Our Review of the Top 8: Best Hearing Protection & Ear Protection Devices for Shooting

There’s a lot of gear in the world of shooting sports. Most of us have a long (and expensive) list of want-to-buy firearms, ammo, and magazines. Then there’s the tactical clothes, the gloves, the classes, and a ton of other stuff to help us shoot better. What we sometimes forget is the less fun gear, but it’s nonetheless important. Unless you’re shooting a pellet gun or an MP5SD with a suppressor attached, you’re going to need to protect your ears. Anyone who has been at a range with folks who don’t wear ear protection knows that “What!?” is the call of an unprepared shooter. Keeping your hearing and avoiding tinnitus is vital to your quality of life, so we’ve put together a list of ear protection devices that will make sure you enjoy your hearing for years to come.

There are two types of hearing protection. The first fit over the ear, such as muffs or headphones. These offer the most protection, but are often heavy and sometimes bulky. The other kind, earbuds, go in the ear and offer a little less protection, but are small and more compatible with hats and helmets. Either way, you can easily find something on our list to keep your hearing intact.

Top Picks


1. Peltor Sport Tactical 100 Electronic Hearing Protector

Product

Peltor Sport Tactical 100 Electronic Hearing Protector, Ear...

Top Overall Pick

  • Low-profile cups for rifle/shotgun use
  • 2 hour auto shut-off
  • Re-engineered headband for improved fit and comfort
  • Durable recessed microphones to reduce wind noise
  • Runs on 2 AAA Batteries (not included)

Our rating

Details

  • Low-profile cups for rifle/shotgun use
  • 2 hour auto shut-off
  • Re-engineered headband for improved fit and comfort
  • Durable recessed microphones to reduce wind noise
  • Runs on 2 AAA Batteries (not included)

First up on this list is the Peltor Sport Tactical 100 Electronic Hearing Protector. This headset is one of the industry standards, and for good reason. These earmuffs sit over the ears and operate actively and electronically. That means that they not only reduce gunshot noises, but amplify other sounds such as speech, or the sound of a deer walking through underbrush. These ear protectors have several settings to adjust to the environment you’re shooting in. For example, indoor ranges are usually full of echoes: the Peltor headset can suppress those echoes, making indoor shooting much more enjoyable. These run on standard AAA batteries, and the ear protectors have a two-hour automatic shutoff. Overall, these are a good choice for anyone looking for effective and flexible ear protection.

2. Howard Leight by Honeywell Impact Pro High Noise Reduction Rating Sound Amplification Electronic Shooting Earmuffs

Product

Howard Leight by Honeywell Impact Pro High Noise Reduction...

Top Overall Pick

  • HIGH NOISE REDUCTION RATING (30 NRR): Designed for handgun and...
  • AMPLIFIES AMBIENT NOISE UP TO 4X: Built-in directional...
  • BLOCKS HAZARDOUS NOISE: Actively listens and automatically shuts...
  • COMFORTABLE, SECURE FIT: Rubberized pressure points prevent...
  • INCLUDES: 3.5mm connection cord for MP3 players and scanners;...

Our rating

Details

  • HIGH NOISE REDUCTION RATING (30 NRR): Designed for handgun and...
  • AMPLIFIES AMBIENT NOISE UP TO 4X: Built-in directional...
  • BLOCKS HAZARDOUS NOISE: Actively listens and automatically shuts...
  • COMFORTABLE, SECURE FIT: Rubberized pressure points prevent...
  • INCLUDES: 3.5mm connection cord for MP3 players and scanners;...

Next, we have Howard Leight by Honeywell Impact Pro Sound Amplification Electronic Shooting Earmuffs. These are another electronic option, similar to the Peltor headset. These have a super comfortable headband and active noise canceling technology. There’s also an auto-off feature to save your AAA batteries. 

This headset stands out in two areas. First, they’ve got a directional microphone to pick up conversations, which is super handy for classes so you’re not taking your ear protection off and risking damage. Second, there is a 3.5mm headphone jack, so you can plug in your phone and listen to music. That’s something I hadn’t really thought about before, but blasting some classic rock while shooting an M16 sounds like a pretty good time to me. These are a great option for the shooting range and are a good overall choice.

3. SureFire EP4 Sonic Defenders Plus Filtered Earplugs

Product

SureFire EP4 Sonic Defenders Plus filtered Earplugs, triple...

Top Overall Pick

  • 24dB Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) with filter caps inserted, Hear...
  • Soft, adjustable, triple-flanged stems provide secure seals in...
  • Low-profile design allows you to keep them in place while wearing...
  • Patented EarLock retention rings utilize seven contact points to...
  • Made in USA from hypoallergenic, medical-grade polymer that's...

Our rating

Details

  • 24dB Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) with filter caps inserted, Hear...
  • Soft, adjustable, triple-flanged stems provide secure seals in...
  • Low-profile design allows you to keep them in place while wearing...
  • Patented EarLock retention rings utilize seven contact points to...
  • Made in USA from hypoallergenic, medical-grade polymer that's...

