Best Shooting Ear Protection Headphones – Reviewed 2017 – Lowest Price

In this article, we will review 10 different styles of ear protection, both electronic and passive, to help you make an informed decision when choosing this all-important piece of equipment. We will be assessing each pair based on weight, price, comfort and most importantly, Noise Reduction Rating or NRR. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) implemented this rating system, and each headset must have this classification to determine how effective they are at decreasing sound exposure in decibels (Db). The higher the NRR Rating the better, however audiologists recommend a minimum rating of 20dB for sufficient protection.

Product Type Award Pros Cons NRR (Db) Price
Howard Leight by Honeywell Impact Sport Sound Amplification Electronic Earmuff (R-01526) Electronic Low profile cups make them versatile for long gun shooting. Good low level sound amplification. Relatively heavy weight may affect comfort if worn for long periods. “Peak clipping” technology may be prohibitive to conversation in a range environment 22 Check Price    
Howard Leight by Honeywell Impact Pro Sound Amplification electronic Earmuff (R-01902) Electronic #1 Editors Pick High level of hearing protection Somewhat bulky 30 Check Price
Walker’s Game Ear Razor Slim Electronic Muff Electronic Compression technology, super low profile ear cup. Ideal for rifle and shotgun shooting. Super low profile ear cups mean limited NRR 23 Check Price
Caldwell Low Profile E-Max Electronic Ear Muffs Electronic Low profile cups make them versatile for long gun shooting Build quality could be better 23 Check Price
Peltor Sport RangeGuard Electronic Hearing Protector (RG-OTH-4) Electronic Compression technology NRR is disappointingly low for the price 21 Check Price
Peltor Sport Tactical 100 Electronic Hearing Protector (TAC100) Electronic Compression technology NRR is disappointingly low for the price 22 Check Price
Pro For Sho 34dB Shooting Ear Protection Passive Best Value For Price Excellent rating for hearing protection. Great value for money Some users report a very snug fit which can make them somewhat uncomfortable 34 Check Price
Walkers EXT Range Shooting Folding Muff Passive Excellent rating for hearing protection. Great value for money Some users report not enough adjustment to suit a larger head 34 Check Price
Decibullz Custom Molded Earplug Passive Lightweight, super comfortable fit. Great hearing protection rating Makes hearing low level sound difficult 31 Check Price
Otis Technology Ear Shield Hearing Protection Passive Lightweight, no interference with cheek weld, cost effective Possibly comfort would be a factor, no padding on yoke 26dB/ 31dB Check Price

 

Howard Leight by Honeywell Impact Sport Sound Amplification Electronic Earmuff (R-01526)

Product Specs:

Features

  • Sound amplification under 82dB
  • Directionally placed stereo microphones
  • Automatic shut-off and AUX signal input
  • New easy-access battery compartment
  • 2 AAA batteries included

Noise Reduction Rating (NRR): 22dB

Weight: 2lbs

RRP: $40USD 

Comfort: Padded headband with telescoping adjustment for a secure fit and comfortable wearing of safety glasses

Summary:

The Impact Sport by Howard Leight are arguably one of the most popular models on the market, and one of the models you’re most likely to see at the range. The Impact Sports use “peak clipping” technology to protect your hearing, but still allowing you to hear and hold a conversation by amplifying low level sounds, under 82dB. The ear cups are a low profile design, making these particular earmuffs well suited to shotgun and rifle users as it reduces stock interference. This tapered design may have somewhat compromised the overall NRR of 22db which is comparatively low compared to the rest of the earmuffs reviewed. With this in mind, it may be good practice to double up with plugs if you’re shooting high calibre weapons or in the range a lot. The 900g weight also makes them one of the heaviest we have reviewed, which could mean they start to feel uncomfortable after a lengthy period of wear. The Impact Sports run on 2 x AAA batteries, and have an auto shut off function after four hours of use which will prolong your battery life. A common complaint with the Impact Sports is the ear cup fit, specifically it not suiting every head shape and not sealing properly around the ear. This is obviously specific to each individual, but given this and the relatively low NRR, if you’re someone who spends most of their time at the range, or shooting high calibre weapons, you may want to double up with plugs. Overall, these earmuffs are a good addition to your gear bag if you’re looking for good quality, comfortable and reliable ear protection without breaking the bank.

