Best Shooting Ear Muffs
There are many types of shooting ear muffs available in the market today. Some of them are made from soft materials like foam or synthetic material while others are made from hard plastic. There are several reasons why some of these products may not be suitable for shooting.
These include: noise isolation, comfort, durability, and sound dampening properties.
So what is the difference between them?
Noise Isolation: Noise isolation is the ability of a product to block out external sounds such as gunfire, explosions, etc. Comfort: Comfort refers to the ability of a product to reduce pressure points (nostrils), discomfort due to cold or heat, and other uncomfortable sensations associated with wearing hearing protection. Durability: Durability refers to the ability of a product to withstand repeated use over time without breaking down. Sound Damping Properties: Sound dampening properties refer to the ability of a product to absorb and reflect sounds so they do not cause hearing damage.
So which one is best for shooting?
Well, it depends on your needs. If you are going to shoot at close range where there is little chance of being hit by bullets, then foam ear muffs would be ideal because they will protect your ears without interfering with your normal activities. If you are engaged in target practice where the gun is fired at a relatively far distance from your position, then the electronic ear muffs would be ideal because they can completely eliminate the sound of gunshot without hindering your ability to hear other noises around you. The passive ear muff style plugs come in two forms: reusable and disposable. The reusable type can be inserted and removed as needed while the disposable ones can only be used once and then disposed.
The foam-type earplugs and plugs are cut to the proper size to fit into the ear canals. They have a tapered design so they can be molded to the contours of any ear. The advantage is that they can be reused since they can be cleaned.
Disposable earplugs and foam earplugs are designed for one-time use only. They come with a plastic or paper backing to protect them from dirt and debris until they are ready to be used. Once that is removed, the plugs can be molded to the ear canals. These have a tapered design so they can be molded to any ear.
Most passive earplugs are reusable, but some people prefer to use disposable earplugs especially when working in areas where there is a high probability of exposure to dirty or contaminated surroundings. The material that these earplugs are made of can vary; some of the most common materials used to make these earplugs are foam, rubber, or silicone.
Earmuffs are another type of passive hearing protection. They completely cover the outer ears and can be either closed or open design. Closed earmuffs have pads that completely surround the outer ears.
Open earmuffs only have pads that cover the outer ears around the area where the speaker is placed.
Some earmuffs have an attached visor that folds down to provide shade for the eyes. This type is commonly found in hunting stores or sporting good stores. Visor earmuffs are also quite popular with hunters since it allows them to listen for game while still having protection for their hearing against loud gunshots.
Noise induced hearing loss is a very real danger for anyone who engages in shooting or hunting. Whether you are target practicing on the range or in the field hunting, you are at risk of damaging your hearing every time you fire a gun. Year after year of shooting can lead to a condition known as noise induced hearing loss that is permanent and irreversible.
There are two main types of protection that can prevent this from happening: passive earplugs and earmuffs.
Although earplugs and earmuffs can both prevent hearing loss, they work in different ways. Earmuffs completely cover the outer ear and seal against it to eliminate the entry of loud sounds into the ear canals. This type of ear protection is considered a passive type of protection since they do not produce any noise of their own.
Earmuffs also come in two different types: open or closed. Closed earmuffs completely surround the outer ear and have cushioned pads that fit tightly against the ears. Open earmuffs only cover the area around where the speakers are placed and do not have pads that seal against the ears.
The other general type of ear protection is known as earplugs. These ear protectors are inserted into the ear canal and are considered a passive type of protection since they do not produce any noise of their own. There are two common types of earplugs: disposable and reusable.
Disposable earplugs are made of foam or rubber and can be used for a few days or weeks before they begin to deteriorate and should be replaced. Reusable earplugs are usually made of silicone or some type of rigid foam and can be cleaned to prolong their use. Most reusable earplugs come with some type of carrying case that keeps them clean and safe from dirt, debris, and unwanted moisture. The carrying case also helps keep the earplugs organized so they do not become misplaced.
No matter which type of ear protection you decide is right for you, it is very important to make sure you have the correct size. Earmuffs and earplugs are available in different sizes to ensure a good fit so that they can offer the best protection. To be sure you have the proper size, you should measure the circumference of your head just above your ears with a tape measure.
The tape should feel firm, but not tight. The measurement that you get should be in either inches or centimeters. If you do not have a tape measure, you can use a piece of string to measure around your head and then lay the string out flat (straightened) and measure it with a ruler. If your measurement falls in between sizes, you should choose the larger size.
The table below will give you a general idea of how to convert your head measurement to the corresponding earplug or earmuff size. Keep in mind that these are just approximations and earplugs and earmuffs are also available in smaller and larger sizes so you should still check the packaging for the exact measurements.
If you are using earplugs, the first step is to roll them between your fingers until they assume a cylinder shape. The plugs should be as long as the length of your ear canal and no longer. To insert the earplugs, push them gently into your ear canal as far as they will go.
