Ear Protection


Field Tester
August 19, 2013, 06:17 AM
Hello All,

I was hoping you guys can help me out here. My BIL (really my GF's brother, just easier to type BIL for the rest of the thread) is fairly new to firearms. Been shooting around 5 years or so. He likes to shoot out in the desert (meaning no range rules) and has been a bit laxed about safety. He observes the 4 rules but doesn't always wear ear and eye protection, neither does his wife and friends.

Now I understand it's his body and he can do what he pleases, but it still bothers me. He often comes to me for advice on firearms and I'm happy to oblige, but when we shoot together it's my rules or I don't go. All safety equipment must be worn. I've even made him wear closed toe shoes. Sorry if this seems to harsh, but it's my time so it's my rules, and in my mind it's not asking too much.

Now his parents are recently converted huge antis. His mother is coming around slower but his father just purchase his first rifle 6 months ago. I've taken him to the range a few times since. When he's with me he wears all appropriate EQ, when he's with his son it goes either way. My BIL also takes his son out, but he does make his son wear all necessary EQ.

I feel he is setting a bad example for both.


I need medical reports, data, experiences, anything that will get him to wear this stuff and set a good example for everyone that looks up to him and shoots with him. The more legit the better! I plan on printing it up and showing it to everyone involved. Also where can I get more than decent ears for under $50 a pop and eyes for even cheaper. I want to gift them to them and also keep some extras in my range bag. I already keep a pack of foams in there.

Thank you in advance,

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August 19, 2013, 06:29 AM
Yours is among many threads on this topic. The 4 'P's summarize nicely. Hearing loss is:


More info here: http://www.e-a-r.com/hearingconservation/faq_main.cfm

Also, search THR.

And for eye protection, here's a start: http://www.thehighroad.org/showthread.php?t=725970

August 19, 2013, 06:34 AM
It should be common sense. Loud noises damage hearing. I think you'll find more members here than would care to admit that use "Huh?" and "What?" a LOT more than the average guy does, from damage done from shooting. I see absolutely NO reason not to wear it....it not only protects your senses, but often correlates into better shooting, as muzzle blast is often a major cause of jerking and actually increases perceived recoil. That said, Google is your friend, and it shouldn't be hard to come up with hard data that backs up the idea hearing protection is a must.


August 19, 2013, 06:35 AM
I bought these for the whole family. Comfortable, effective and the ones I bought don't have the extra padding, so I can still wear a sun hat over them. There are several slim line muffs out there under $20.


Lex Luthier
August 19, 2013, 07:30 AM
What you are really doing is helping this guy grow up a little. There are certain technical/ safety requirements that must be met (reasonably) to properly enjoy a sport like shooting.

The ear protection thing has been covered ad nauseum here, but the shoe thing is simply common sense. He will learn when a tasty piece of hot brass burns his feet. Some people are wired to learn life's lessons the hard way.

August 20, 2013, 11:20 AM
I was in small arms part of the time I was in the Air Force, spent a lot of time on the range (thanks Uncle Sam!) and my ears still ring a lot of the time, and my wife is tired of hearing me ask her to repeat things. There's nothing like a good set of ear protectors to keep your hearing intact.

Excuse me, I think I hear the phone ringing......

August 20, 2013, 11:28 AM
Harbor Freight is your friend.

37 dB earmuffs, $10 if you watch the sales. Polycarbonate eye protection, $1-$5.


August 20, 2013, 11:40 AM
Absolute minimum safety equipment for the range EARS, EYES, and closed toe shoes. A few more items can be added without too much thought . First aid kit with trauma bandages, shade in hotter months, water to keep hydrated. This is the minimum that I carry every time, even when I am out on BLM or State property. Accidents will happen, and sometimes they are fatal.

August 20, 2013, 11:59 AM
There is a difference between common sense and you mandating what your B&L does regarding his own personal safety. I can say that someone telling me what I would wear will be shooting alone just on principle.
There is gun safety and there is PPE, nothing wrong with friendly advise and you can be sure my kids all wore muffs and eye pro while growing up but I sure wouldn't impose that on them as adults if they choose otherwise. You have informed him of the hazards now quit treating him like a child and mind your own business.

August 20, 2013, 12:16 PM
Harbor Freight is your friend.

37 dB earmuffs, $10 if you watch the sales.

Note the fine print: "...since such protection is highly dependent on user training, motivation, and utilization. A better estimate of workplace protection can be obtained by derating the labeled NRR by 50%"

Essentially, if hair, hat, bandanna, glasses frame, etc prevent a good "seal" between the muff and your head, then don't count on the rated protection.

Same is true for plugs that fit poorly or are not well inserted.

