DON’T GO DEAF: The Best Ear Protection Methods For the Shooting Range

By Guest Contributor:

Hearing protection is something that a lot of folks are starting to think about seriously. This has been underlined by the recent introduction of the Hearing Protection Act (HPA), which was introduced to remove suppressors from the purview of the National Firearms Act (If you want to read more about what the HPA entails, you can have a look at ASA’s article about it here).

The focus on hearing protection is due to the fact that according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), when a person is repeatedly exposed to noise levels of 85 decibels (decibels is the measure of sound intensity) or more, a person can start suffering what is known as noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). To give you an idea how that translates to common noises, a normal conversation is measured at approximately 60 decibels and a lawnmower at approximately 90 decibels. However a shot from a 9mm pistol is approximately 160 decibels! That is even louder than a jet taking off, which is measured at approximately 140 decibels. What makes the loud sound of a gunshot even more of a problem is the fact that the louder the sound, the shorter the amount of time it takes for NIHL to happen.

The graphic below shows how different noises compare in terms of decibel levels.

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How Shooting Affects Your Hearing
Source: The Smoking Barrel USA

Symptoms of affected hearing

If you suspect that you have suffered some damage to repeated exposure to loud noise, there are some symptoms that you should look out for. These include:

  • Hearing muffled sounds.
  • Having difficulty distinguishing words when someone is talking to you.
  • Having difficulty determining from which direction a sound is coming.
  • A ringing or buzzing noise in your ears.

How to protect your hearing

The best thing to do is to be proactive. Whenever you are shooting, you should wear some form of ear protection to make sure the effects of loud noises on your hearing are reduced. The main options at your disposable are earplugs and earmuffs.


Earplugs are reasonably inexpensive but still effective. To use earplugs, you simply insert them into the inside of your ears. Of course, as technology has progressed, earplugs are no longer just pieces of foam that you plug into your ear. High-end earplugs are made from modern materials like medical-grade polymer that is soft, durable, and long-lasting.


If you are a serious shooter that goes shooting often, you should probably consider investing in a decent pair of earmuffs. They are more expensive than earplugs, but offer more in the way of comfort and effective protection. When it comes to earmuffs, you can choose regular passive earmuffs or electronic earmuffs. Electronic earmuffs are usually a little more expensive, but have additional features that the serious shooter will like. What makes electronics earmuffs special is they have noise management technology built in. If someone is talking to you, the earmuffs will allow the softer noise of the person’s voice through, but if there is a loud noise from a gunshot it will reduce the noise level of the gunshot. Some of the electronic earmuffs even have built-in MP3 players if you want to listen to music while you are at the range.

Earplugs combined with earmuffs

For the best protection, your best bet will be to wear earplugs and earmuffs together. By doing this, you actually combine the protection of the earplugs and earmuffs. As an example, if your earplugs reduces noise by 26 decibels and your earmuffs reduces noise by 34 decibels, together they will reduce noise by approximately 41 decibels.

Wrapping up

Good hearing is something that we should not take for granted. If you are going shooting, do yourself a favor and make the effort to wear some ear protection in order to preserve your hearing in the long term.

We hope you found this useful! Happy shooting!


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