Sound to the ear can be the equivalent of kryptonite to Superman. According to HEARsmart (a non-profit organization backed by Australia’s largest providers of hearing research and clinical care), extended or repeated exposure to sound at or above 85 decibels can cause hearing loss.
Luckily, most people do not work in or experience situations where sound levels are that high for long periods of time. However, those who handle firearms are exposed to extremely high sound levels. A .22 LR rife gives off 134 decibels, and a .44 magnum revolver tips the charts at 164. To put that in perspective, a Jet engine registers 140 decibels at take-off.
Fortunately, in 1907, Max Newgar invented the first earplugs. His wax plugs were marketed to hospitals, factories, and soldiers of World War I. Then, in 1962, Ray and Cecelia Benner utilized the invention of moldable silicone to create earplugs. Unlike wax plugs, these did not melt in the heat. Finally, in 1972, the E.A.R. Classic was created. It is made of memory foam and still on the market today.
But earplugs are not the only type of noise protection available. In this article, we discuss the different factors that need to be considered for noise protection and introduce the various products that can be used. This will help you make an informed decision about the types of ear protection you should invest in for the different situations you face that may impact your hearing.
Noise Reduction Rating
All hearing protection devices have a noise reduction rating (NRR), which is used to measure the effectiveness of hearing protection. All protection is required to state on the packaging the level of protection it offers. The typical unit of measurement for sound is decibels, which describe the different sound levels present in any given environment. Ultimately, hearing protection devices must be tested by American National Standards to ensure they meet certain occupational and health-related standards.
Different Types of Protection
There are two main types of hearing protection devices:
- Passive Hearing Protection: This is the most common form of hearing protection. It includes earplugs or earmuffs that are made of plastic or foam. They are made to be space fillers and block sound from reaching the eardrums. While this type is the cheapest, it does not provide true long-term hearing protection.
- Electronic Hearing Protection: Electronic hearing protection devices have built-in noise canceling technology. These devices can detect when a shot is fired and dramatically reduce the level of sound that reaches your ear. They can also amplify surrounding ambient noise so you stay aware of your surroundings.
Features to Look Out For
Always look for hearing protection with gel pads. Foam pads typically will not seal as well when combined with the eye protection you should wear while shooting. Also, some have 3.5 mm plugs for music and are compatible with Bluetooth!
What Should You Choose?
Electronic hearing protection offers the best in sound protection. If you look at military personnel or professional shooters, more often than not, you will find they are wearing electronic noise-canceling ear protection.
Because it is the best, electronic hearing protection can be really expensive. However, it is important to protect your hearing, so money should not be an issue. With that being said, it is important that you keep in mind what you need hearing protection for.
If you rarely shoot (such as only a few times a year), foam earplugs are suitable for your needs. They are cheap, disposable, and available at every shooting range, so there’s no need to go out and buy them. If you’re shooting every few months, you could spring for earmuffs and have something that will last a whole lot longer than the cheap throwaway earplugs. If you go shooting about every other month, you should strongly consider electronic hearing protection. Hunters, military personnel, competitive shooters, and special response police units will also find electronic muffs more advantageous. The ability to hear surrounding noises (such as fellow hunters or directives from commanding officers without giving up position) makes these worth the investment. US Patriot carries a nice selection of hearing protection.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.