August 20, 2013, 01:01 PM
Maybe you could reach a compromise. Let him wear his sandals (Dude, that's NOT a safety violation. :scrutiny:) and insist on the ear & eye pro.

It's great to be safety conscious -- but relax a bit where your fashion sense has overtaken your safety consciousness and you'll seem a lot more reasonable.

August 20, 2013, 01:26 PM
Note the fine print:

Good point. The best earmuffs don't work well if you don't use them, and seat them properly.

I wear mine when I'm running the snowblower or my table saw. They're good enough that I can hear a distinct increase in sound level if I open my mouth.

So I guess the moral of the story is, seat your muffs properly, close your mouth, then pull the trigger.

August 20, 2013, 01:38 PM
You don't need medical articles or published research. All you need to do is point to the obvious and well-established fact that exposure to noise above a certain threshold carries with it a 100% chance of damage to your hearing. Its not the decibel level, but actually something closely related to it called sound pressure level.

I spent the last several years working on research that informed the development of artificial noise installed in electric cars. In the process, I got to learn a lot about the sound levels present in many daily activities. The increase in sound pressure from one degree to the next is not linear. It is multiplicative. So, of you go from 65dBA which is the level of normal conversation, to 75dBA, the increase is not 10 units, it is double the sound pressure. Something like that anyway.

Gun shots are well into the range of hearing damage. The ear is exposed to it only for a fraction of a second, but it does add up to hearing loss. That applies to every caliber. Even .22 long rifle.

August 20, 2013, 02:12 PM
I cannot stand wearing earmuff style hearing protection.

I use the Radian molded earplugs that you make from the little kit. They cost about $10-15 and are not uncomfortable, bulky or annoying like earmuffs and since they are molded to your own ears they don't fall out like foam earplugs.

I recommend these to everyone that dislikes wearing the earmuffs.

August 20, 2013, 10:46 PM

Earmuffs are specifically worn over the ear while ear plugs are worn in the ear.

They have different frequency absorption curves and are fitted differently, with different application problems, so they should not be treated the same.

Properly inserted foam plugs should not fall out if they're the correct size. "properly inserted" is per this video - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SPNPZJingZA If you don't insert them properly they don't work as well and don't stay in place. If they are falling out you should look for the large or small size and try them instead.

Field Tester
August 20, 2013, 11:05 PM
There's a difference in me mandating and me saying I won't participate. If he wants to shoot with me or my firearms he needs to observe the safety rules, simple enough. I'm not say he can't shoot, I'm saying I won't be a party to it. At my club you're not allowed on the line without proper gear anyways, this is just for when we're out in the desert.
I think it stems from him not understanding that hearing loss is accumulate. He is of the mindset that since he cannot experience major hearing loss now, he never will. I just wanted to show it's a medically proven fact.
Also with the closed toe shoes, I feel it is my business if I'm shooting with him. I don't want an extra hole in me because someone caught hot brass on their feet and flinched. You'd be surprised how often this happens. A woman recently shot herself do to a casing going down her cleavage.

Everyone, thank you for your posts. I think he may come around if I just provide the stuff for him. If they're uncomfortable I'll spring for some inserts. He's not too hard headed of a guy, so if I can show him some medically based truth I think he'll correct the way he shoots. I know his father has already been very receptive. They just never had anyone to show them before.

August 20, 2013, 11:12 PM
Hot brass bounces off toes with little effect. Sandals are an issue when you kick that cactus hidden in the grass :)

Eyes & ears are not negotiable though.

Field Tester
August 20, 2013, 11:14 PM

Where can I find molded ones? I might want to double up for higher calibers but hate the foam plugs. I'd like to avoid the gun show for the time being. I know they sell them there but our lines have been insane the past 10 months getting in and walking around.

August 20, 2013, 11:27 PM
I think enforcing your rules when you shoot with him is a great idea.

Beyond that, you can only do so much to fix stupid. Take him some of the info from the earlier replies in the thread and rest easy knowing that you tried. It's not on you if other people chose to remain willfully ignorant.

August 21, 2013, 12:08 PM

Where can I find molded ones? I might want to double up for higher calibers but hate the foam plugs.
Midway has DIY kits for molded plugs.

As to foam plugs, the roll ups do not work for me, but push-in plugs are my preference.

Field Tester
August 21, 2013, 05:07 PM
Thanks btg3, I'll check that out. Just what I was looking for. Thanks everyone.
Special thanks to hso for the PM.

August 21, 2013, 05:53 PM
Do those doo hickeys work that cut out the loud noises but let the softer ones through? That has to be the most annoying thing to me about shooting, not being able to hear anything when I'm doing it.