Push the plug in until it stops then wait about 10 seconds before removing.
If you are using earmuffs, the first step is to place them over your ears and adjust the headband so that the ear cups completely surround your ears. Then just tighten or loosen the headband to obtain a comfortable fit. To insert the earmuffs, place them slightly over your ears and then tighten the ear cups until they fit snugly but not too tightly against your ears.
Pull the headband so that it fits snugly on the top of your head. You may also want to adjust the length of the headband by pulling it through the adjustment holes. To remove the earmuffs, pull them backward off your ears.
Below is a table of common earplug and earmuff sizes and the approximate circumference of your head that they correspond to.
Earplug/Earmuff Size Circumference of Head Approximate Inches Approximate Centimeters Small Less than 20 13-20.5 cm Medium 20-30 15.5-29.5 cm Large 30-40 29.5-49 cm
People who have longer ear canals may be more prone to having their earplugs fall out. If this is the case, you may want to try using a string to pull the earplug into your ear canal. The string should be about 2 inches long and 0.1 inches thick (about 0.25 centimeters).
Attach one end of the string to the earplug and then thread the other end through the earplug. Twist and pull the string so that one end is wound around the other end several times. Then gently pull the string until the earplug is about half as long. Insert the earplug into your ear like you normally would. The extra length provided by the string should allow you to comfortably insert the earplug into your ear canal. After the earplug is in your ear, slowly and gently pull on the string until the earplug is completely inside your ear. You can also use wax to help seal the earplug into your ear by melting a small piece of wax and pouring it into your ear using a dropper.
You will probably want to wear your hearing protection over or under your helmet or while you are sleeping. The exact way that you wear it may depend on the type of hearing protection that you have. Follow the specific directions that came with your particular protectors.
NOTE: Not all of the hearing protection devices are rated for use while sleeping. Please read your instruction manual for proper directions on how to wear your device while sleeping.
When you need to take your hearing protection devices off, follow the same procedure that you used to put them in. First remove any headgear or other earmuffs that may be covering your ears. Next, slowly and gently pull the earplug out of your ear.
You can clean your protectors using a small amount of rubbing alcohol or non-oil based soap. DO NOT submerge your protectors in water or use WD-40, 3 in 1 oil, hand lotion, cooking oil, glycerin or other household oils on them.
You should be able to hear again right away but your ears may be a little uncomfortable for the first few minutes. If your hearing does not return after taking the earplugs out, you probably left them in too long or may have torn your ear canal by forcing the earplug into your ear. If this happens, you will need to let your ears rest before using the earplugs again.
Now that you know how to wear and care for your protectors you should be able to prevent hearing damage from shooting on a regular basis. Remember that the importance of hearing protection is significant no matter what the sound level. Above all else, do not be afraid to pull out your hearing protectors whenever you are around loud noises.
It is better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your hearing.
NOTE: Not all earplugs sold in the USA are the same. In the US, there are 3 primary kinds of hearing protectors on the market today: disposable foam, custom molded and universal fit.
Disposable foam earplugs are exactly what they sound like, they are standard pre-molded earplugs made out of foam that you can purchase at any drug store. Although they are very easy to acquire and relatively cheap, they also have a notoriously bad reputation for being the least effective form of earplugs. In some cases, they can actually backfire and make loud noises even louder than they would be if you did not have any ear protection at all.
I would strongly recommend that you avoid these at all costs.
Custom molded plugs are exactly what they sound like as well; however, in this case the term “custom molded”
Sources & references used in this article:
The efficiency of earmuffs against impulse noise from firearms by J Ylikoski, J Pekkarinen – Scandinavian audiology, 1987 – Taylor & Francis
Attenuation of peak sound pressure levels of shooting noise by hearing protective earmuffs by P Lenzuni, T Sangiorgi, L Cerini – Noise and Health, 2012 – noiseandhealth.org
Hearing protection against high‐level shooting impulses in relation to hearing damage risk criteria by JO Pekkarinen, JP Starck, JS Ylikoski – The Journal of the …, 1992 – asa.scitation.org
Effectiveness of earmuffs in protecting hearing during shooting practice: a case-study by VW Rawool, C Campbell – International journal of audiology, 2018 – Taylor & Francis
The influence of participation in target-shooting sport for children with inattentive, hyperactive and impulsive symptoms–A controlled study of best practice by AG Månsson, M Elmose, S Dalsgaard, KK Roessler – BMC psychiatry, 2017 – Springer
Shooting headwear by J Desantiago – US Patent 9,235,062, 2016 – Google Patents
Physical characteristics of gunfire impulse noise and its attenuation by hearing protectors by ME Ylikoski, JO Pekkarinen, JP Starck… – Scandinavian …, 1995 – Taylor & Francis
The attenuation of hearing protectors against high-level shooting impulses by E Toppila, J Starck – Archives of Acoustics, 2004 – acoustics.ippt.pan.pl