Walker’s Game Ear Razor Slim Electronic Muff

Product Specs:

Features

  • Two Omni Directional Microphones
  • Full Dynamic Range HD Speakers
  • Low Noise / Frequency tuned for natural sound clarity
  • Independent Volume Controls
  • Sound dampening composite housing
  • Sound Activated Compression – 0.02 second reaction time
  • Audio Input Jack
  • Recessed Volume Control Knobs
  • External Battery Door
  • 2 ‘AAA’ batteries – Included

Noise Reduction Rating (NRR): 23dB

Weight: 15 ounces

RRP: $69.99

Comfort: Snug, secure fit, padded headband and rubberised ear cups for comfortable long wear

Summary:

One of the lightest electronic earmuffs on the market at just 15 ounces, the Razor Slim super low profile muffs have been engineered by Walker to be as slim as possible without compromising hearing protection and amplification. With a noise reduction rating of 23dB, and 9 times amplification, the Razor Slim muffs deliver great sound clarity and ear protection without interfering with cheek weld or shooting position. Running on 2 x AAA batteries, the Game Ear Razor Slim utilises sound activated “compression” technology, which is a step up from the “clipping” technology used by many manufacturers of electronic ear protection. This means they are slightly more expensive than some ear pro in the same category, but these muffs are a solid buy for a shooter looking for good value, effective sound amplifying ear pro.

Decibullz – Custom Molded Earplug

Product Specs:

Features

  • Thermoplastic moulds
  • 3.75ft cable
  • Inline remote
  • Built in microphone
  • iOS and Android compatible

Noise Reduction Rating (NRR): 31dB

Weight: 15 ounces

RRP: $25.99

Comfort: Super comfortable, lightweight molded custom fit, marketed to “never” fall out

Summary:

You’re looking for perfectly fitted passive isolation ear plug without wanting to spend hundreds on custom molds; enter Decibullz. Each pair comes with two pieces of moldable thermoplastic which when heated in boiling water allows you to create your own custom moulds specific to the shape of your inner ear. Decibullz also offers molds which are compatible with other manufacturer’s in-ears which is a nice option, as the sound quality of the buds themselves could be better. However, from an ear protection standpoint a noise reduction rating of an impressive 31dB, a 3.75ft tangle free cable and a wide range of colours means that the Decibullz Custom Moulded Earplug offer exceptional ear protection and barely there comfort for a bargain price.

Pro For Sho 34dB Shooting Ear Protection

Product Specs:

Features

  • Scratch resistant plastic
  • 100% money back guarantee (for 90 days)
  • Industrial grade design

Noise Reduction Rating (NRR): 34dB

Weight: 7.5 ounces

RRP: $20.95

Comfort: Padded headband, lightweight, snug and secure fit

Summary:

Designed specifically to be lightweight, compact and portable yet without compromising on quality ear protection, the Pro For Sho muffs offer exactly what it says on the box: maximum hearing protection. Rated at an impressive 34dB NRR, these are a passive muff without the bells and whistles offered by their electronic competitors, but offering excellent build quality and maximum ear protection value for your money.

Caldwell Low Profile E-Max Electronic Ear Muffs

Product Specs:

Features

  • Audio jack for input from phone or MP3 player
  • Power indicator light
  • 2 microphones; one in each ear cup for true stereo sound
  • Runs on 2 AAA batteries (not included)

Noise Reduction Rating (NRR): 23dB

Weight: 11.5 ounces

RRP: $29.99

Comfort: Padded, adjustable headband, secure fit

Summary:

The tapered cup design of the Low Profile E-Max makes them a great choice for shotgun and rifle shooters, offering better stock clearance than some standard profile muffs. That said, this means some of the ear protection benefit is lost, the standard profile E-Max offers 25dB NRR over the low profile model’s 23dB. The dual microphones are a nice feature, allowing for a true stereo sound experience making it easier to pick up where a low dB sound is coming from. It’s worth noting that these muffs don’t come with batteries.