The SureFire EP4 Sonic Defenders Plus Filtered Earplug is a little different. As the name suggests, these are earplugs rather than ear muffs. While muffs generally have better overall hearing protection, there are some distinct advantages to passive earplugs as well. A big plus is their portability. Their size makes it easy to have a pair in every range bag and rifle case, so you’ll never be tempted to leave ear protection behind. There are also no batteries to worry about. The big benefit to these earplugs is their sheer simplicity. If you want to hear with the SureFire earplugs, just remove the center plug – but don’t forget to replace it when you want to go back to shooting. They’re also really low profile, meaning you can wear them under a hat or helmet – great for either hunters or operators. These earplugs are good for hunting use in particular: you can leave the plugs open to hearing, and close them to take the shot.

4. Walker’s Silencer Digital Earbuds

Product

Walker's Silencer Digital Earbuds, Sound Activated...

Top Overall Pick

  • Left & right ear buds (pair) with independent Volume control...
  • Sound Activated Compression (SAC) Any sounds over 85dB do not get...
  • Include 3 different sizes of foam tips to ensure a tight, secure...
  • Powered by #10 batteries (4 included) 80 hours Battery life...
  • Carry Case included for convenient storing and transport of your...

Our rating

Details

  • Left & right ear buds (pair) with independent Volume control...
  • Sound Activated Compression (SAC) Any sounds over 85dB do not get...
  • Include 3 different sizes of foam tips to ensure a tight, secure...
  • Powered by #10 batteries (4 included) 80 hours Battery life...
  • Carry Case included for convenient storing and transport of your...

Sticking with earplugs for the moment, we have the Walker’s Silencer Digital Earbuds. These earbuds combine the small size of earplugs with some features of the earmuffs. Taking #10 batteries, these earplugs reduce any sounds over 85DB to a hearing-safe 25DB. With any earplug, the fit is vital: any gap means substantial reductions in the benefits of wearing ear protection. Thus, Walker has included three different sizes of foam tips so that you can get the fit you want. The small size is a major plus here: you can keep these in your pocket so you’ll never leave without them. Also, since they’re less bulky than earmuffs, these are a good option for hot environments where having something over your head might get seriously sweaty. These are a great option for someone looking to experiment with a small form and interesting technology.

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5. 3M Peltor Soundtrap/Tactical 6-S Electronic Headset

Product

3M Peltor Soundtrap/Tactical 6-S Electronic Headset

Top Overall Pick

  • Active hearing protection
  • NRR 19dB
  • Equipped with stereo microphones and independent volumes controls...
  • Low-profile cup design helps minimize gun stock interference
  • Available in both headband and neckband styles
  • Lightweight

Our rating

Details

  • Active hearing protection
  • NRR 19dB
  • Equipped with stereo microphones and independent volumes controls...
  • Low-profile cup design helps minimize gun stock interference
  • Available in both headband and neckband styles
  • Lightweight

Another offering from Peltor, the 3M Peltor Soundtrap is a different take on the active, over the ear design we’ve seen before. These are electronic headphones that take AAA batteries, an industry standard. Where these differ is in the setup to get them on your ears. The Soundtrap comes in a low profile neckband configuration, which some people may find more comfortable. Additionally, they have somewhat smaller cups than usual. This has the major benefit of fitting better with rifle stocks, allowing you to get a better cheek weld on the stock, improving your overall shooting experience. Peltor is well known for their quality, and these are made in the USA. Where a lot of over-the-ear options are really bulky, these are an attempt to keep things a little bit slimmer and might work better for folks in hot climates that are worried about sweaty headbands. They’re worth a serious look.

6. Smith & Wesson Passive 33 NRR Hearing Protection Muffs 

Product

Smith & Wesson Passive 33 NRR Hearing Protection Muffs with...

Top Overall Pick

  • COMFORTABLE: Padded headband and cushioned ear cups allows for a...
  • HEARING PROTECTION: 33 NRR (Noise Reduction Rating) with foam...
  • CONVENIENT: The ultra-lightweight design is impact resistant and...
  • EASE OF USE: Easy to fit with adjustable ear cups and easy to...

Our rating

Details

  • COMFORTABLE: Padded headband and cushioned ear cups allows for a...
  • HEARING PROTECTION: 33 NRR (Noise Reduction Rating) with foam...
  • CONVENIENT: The ultra-lightweight design is impact resistant and...
  • EASE OF USE: Easy to fit with adjustable ear cups and easy to...