August 21, 2013, 05:55 PM
Get the Howard Leight Impact Sport electronic ear muffs and wear properly inserted plugs under them and you'll be able to hear before, during, and after shooting.

August 21, 2013, 05:55 PM

Where can I find molded ones? I might want to double up for higher calibers but hate the foam plugs. I'd like to avoid the gun show for the time being. I know they sell them there but our lines have been insane the past 10 months getting in and walking around.
I hate the foam plugs too. You should try these neon green triple-flange inserts on a string that all of the Wal Marts carry. I absolutely love them and they really seal the canal. I'll post a link if I can find them.


You do have to "install" them correctly. Pull your ear up and out and they slide right in. Work so good they pull ear wax out. Their is actually a warning that says dont pull them out fast....maybe I just need to clean my ears once in a while :)

Field Tester
August 21, 2013, 06:58 PM

I've got some electronics, they are pretty good. I actually think they're too loud on the lowest setting for regular voices. Gunshots are great though.
I'm scared that with anything with a string will break the seal I'd I double up. Guess I could always cut the string.

August 21, 2013, 07:17 PM
i've thought about cutting it , just so its not knotting up and grabbing the back of my neck but I double up with no problem. I'm gonna try those electronics one day.

August 22, 2013, 09:56 AM
Ditto inkEd. I use them too. Not the best indoors but acceptable if molded properly. Takes about 8 minutes from start to finish.

August 22, 2013, 10:35 AM
I carry a pair of the yellow and grey "forgot name" in my wallet, by the bed, and in the car. They are not enough alone, "need the muffs over them", but better than nothing. Especially in the house at night, "that will blow your ear drums out". They still allow the noises you need to hear come through.

August 22, 2013, 04:01 PM
OSHA-adjusted noise power ratio: 34 decibels

And as soon as you put the temples from safety glasses under the muff it goes down from there.

i still just use EAR plugs.

By them in bulk at Granger about every 4-5 years.

August 22, 2013, 04:17 PM
You should use both plugs and muffs regardless of the cushion gap caused by glasses. The ideal is to use a strap glasses or those with small flat temple pieces, but any additional protection that muffs can provide to plugs is beneficial.

August 22, 2013, 04:52 PM
65dBA which is the level of normal conversation, to 75dBA, the increase is not 10 units

That's right.

An increase of 10 dB is a factor of 10, 20 dB is a factor of 100, and 30 dB is a factor of 1000 in power. To a close approximation, 3 dB is a factor of 2.

So if your ear protection reduces sound by 23 dB, sound level is reduced by 100X, and another 2X, for a total of 200X.

33 dB ear protection is twice as good as 30 dB protection, and 30 dB protection is 10X as good as 20 dB protection.

That works until sound levels into the ear are reduced to the point that things like bone conduction become the dominant route of sound into the inner ear.

August 22, 2013, 07:45 PM
With sound pressure levels each 3 dB is a doubling of the power. 75 dB + 3 dB is a 2x increase in the power. Another 3 dB is another doubling of that. And so on. 75 dB + 9 dB = 84 dB is 8 times the power of 75 dB. The power, and damage potential, doubles each 3 dB as pointed out.

An 8 hr exposure to 85 dB is supposed to be safe for the majority of the population. This is called an 8 hr TWA TLV (threshold limit value). If you increase the noise by just 3 dB you cut the exposure time in half (because you've doubled the power you need to halve the exposure) that is permitted to prevent injury. If you add 3 more dB you have to cut that 4 hours in half to prevent injury to 2 hours. Add 3 more and you halve the exposure time to an hour. And so on... If no injury occurs at 85 dB for an 8 hour day of exposure then how many dB are you able to be exposed to for an hour? 85dB/8hr, 88dB/4hr, 91db/2hr, 94/1hr, 97/30min, ... 109/1.375min, 111/40.5sec, 114/20.25sec, ... 123/2.5sec., 126/1.26sec, 129/0.63sec,...140db/0.08sec. That's the instantaneous damage level. Above that any additional noise is damaging.

August 22, 2013, 08:35 PM
We tried to wear it as much as we could on regular range days in the service, but in combat it isnt always an option (think hand signals) accompanied by shouting. Growing up I shot .22lr a lot without it. I am sure I have some, but not enough to warrant hearing aids. Ear pro has come a long way since I started shooting. I would never dream of taking my daughter shooting without electronic muffs.

August 22, 2013, 09:28 PM
I am already experiencing some loss at age 66. Friends who were in the military in the 60s & 70s have tinitis and hearing loss. I use Walmart's Winchester muffs ($9.95) that have a 26db rating. They work well except for using a .44 magnum when the addition of foam plugs helps to further reduce the sonic impact. I applaud the OP for his care & concern and hopefully will be able to convince his BlL to be a bit more cautious.