Peltor Sport RangeGuard Electronic Hearing Protector RG-OTH-4

Product Specs:

Features

  • 4-hour auto shut-off
  • Easy-access battery door with tether
  • Runs on 2 AAA batteries (Not included)
  • 3.5 mm jack for both audio and microphone
  • Durable recessed microphones
  • Single on/off and volume control

Noise Reduction Rating (NRR): 21dB

Weight: 11.5 ounces

RRP: $59.99

Comfort: Lightweight, cushioned sealing rings offering comfortable and effective sealing, padded ear cups, adjustable headband

Summary:

A well-known name in the shooting game, Peltor’s RangeGuard series is the follow-on from their Peltor 6S range. Solid build quality, adequate noise reduction and good ambient sound enhancement are all features we’ve come to expect from Peltor. While batteries are not included in the price, the muffs can operate for an impressive 350-hours, and will also tell you when you’ve turned the audio on or off with helpful tones. Overall a good buy in terms of sound quality, comfort and battery life, however you may find that in the range where you’re surrounded by amplified gunfire the sound suppression could be somewhat compromised.

Otis Technology Ear Shield Hearing Protection

Product Specs:

Features

  • Improves communication
  • Eliminates stock interference
  • No batteries required
  • Lightweight and collapsible

Noise Reduction Rating (NRR): Two ratings available, 26dB or 31dB

Weight: 1.8 ounces

RRP: $20 (26dB model) $25 (31dB model)

Comfort: Fully adjustable yoke, soft foam covered earbuds, lightweight and slimline fit

Summary:

The Ear Shields are an unusual product in that they don’t fall into the typical ear protection categories, being not quite an earmuff yet not quite an in-ear bud. While they’re not an electronic hearing protector, they’re also not a typical passive “muffling” headset either. According to their packaging, Ear Shield technology works as follows; Because sound energy travels the path of least resistance, high-intensity sounds, like gunfire, funnel into the wider sound reduction chambers and away from your narrow ear canals. The chamber dampens, refracts and cancels harmful waves to produce a safe volume across all frequencies. So, you can hear important safety signals or conversations without removing the Ear Shield.” So what’s the verdict? The biggest plus for these protectors would have to be the total lack of interference with the stock when rifle shooting. They Ear Shields in no way impede cheek weld, and are surprisingly effective when it comes to blocking out firearm noise, while still allowing you to hear low level sounds (albeit somewhat muffled) around you. For the price they offer a very good level of sound reduction for passive ear protection, they are lightweight and comfortable to wear, all in all an effective, low cost solution.

Peltor Sport Tactical 100 Electronic Hearing Protector (TAC100)

Features

Product Specs:
  • 2 hour auto shutoff
  • Runs on 2 AAA batteries (Not included)
  • Adjustable suppression time
  • Compression technology
  • Large easy to use controls
  • 5 mm auxiliary cable

Noise Reduction Rating (NRR): 22dB

Weight: 1.2 pounds

RRP: $89.99

Comfort: ABS foam padding, redesigned ear cups for a better seal, snug fit headband with generous padding

Summary:

The Tactical 100 from Peltor uses their patented 3m compression technology, which accounts for the slightly higher price point on these muffs than other comparable models. We’ll go into the difference between clipping and compression technology in more detail later on. These muffs have good sized volume control knob on the right cuff, making it easy to use even while wearing gloves. The adjustable suppression time is a nice feature, particularly when used in an indoor range. These are most comparable with the Howard Leight Impact Sports, but probably have the edge over the Impact Sports due to the better ear cup seal, allowing for more effective noise reduction.

Walkers EXT Range Shooting Folding Muff

Product Specs:

Features

  • ANSI S3.19 Rated
  • Ultra-light weight and Compact folding design
  • Padded headband for comfortable fit with soft PVC Ear Pads

Noise Reduction Rating (NRR): 34dB

Weight: 11.2 ounces

RRP: $29.95

Comfort: Padded headband, soft PVC ear cups, lightweight design

Summary:

A very lightweight and compact passive muff, the EXT Range does indeed fold into a very compact and portable size, just slightly larger than the diameter of one ear muff. At a very impressive 34dB NRR, these are some of the highest rated passive muffs around, and as dedicated range hearing protection they are an excellent choice for the amplified intense noise at the indoor range. A secure, comfortable fit, you can double up with plugs if you want to cut even more sound without compromising the ear cup seal or comfort.

