There are various types of hearing protection available for shooters. Some of the types most commonly used are shown in the pictures below. (If you need to purchase hearing protection, we have some recommendations for you on the Range Supplies Page.)
Foam and Filtered Earplugs: These are the traditional earplugs most people think of when they think of earplugs. They are also called “passive” hearing protection. Made of either foam, molded silicon, or other materials, these earplugs dampen ALL noise. While these do a great job of protecting the ear when worn properly, they are often inserted incorrectly – causing them to fail to perform their job adequately. The danger to using these while shooting – You also can’t hear the instructor or Range Safety Officer who might be saying something that you need to hear – such as “Cease Fire!”
Active Hearing Protection: If you can afford them, these are by far the best option. Foam earplugs can be purchased for in quantities of three or four for about five dollars and they’re only good once. Active Hearing Protection can be purchased one time and used for years. A good pair will cost you about $30-$35 dollars. (There are brands that cost $160 that work great, if you have the budget for it. Most amateur shooters don’t.)
They work in a way that most people find surprising. Active hearing protection headphones run on batteries, usually AAA or 9Volt, and they have a power switch that when turned on actually AMPLIFIES the sounds around you. Think of a hearing aid – you can even hear the leaves blowing across the range. Voices and instructions from your range officer come through clean and clear. When the headphones detect a loud noise, they respond in less than 1,000 of a second to dampen it to a much quieter level. You can talk to someone wearing them and they hear you fine, but clap loudly in their ear and it’s barely audible.
From a safety standpoint, we prefer these whenever possible for the safety of the shooter. If there were ever a need for the instructor of Range Safety Officer to yell “Cease Fire” from a couple yards away, you would likely not hear him with passive hearing protection. With active hearing protection, conversations are clear and gunfire is all but eliminated completely.
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