August 23, 2013, 10:16 PM
Part of the problem is that the actual OSHA ratings are NOT for impulsive noise like gunfire.

It is is in a whole other class in terms of causing damage.

August 23, 2013, 10:26 PM
OSHA doesn't establish ratings for hearing protection.

August 23, 2013, 10:36 PM
That would be NIOSH, I'd imagine.

Some of their literature on the matter: http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/96-110/ Of course removing the source of noise, or distancing the hearer is their first approach. But, hey, my arms are only so long! ;)

August 23, 2013, 10:53 PM
I know that hearing protection is mandatory during shooting competitions as it should be but having read a few of the recent threads on ear pro and some of its perceived tactical advantages in defensive situations I am wondering if any force on force work has been done comparing reaction and response with or without hearing protection either electronic or conventional?

August 23, 2013, 10:57 PM
Surprisingly, not NIOSH.

Not surprisingly, they ignore science for "simplifying" the math and redefine the doubling of power to every 5dB instead of the actual 3.

August 23, 2013, 11:02 PM
Huh! How 'bout that. Well, I'm out of guesses. :)

August 24, 2013, 05:12 AM
I went shooting out in the Las Vegas desert one time with a friend and we left our hearing protection back at his house, about 20 miles away. We fired a couple of .22 rounds off and were kind of shocked how loud they were. We fired off a couple of .357 rounds and that was more than enough. I went to a lot of drag races without hearing protection (It was considered a "sissy" move back then, in the 70's) and the nitro cars weren't as bad as those .357s were.

August 24, 2013, 07:20 AM
Get the Howard Leight Impact Sport electronic ear muffs and wear properly inserted plugs under them and you'll be able to hear before, during, and after shooting. I was just about to post this. I have a spare pair in my shooting kit that I loan out all the time. Occasionally I see people I loaned them to sporting a pair later. :) I also give away cheap foam earplugs if I ever encounter someone without them. You can get boxes of 25 pairs for a buck at Dollar Tree, and my hotel gives them out for free anyhow. . .

August 24, 2013, 09:55 PM
I'm a firm believer in wearing both plugs and muffs together when shooting centerfire. As far as eye protection goes, good polycarbonate sunglasses are easier to get someone to wear than goggles or shop glasses are (and if you are a stickler, get some WileyX's or something to share).

I think mandating closed-toed shoes is overkill, though, if your only concern is hot brass. Hot brass hits arms, fingers, foreheads, and knees also. A friend of mine once had a .45 ACP case eject up over his head and went down the back of his tucked-in shirt (ouch). Certainly wearing a cap or hat with a brim isn't a bad idea under some conditions, either, but I wouldn't say it's unsafe to not wear one.

August 24, 2013, 10:02 PM
Outdoors away from a formal range, I would let him do what he wants to do. But I would wear my "protection". Since I wear perscription glasses, I seldom wear safety glasses shooting. Sometimes wear fit on top sunglasses which add a bit of protection.

I always wear ear protection. Always. I even wear it deer hunting or when I am getting ready for a shot. I won't pass up a good shot because of not wearing ear protection, but I usually have at least plugs in. I use a handgun a lot in the woods which feels a bit different from a rifle or shotgun.

August 24, 2013, 10:17 PM
you can lead a horse to water, but....

Cee Zee
August 26, 2013, 11:14 AM
I've fired my .45 Sig P220 and forgot to put my hearing protection on. Just one shot caused my ear to start to crackle and it stayed that way for almost a year. I thought it was never going away and there ain't one thing they can do to fix a hearing issue like that. Luckily the damage finally went away or at least the annoying crackling did. I don't hear all that well but I'm not terrible either. I have my hearing tested on a regular basis and I've always been in the normal range.

Long guns are bad but handguns are terrible when it comes to ear damage. They are much closer to your ears and the barrel doesn't deflect the sound as much.

I use muffs because I can't get the plugs to fit me right and I never see the larger sizes. I like muffs anyway. I like the active noise cancelling type. I can hear everything until the bullet is fired and that is blocked. I have a few sets that actually amplify sound except for anything that is above 85 DB which is blocked. I love that. I can hear things I never heard before using them. One set raised the normal sound to 5X levels but that's too much. I don't turn them up that high. Still it's great to be able to hear so much better. It's like being able to hear like an animal hears or something. It's amazing how much noise information is out there that we miss for the most part. I can hear my cat walk across the grass at night with my Walkers Game Ear Power Muffs. They are the 5X model I have. Here's a pair of them if you want to check them out. http://www.mysimon.com/prices/walkers-game-ear-gwp-wrepmbn-power-muffs-elec-d-max-green?tag=centerColumn;sdc.119755045 I think they look different now and have a different name too. "Alpha" is part of the new name I think. Whatever they certainly give you a whole new perspective on hearing. It would be mighty hard for someone to sneak up on your with those things on, that's for sure.