Howard Leight by Honeywell Impact Pro Sound Amplification Electronic Earmuff (R-01902)

Product Specs:

Features

  • Built-in directional microphones
  • Actively listens and automatically shuts off amplification when ambient sound reaches 82 dB; passively blocks out noise at 30dB
  • 3.5mm connection cord for MP3 players and scanners;
  • Automatic shut-off feature after 4 hours
  • 2 AAA batteries (included)

Noise Reduction Rating (NRR): 30dB

Weight: 15.8 ounces

RRP: $59.99

Comfort: Padded adjustable headband, rubberised pressure points to prevent scratching

Summary:

The Impact Pro offers an exceptionally good 30dB NRR, the highest rating on the electronic earmuffs we have reviewed. They feature dual microphones in the front of the muffs allowing you to clearly identify the location of low level ambient sound. These are large profile muffs, so you may find that this interferes with your cheek weld for long gun shooting unlike the lower profile cup design of the Impact Sport, however the trade off with the Impact Sports is the significantly lower NRR of 22dB. You’ll get 350 hours of use from these muffs before needing to change the batteries, so if you’re using handguns on an indoor range, the Impact Pro’s offer excellent ear protection and comfort for a reasonable price.

Hearing protection technology – Electronic earmuffs

Now we have reviewed our products, let’s look into the technology behind them in more detail, focussing specifically on the electronic technology given that six of the ten products reviewed are electronic. Worn while turned off, electronic earmuffs offer a level of passive ear protection simply by sealing around your ear, and muffling ambient sound. Passive muffs can be very effective, in fact, some of the highest rated muffs on the market are passive, however the possible downside is that passive muffs muffle all sound, not just high-level noise. An example of where this may be problematic is the indoor range environment, when hearing the commands from the range officer or your instructor is important from a personal safety perspective. This is where electronic muffs can offer a solution. Once switched on, electronic ear protection pick up on low level sounds (such as conversation, range commands) using external microphones, and transmit them via speakers inside the ear cups, allowing the wearer to experience their surroundings as though they were not wearing ear protection at all, and in some cases, volume control allows the wearer to amplify the sound even further. In terms of protecting your hearing, the electronic muffs sense sounds which rise above a pre-set decibel (dB) level (Usually around 82dB) which could potentially damage your hearing, and the headset then responds to block the dangerous noise. There are two types of technology that electronic earmuff manufacturers use to achieve this, which we will explore in more detail below.

See Db sound comparison chart here

Clipping versus Compression technology

Some electronic ear protection manufacturers utilise a binary on/off technology called “peak clipping” or “active clipping”. When the muffs are turned on, and the sounds being picked up by the external microphones are under the pre-set safety level, they are transmitted electronically inside the ear cups, reaching your ears at a normal and safe volume. When the muffs detect a sound over the pre-set safety level, the amplification circuit inside the ear cups is turned off completely within nanoseconds of the noise reaching your ears, effectively meaning the muffs are passively protecting you. Once the sound has passed, the electronics come back online, allowing you to hear low level ambient noise as before. The problem with this technology is particularly evident in a range environment, where every time the earphones detect a high level of noise (say that guy in the station next to you shooting a .45ACP) they will cut the electronics, meaning conversation is difficult at best.

Compression technology is widely acknowledged to be a superior method of suppressing dangerous levels of noise, and as a result means a higher price point on ear protection using this technology. It works by “compressing” all sounds detected by the earmuffs that are above the pre-set safety level, and delivering them to your ear at a volume which is safe. You will still hear the gunshot, but it will be transmitted at a comfortable volume which won’t damage your hearing.  In an environment such as the range, or during training with an instructor, you can carry on a conversation without interruption as low level ambient sound will still be amplified.