So far we’ve focused mostly on electronic options, and they’re great. But, as anyone who has been hunting or involved any kind of tactical operation will tell you, batteries have a way of dying right when you need them not to. When you need something simple and reliable, go with Smith & Wesson Passive 33 NRR. You will not be winning any operator fashion contests with these: they’re blue, bulky, and totally free of widgets or gadgets. But, if you want your ears to be protected and your head to be comfortable, the thick foam of these earmuffs will get the job done. Simple, useful, and available all the time even if you forgot your bag of batteries in the car. Pop these on and get to shooting. Also, they’re fairly low cost, making them a great option for the budget and safety conscious.

 

7. G & F 12010 34dB Highest NRR Safety Ear Muffs

Product

G & F 12010 34dB Highest NRR Safety Ear Muffs - Professional...

Top Overall Pick

  • 34db - highest NRR ear defenders for shooting, sports events,...
  • Compact - portable size for efficient storage, the must- have for...
  • Adjustable - design adjustment headband of the earmuffs for a...
  • Solid - industrial grade premium quality assured not to break...

Our rating

Details

  • 34db - highest NRR ear defenders for shooting, sports events,...
  • Compact - portable size for efficient storage, the must- have for...
  • Adjustable - design adjustment headband of the earmuffs for a...
  • Solid - industrial grade premium quality assured not to break...

Keeping your budget in mind, we have the G & F 12010. These have the best sound reduction on this list, proving that safety doesn’t have to cost an arm, leg, or, in this case, an ear. For less than the price of a hipster coffee, you can get really good hearing protection and moderately good comfort. These might get a little sweaty over hot-shooting sessions, but they do knock down all noise substantially. While you might want some fancy Peltors for classes, If you’re looking to get ear protection that’s both safe and cheap, this option is for you. Similarly, if you think you might go shooting with friends and family, having a few of these in a range bag is always a good choice. No batteries to worry about, and you won’t be out of a paycheck if one of your friends decides to take them home.

8. Boomstick Low Profile Noise Cancelling Hearing Protection 

Product

Boomstick Gun Accessories Low Profile Noise Cancelling Over...

Top Overall Pick

  • Provides 22 dB protection
  • Adjustable headband fits virtually all sizes
  • Padded ear cushions off all day comfort
  • Yellow design
  • Sturdy construction for years of continuous use

Our rating

Details

  • Provides 22 dB protection
  • Adjustable headband fits virtually all sizes
  • Padded ear cushions off all day comfort
  • Yellow design
  • Sturdy construction for years of continuous use

Cheaper headsets are often bulky, to say the least. To round off the list, we have a more middle-ground option from Boomstick. These don’t provide the best protection, bringing all noises down only 22DB, but they are both low profile and cheap. They are also pretty comfortable, meaning that you will keep them on during extended shooting sessions. Also, these come in safety yellow, which is handy for keeping track of them or keeping track of the person wearing them, making these a great option for hunters looking to maintain visibility in the woods. There aren’t a ton of frills here, and that is not a bad thing. On a shoestring budget, most of us can afford to have a box full of these. If you have to teach new shooters or are looking to outfit a range, these would be a great choice for you. Additionally, they’re inexpensive enough that if you leave them on your tailgate and drive off, you don’t totally hate yourself.

Parting Shots

In this list, we’ve looked at a few kinds of ear protection. In terms of ear muffs, we’ve seen active/electronic variations that use microphones and software to diminish the noise of gunfire while amplifying other sounds like a conversation. This type would be best suited to folks taking classes with instructors as well as people shooting for their job. The ability to hear without exposing yourself to damage is a major innovation. That innovation comes with the cost, however, of added complexity and batteries. If it’s simplicity you’re looking for, the passive options that simply deaden all noise might be more your speed. Especially if the cost is a factor, you can get great protection on a limited budget. Similarly, in-ear options are available for people who are conscious of weight and size. These, too, come in both active and passive varieties, so you can find whatever you need.

One option that you will want to consider, especially if long term shooting is likely for you, is doubling up. Wearing some simple foam earplugs under the over-the-ear headphones will give you the best possible protection – a great option if you want to keep your hearing for the rest of your life.

On that note, we cannot make this point enough: take hearing protection seriously, along with every other aspect of safety. When you’re shooting in particular, ear protection cannot be taken as optional. With that in mind, here’s some advice: buy more than one option for ear protection. At the very least, keep some cheap earplugs in every range bag. If you keep a gun beside your bed, another set should be right next to it, in case you have to use your firearm. Shooting indoors without protection is both damaging and really disorienting when you need to be sharp. Similarly, have some spares for people you might end up shooting with. All in all, you can get good protection for a small budget, so take a look at the options on your list and get one that works for you.

By

Chris Frenchak has over 20 years of firearms experience between sporting and responsible concealed carry applications. Chris is a member of multiple pro-second amendment organizations including USCCA, NRA, and just as importantly, his local range. Chris is continuing a legacy of support for our rights by working with his family to increase firearms education and awareness as the lead editor of GunBacker.

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The latest firearms reviews, gear reviews and safe shooting tips for responsible gun owners.

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