I got a couple of those HF muffs with tools I ordered and they actually work very well. I don't know about 37db. That's very high.

I also saw a set of Walker muffs that had a 35db rating. That is a huge amount of sound blocking if they really work that well. Those weren't the kind with mics that pick up normal sounds though.

One other thing. The most fun I ever had with a hot case was when one fell right into my shoe. It still burns just thinking about it. I've had them go down my shirt too but that wasn't as bad as going in my shoe.

August 26, 2013, 09:24 PM
I like the active noise cancelling type.

Shooter's electronic muffs aren't noise cancelling like the Bose and other muffs recommended for airline travelers. Shooting electronic muffs have a microphone, speaker, and amplifying circuit that is shut off with a high speed clipping circuit. The noise isn't cancelled, the microphone/speaker/amplifyer is simply shut off quickly to allow the passive noise protection of the muffs to work.

If you have problems finding plugs that fit over the counter check with your local Grainger or safety supply house or order off the interenet.

Cee Zee
August 27, 2013, 05:57 AM
Shooter's electronic muffs aren't noise cancelling like the Bose and other muffs recommended for airline travelers. Shooting electronic muffs have a microphone, speaker, and amplifying circuit that is shut off with a high speed clipping circuit. The noise isn't cancelled, the microphone/speaker/amplifyer is simply shut off quickly to allow the passive noise protection of the muffs to work.

I guess a person just shouldn't believe the ad copy they read. Every set of muffs I bought said they were actual noise cancelling. No matter. I think this might be a better system anyway. For one thing true noise cancelling tech has a delay before it kicks in. I always wondered how they managed to block out a sound that wasn't a steady sound too. Engines are good targets for noise cancelling. Gun shots never did seem to be. I guess I know why now.

I wasn't surprised to see noise cancelling in a budget packacge though. I have ear budgs that weren't over $30 or so and they do a great job when I mowed my grass. It cut engine noise down a lot. It wasn't perfect of course but it works well. I have a set of headphones that cost about the same and didn't cancel at all. Go figure.

I always wondered if noise cancelling didn't hurt your ears worse anyway. They were designed to let pilots talk over top their jet engines. They work by the phones sending out another sound signal that is exactly opposite from the one that is to be blocked. So when the wave form is at the top of the wave curve the cancelling is too. It does let you hear but is it protecting your ears or actually making the damage worse by producing lots of noise energy that is actually twice what it was but not audible?

Field Tester
November 7, 2013, 07:53 AM
Just wanted to give an update. The few people I was having an issue with have had a bit of a change of heart. Not all but most. Also I've been coaching at Women On Target and a lot of this information was very helpful. It's always easier to get a point across when you have actual data. Sure we know it's bad for us, but having the science to back it up usually stops an argument.

Thank you again to all who were helpful!

Field Tester
November 7, 2013, 07:55 AM
BTW on this thread I see an option for a third page but when I click iy, it only reloads the 2nd. Anyone know why that is?

Thanks again!

November 7, 2013, 08:12 AM
You can't make him. They will either get tired of the ringing ears an burn marks or they will get used to saying 'huh?' All the time.

It's like teaching someone not to wrap their thumb around an auto pistol. I warn them once. After that, the ripped flesh teaches more than I ever could.

November 7, 2013, 09:31 AM
I'm late to the post, but didn't see anyone mention my favorite ear plugs, Surefire Sonic Defenders. Two levels of noise reduction, 14db which allows conversation but blocks out dangerous noise levels (within reason) and 28db with the little plugs installed. I carry them daily and use them at work (diesel engines). I generally wear them without the plugs anytime I'm around where noise is likely, and add ear muffs instead when I need more.

November 7, 2013, 12:16 PM
Late to the post, too. But I know when I realized how important hearing protection was. A good client of mine is a retired copper and range rat. I met him when he was in his late 60's. He couldn't hear a thing. Seeing someone like that was what really drove the point home. Made me rethink the idea that cheapest is best, especially when it comes to something like ears and eyes.

I'd try an introduce him to someone that's basically lost their hearing due to shooting. If that didn't get him, don't know what would.

November 7, 2013, 01:18 PM
Field Tester,

Glad to see the information has proven useful.

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