Not all noggins are created equal

One of the most important factors in effective ear protection is fit. You could purchase a set of earmuffs with the highest noise reduction rating (NRR) on the market, but if they are too small, you won’t get an adequate seal around your ear, and they will not protect you effectively. Too large, and the ear cups could interfere with your cheek weld when shooting a rifle or a shotgun and move, once again failing to seal properly around your ear. A common complaint is also that some models of the earmuff style hearing protection are uncomfortably tight on a larger than average head, as well as not having enough adjustment to properly seal around the ears. Buying online can be particularly hazardous for this kind of purchase, and short of trawling through Amazon for reviews from large headed kinsmen extolling the virtues of a certain brand of muffs and hoping for the best, try before you buy is often the best plan of attack. Of the hearing protection we have reviewed in this article, below are a couple of alternative options to the typical earmuff style hearing protection:

Decibullz – Custom Molded Earplug 

Earplugs are a great option for those who don’t have a lot of luck with earmuff style ear pro. The Decibullz selling point is that as the plugs are custom molded to the individual shape of your ear, the comfort level is dramatically improved compared to some products which can cause discomfort in the inner ear, and thereby shorten the wear time. These are a passive ear plug, so if you’re not a solo shooter, or you’re a regular at the range, having to continually remove and replace the plugs to have a conversation or hear the range officer could be a drawback.

Otis Ear Shield Hearing Protector

If as above, you’re not a fan of the ear plug style, another option is the Otis Ear Shield. An interesting concept somewhere between an earplug and earmuff, the Ear Shields are a passive method of ear pro offering two noise reduction rating (NRR) options of 26 and 31dB respectively. The selling point for those amongst us with larger than average heads is the adjustable yoke which the Otistec website says can be modified “to fit any shooter”. The idea behind the Ear Shield is that you are protected from the dangerous, high intensity sound of gunshots while still being able to hear safety instructions and conversations without removing the Ear Shields.

The final verdict

So! We’ve reviewed 10 products, highlighted key features and listed their various attributes. Which is the best hearing protection for you? We have chosen the products we believe to be the best for the following categories;

Best ear protection for the range

Goes to………. The Howard Leight by Honeywell Impact Pro Sound Amplification Electronic Earmuff (R-01902). The most important factor to consider when choosing hearing protection for the indoor range is the level of hearing protection offered. The indoor environment means you are surrounded by intense, high level noise, and you should protect your hearing as well as possible. At 30dB noise reduction rating, the Impact Pro’s leave the rest of the electronic ear protection field for dust in this category. Yes, the Impact Pro’s use peak clipping technology which could be prohibitive to some conversation, but you will be able to hear important instructions from the range officer, and really, it’s a small price to pay to protect your ears.

Best bang for your buck (no pun intended)

Goes to….. Pro For Sho 34dB Shooting Ear Protection. Neck and neck with the Walkers EXT in terms of noise reduction rating, but well ahead of the back in terms of cost, the Pro for Sho offers an extremely high level of ear protection for a bargain price. Industrial grade, yet lightweight and compact for easy portability, the Pro for Sho earmuffs are making exceptional quality hearing protection accessible to everyone. The best part is, if they don’t do exactly what they promise, you can return them within 90 days for your money back.

More Info To Consider

Whether you’re a casual shooter or a seasoned veteran, quality ear protection while shooting is an absolute must, and arguably the most important piece of gear you will purchase. Hearing protection has come a long way from the days of doubling up with some disposable squishy foam plugs and a set of passive muffs provided by the shooting range, and thinking you were covered. To understand the importance of protecting your hearing, here’s an example of the intensity of sound produced by a gunshot; a jet engine on take-off generates sound at 120dB according to the American Speech, Language, Hearing Association, and a firearm? A whopping 140dB. This is on average, and doesn’t take into consideration firearm calibre or shooting environment which can increase the sound intensity even further. That statistic aside, the mistake a lot of people make is assuming that duration is the difference between damaging your hearing or not. Sure, a jet engine and a gunshot may generate a similar level of noise, but a gunshot is a second, and the noise produced by a jet engine is much more prolonged, hence the potential for hearing damage. Not so.  Audiologists advise that intense bursts of sound at 130dB or more (like a gunshot) can instantly and irreparably, damage your hearing.

 

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