Here are the best choices for hunting ear protection that hunters can use to safeguard their hearing.
I think we can all agree that we’d love to keep our sense of hearing for our entire life. After all, I’m sure you know someone who has a tough time hearing and can barely carry on a conversation. There are many different things that can damage your ears, but if you do a lot of hunting with firearms, there’s one simple thing you can do to avoid hearing loss and make sure you don’t have to wear hearing aids later in life: wear hunting ear protection.
Any noise louder than 85 decibels can cause permanent hearing loss. I cannot state this strongly enough: if it is loud enough, a single gunshot can cause immediate hearing damage. For reference, a gunshot is about 130-180 decibels (give or take).
While noise induced hearing loss is permanent, the good news is that it’s also preventable.
However, you should keep in mind that some firearms produce a pressure wave strong enough cause hearing loss by damaging the bones behind the ear, even if the ear canal is protected by an ear plug. This is particularly true for people shooting indoors or those exposed to repeated shots from shotguns or rifles (such as waterfowl hunters or hunting guides). While ear plugs are certainly better than nothing, ear muffs are actually the most effective shooting and hunting ear protection you can wear.
So, to avoid permanent damage to your hearing, it is important that you wear appropriate ear protection when shooting or when exposed to other noisy environments. Luckily, this task is much easier than many people assume and there are a lot more good quality options for hearing protection while hunting than there used to be.
In this post, I’m going go over some of the best hunting ear protection products that you should be wearing afield to safeguard your hearing.
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First up is the Howard Leight Quiet Band. Designed to be worn around your neck when not in use, the Quiet Band is well suited for hunters: wear the band around your neck while you’re trying to find game, the just simply pop the plugs in your ears right before taking the shot. This gives you the best of both worlds by having full use of your hearing most of the time while still protecting your ears at the moment of truth.
Since it only protects the ear canal and not the bones of hearing behind the ear, the Quiet Band suffers from the same drawbacks as other ear plugs though. For this reason, I don’t advise using it for situations where you’ll be exposed to high levels of continuous gunfire for long periods of time (like waterfowl hunting or shooting at an indoor range). The design of the Quiet Band also prevents it from being used in conjunction with over the ear muffs.
All that being said though, the Howard Leight Quiet Band is inexpensive, lightweight, easy to use, and will provide good hearing protection for most hunting situations. These characteristics make it a great choice for hunters on a budget. Yes, this is the same ear protection Hickock45 wears in his YouTube videos.
Buy your own Howard Leight Quiet Band here.
Impulse ear plugs are a significant step up in capability when compared to traditional foam ear plugs, but still go for a reasonable price. I have a set of Rooth C&P High Fidelity Ear Plugs that work well for me. These plugs are reversible: the yellow end provides noise activated protection against impulse noise (like gunfire) and the grey end provides passive protection for constant noise (like heavy machinery).
Unlike the Howard Leight Quiet Band, impulse plugs are designed to be worn all the time. The big advantage to these plugs is that they allow the user to hear ambient noise relatively well while still providing protection against gunfire and explosions when they’re used in the noise activated mode.
That is why they are issued to Soldiers in combat zones.
Since impulse ear plugs allow you to hear the much of the noise present in the environment around you, this also makes them good choices for hunting ear plugs.
While they are a good product, impulse ear plugs do not provide a very high level of protection overall (Noise Reduction Rating of 25 for passive protection, slightly less for noise activated protection). With that in mind, they aren’t the best form of hunting ear protection if you’ll be spending a lot of time at an indoor shooting range or shooting short barreled rifles.
However, they are a pretty good choice for protecting your hearing while hunting if you’re on a budget.
Buy your own Impulse Ear Plugs here.
For those that want to spend a little more money for a significant increase in performance in a set of hunting ear protection, you should really consider a set of over-the-head electronic ear muffs. Howard Leight makes two sets of excellent electronic earmuffs (the Impact Sport pictured above and the Impact Pro pictured below). They are slightly more expensive than ear plugs or regular ear muffs, but they are still pretty reasonably priced and provide excellent performance by blocking loud noises and amplifying all other sounds.
