. Otherwise, remove the stoppers and still enjoy low-level protection without interfering with the ability to hear routine sounds or conversations.
The dynamic, triple-flange stem design is able to fit larger ear canals, and sound is reduced to a safe level with the plugs’ special noise-reducing filter. Made from medical-grade polymer that is hypoallergenic, they are durable and can last relatively long.
The soft foamy material is very comfortable. Sometimes it feels as if we weren’t wearing any plugs at all. Small and lightweight, they can be used for a few hours in a one go with no problems. Users need not worry about them coming out of place, since the Ear Lock by Sure Fire Retention Ring has seven contact points to secure the plugs in place. This technology also allows them to fit into the ears the same way, each time.
Surefire 4 Sonic Defender Ear Plugs are available in clear, black or orange. Their low-profile design allows users to use them with head gear or as a supplement to ear muffs. Clear and black are good choices for hunters who wish to camouflage themselves while in the bush or trees, while the orange ones can be used at the shooting range.
The Surefire has one setback – they seem to perform less well in indoor environments. Even so, for their price point, the Surefire plugs deliver good value. They will lose their effectiveness and will need to be replaced every six months, so we recommend it for light usage. Comes with a 26’ polymer lanyard.
Although a tad pricier than most, the 3M Pletor TEP-100 Tactical Digital Ear Plugs are a worthwhile investment for shooters looking for good quality,especially for indoor shooting range use.
Offering the 3Cs – Comfort, Communication and Compatibility –they offer excellent hearing protection in environments where a high level of awareness and communication is needed, such as construction, manufacturing, law enforcement and military applications.
The plugs utilize sound level-dependent technology, which is suitable for environments with intermittent loud noises, or where users have to transition quickly from quiet to hazardous noise levels. They are able to switch instantly between modes by amplifying low sounds while blocking out loud noise; such as allowing users to hear an instructor at a shooting range, but still muffling gunshot blasts.
The TEP-100 plugs are compatible with most headgear such as helmets, eyewear and face shields. Their small and lightweight design provides a comfy wearing experience. Batteries are water-resistant and rechargeable with a portable charging case, and have decent battery life. The pack also includes four pairs of replaceable ear tips and an optional lanyard cord for additional security.
However, one of the drawbacks of the TEP-100 is that the sound quality can be affected by wind. The positioning of sound holes on the plugs might also muffle more sound in one ear than the other, affecting auditory depth and perception. While wearing the plugs, some users have found that there is a short delay in sound transmission, so perhaps they are not the best choice for serious hunters, but are more suited for indoor use.
No two ears are the same shape or size, which is what makes them all unique. This also means that finding a one-size-fits-all pair of ear plugs is near impossible. Enter another Howard Leight entry to this list: the Smartfit Corded Multiple-Use Ear plugs, which offer personalized hearing protection.
Dubbed the first of its kind to use Patented Conforming Material Technology, the plugs use body heat to match the shape and contour of the wearer’s ear canals, providing exceptional comfort with a comprehensive overall hearing protection. They are able to fit most ear canal sizes, although users might find it difficult to insert into smaller ears. At only 0.3 ounces, they are so lightweight they feel like they are barely there.
The Smartfit offers adequate noise reduction, at 25dB. This ease of fit simplifies inventory control, as users need not carry packs of different ear plugs every time they go on shooting trips.
The plugs come with a detachable cord system. Users need only attach and hang them around their neck to avoid misplacing the plugs or getting them in dirt. Each pack comes in a HearPack storage case and carries two pairs of ear plugs. The orange color with a blue cord might not be suitable for hunting trips, but is perfectly appropriate for indoor and outdoor shooting.
<<Latest customer reviews and prices of Howard Leight by Honeywell SmartFit Corded Multiple-Use Earplugs>>
Tired of popping ear plugs in and out of your ears? The Howard Leight Quiet Band Ear Plugs solves this with their patented headband design, allowing the plugs to rest comfortably around a user’s neck when they are taking a break from shooting. Having them on you during downtimes keeps the plugs away from dirt, and makes it easier for the user to insert and remove quickly.
This convenient feature, which has yet to be offered by other ear plugs in the market, has earned the Howard Leight rave reviews among users. Their soft foam pads, which rest partially in the ears, offer a good balance of comfort and sound absorption, with an NRR of 25dB.
To wear, the user simply places the band around the back of their neck and aligns it so that the plugs fit naturally into the ear canals and stay right in place. Some adjustment of the foam is needed before sticking them in and letting the material expand to fit into the ear. Light at just 12.6 ounces, we found that the plugs were fuss-free when properly installed. The plugs’ bright orange colour is not suitable for hunting, but ups the safety and visibility factor in shooting range environments. Includes a pair of replacement pods in each pack.
The reason why some users pick buds over muffs is because the latter can be bulky, and the Leight is no exception. While able to seal nicely, long hours of wearing can be uncomfortable. We also found that whenever the plastic band rubs on things – be it a shirt collar or just while walking around, they transmit the sounds straight to the ear canal, which can be annoying.
Etymotic means ‘true to the ear’. With such a name, it’s no wonder the brand prides itself in delivering superior sound protection. These award-winning plugs were originally developed to help soldiers, who were not wearing sound protection devices because they reduced situational awareness. Now, the GSP Gunsport Pro Series is designed for hunters, as well as tactical and professional shooters.
The plugs boast a dual-mode switch which enhances hearing whilst providing blast protection. The K-AMP integrated circuit restores blocked sound when the ear canal is sealed, allowing for natural sounds to filter in and protecting against impulse noise.
In enhancement mode, the best earplugs for shooting provide up to five times amplification with a simple flip of a switch, making it perfect for field use where protection is needed whilst still maintaining clear communication and enhanced awareness.
Meanwhile, the automatic hearing protection mode clocks in at an NRR of 25dB to protect against hearing loss. ACCU-Technology with high-definition balanced armature drivers, high-sensitivity microphones and wide dynamic range compression K-AMP Signal Processing mimic the ear canal’s natural resonance, allowing their wearer to hear sounds like with a normal ear, but with loud noises reduced. Each set comes with multiple ACCU-Fit ear tips, a durable neck cord and protective case for a comfortable wearing experience. For an exact fit, users can opt to get a custom earmold upgrade.
Some wind noise disruption is expected with the GSP Gunsport. Batteries tend not to last long since the device cannot be turned off, unless batteries are removed.