So, not only will they protect your hearing, but they actually improve it as well. Since they provide hearing enhancement, this makes them ideal choices for hunting ear muffs.
Additionally, not only are electronic ear muffs easy and simple to properly use, but they also protect the delicate bones behind the eardrum (which ear plugs don’t do). In both cases, ear muffs avoid the two major pitfalls of ear plugs. They may also be combined with ear plugs for extra protection in extremely loud environments, which makes them an incredibly effective form of shooting or hunting ear protection.
At the range, electronic ear muffs protect the hearing of the shooter, but still allow him or her to hold a normal conversation with another person. While hunting, this allows the user to hear all the little sounds he or she needs to hear, like the snap of a twig made by an approaching deer. Additionally, since they are ear muffs, they also provide protection to the bones of hearing.
Some people do not like to use ear muffs when shooting a rifle or shotgun because the get in the way. Personally, I have not had this problem with the Howard Leight Impact Sport muffs, and I use them for virtually all of my shooting and hunting trips.
I don’t have any personal experience with the Impact Pro, but they also have a good reputation as high quality hunting ear protection. My biggest complaint with the Howard Leight Impact Sport ear muffs is that they only have a noise reduction rating of 22. This does not bother me much when hunting or shooting outside. However, this can be mitigated when in especially loud environments (like an indoor shooting range) by wearing ear plugs in addition to the muffs. The noise amplifying characteristics of the muffs still provide normal, or slightly enhanced hearing for the user even when wearing ear plugs.
The Howard Leight Impact Pro has a noise reduction rating of 30, which makes them a better choice for hearing protection in really loud environments, but they are a little larger and bulkier than the Impact Sport. In either case, I consider both the Impact Sport and the Impact Pro to be well worth the money as hunting ear muffs, especially considering that they only cost a little more than a traditional pair of ear muffs.
These two ear muffs are by far the best value choices for hunting ear protection. The Impact Sport muffs also made cut for my 2018 holiday gift recommendations. To see what other stuff is on the list, check out the following article:
For those that want the performance of electronic ear muffs in a smaller package, there are several different types of electronic ear plugs on the market today that are very good choices for use as hunting ear protection. Etymotic Gunsport Pro electronic ear plugs are one really good choice. The same goes for Walker’s Game Ears. Like electronic ear muffs, they block loud noises and amplify all other sounds. However, since they are similar in size to old school hearing aids (or even smaller in the case of the Gunsport Pro), they are much smaller and more portable than electronic ear muffs.
Since they are ear plugs, they do not protect the outside of your ears. As a result, they are designed more for hunters than for shooters (though they may be used for both). On the other hand, they have the advantage of not getting in the way of a rifle or shotgun and they can be worn with any headgear. I recently purchased a pair of Walker’s HD Pro Elite plugs and I’ve used them pretty successfully on multiple hunting trips.
Both the Walker’s Game Ears and Etymotic Gunsport Pro are great choices for hunting ear plugs. Once I got them adjusted properly, they were comfortable to wear for hours at a time (even when wearing shooting glasses or headgear) and did a good job of amplifying and blocking the proper noises. While they are very good choices for hearing protection while hunting, electronic ear plugs have two significant drawbacks: their cost (they are by far the most expensive option for protecting your hearing while hunting) and the fact that they do not protect the bones of hearing.
The price is a bit steep for a casual hunter or shooter but they are well worth the money for a serious hunter who will frequently use them and take advantage of their awesome features.
I hope that you’ve found this article on the best hunting ear protection choices both helpful and informative. As long as you take the right precautions, it is possible preserve your sense of hearing despite exposure to noisy environments. Trust me, you will be glad that you wore proper hunting ear protection many years from now.