Electronic hearing protection

Balrog

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Nov 28, 2008
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I do not know much of anything about electronic hearing protection., What I would like is something that protects hearing while shooting, but also allows for normal conversation and hearing at the range. What should I be looking for?
 
Most electronic muffs will give you what you are looking for to some degree. Some do a better job than others. Almost all are compromises. I use the Howard Leight/Honeywell models, but they have an abrupt cut-off and I have seen good reviews of the Walker models, which have a more graduated attenuation. There are of course many others, including cheap knock-offs. This does not seem to be the place to save money.
 
Some of the newer models also connect to your cellphone via Bluetooth. So you can do more with them than just hearing protection.

Most muffs give about 25 dB of protection, if it's still to loud, bring some soft plugs with you.

Another issue that I've seen with muffs are the size. Some are larger than others and will get in the way when shooting a rifle.
 
I have a pair of walkers. They are not bad. The quad/surround type are nicer for conversation. I have tried a very expensive pair of a brand I don’t recall, but they were out of my budget.
 
I've had a Peltor tactical set for about 20 years. Never any issues with them except when I forget to turn them off after shooting and have a dead battery the next time.
 
I have used Walker Razor Slim electronic muffs for several years and like them. You do have to watch that any headphone style hearing protection does not interfere with shooting a rifle with a scope. The only thing I would change to would be in the ear electronic hearing protection but the price goes up.

Dave / Believer45
 
I have a bunch of them, like the walker Bluetooth ones so I can hear notifications from my cel phone too. With no sound anything else can hear.
 
I might add, I’ve talked to several that really like the axill?(I think I’m remembering the name correctly) I’m ear style. Seriously considering some!
 
I am a fan of proears….expensive, though

 
Be aware that the electronics do not protect your hearing. The protection comes from the passive muffs. The electronics pass audio from an external mic to internal speakers and use some kind of limiter or compressor to attenuate gunfire (or any noise that exceeds the threshold). Wearing the muffs, your ear will not be exposed to an un-muffed gunshot, but it will hear the sound of the shot as attenuated by the passive muffs, and it will hear the audio signal of the shot as reproduced by the speakers, but the audio signal will probably be cut off, limited, or compressed depending on the type of circuit used.

I have Walkers and I believe they just cut the signal off. If I hold my radio too close to the muffs, I hear nothing instead of hearing a limited or compressed signal. A better processor would compress the signal instead of cutting it off. The headset does have an audio input jack for the radio though, so that particular signal can get through. I can turn my Walkers way up and get "bionic" hearing -- but it's not that useful. For one thing, the directionality is messed up, especially on a set with only one mic instead of independent mics, processors, and speakers for each ear. The practical reason to turn the speakers way up is so they power through ear plugs. Wearing ear plugs under the muffs helps cut the noise more than muffs alone. It's required for hearing protection in many circumstances with only the slim/thin muffs -- like the Walker Razor Slim or Howard Leight Impact Sport. Those muffs alone don't have enough NRR (about 23 dB) to protect hearing if you're outdoors near any reflective surfaces and certainly indoors. Those slim muffs do allow a cheek weld on a rifle or shotgun though, and the fat ones with a higher NRR (30+dB) do not.

Headsets with over-the-top headbands do not allow the use of brimmed hats. You're pretty much limited to ball caps or a visor only. You can get a much more limited selection of headsets with a behind the neck band that will allow the use of wide-brimmed hats, but since the ear cups are often well above the ear they may still interfere with hat fit.

The lack of NRR and/or interference with cheek weld, and then the inability to wear a wide-brimmed hat are the reasons my go-to ear-pro is still foam plugs. I have used the e-muffs to help my boys hunt though. They use the Walker Slim and I use the fat ones since I'm not on the rifle. They do help with communication. I've also used the fat ones for handgun classes (typically cranked-up and doubled-up with foam plugs). Most of the time, I shoot alone, with nobody else, yeah, you know when I shoot alone, I prefer to be by myself.
 
My recommendation is just to use the highest NRR plugs you can find and leave them in. You can then remove a high protection set of regular ear muffs easily and quickly when you need to talk or between rounds- and yes, you may have issues getting a cheek weld with some of them but I've found a shooting position that seems to work. If everyone talks loudly and clearly, you should still be able to hear voice conversation with NRR 32 or 33 plugs.

If someone a few spots over from you decides to do a 20 round mag dump with a muzzle brake you're going to lose hearing, possibly even with the best combined protection you can get and almost certainly with the overcomplicated and less protective electronic items. Consider this and be aware of your surroundings.
 
I have 3 pairs of these.



That way when I take my grandkids to the range, we all have a set. There may be better ones, but I have no complaints with these. I don't shoot anything that is particularly loud, but if I did I could always wear plugs under the muffs
 
My experience is that indoor versus outdoor shooting makes a difference. Outdoors I use electronic plugs rahter than muffs, and they work fine. Indoors I use quality passive plugs with electronic muffs. Wearing muffs and plugs together really helps, but inderstand that the NRR ratings are not additive. Rather, the second protectors add only about 5 NRR to the number on the higher rated of the two.
Also, there is a difference between electronic noise-cancelling earphones, which are really nice on airplanes and computer server rooms, and shooters' electronic muffs. Noise-cancelling earphones continually "hear" outside noise like server fans, manufacturing site noise, or jet engine rumble and produce a 180 degree out-of-phase noise to cancel that sound, while still allowing most mid-frequency sounds from outside to rech you , only muffled by the phsycial padding around the ear. Frustratingly for the tech-aware, descriptions of noise-cancelling earphones rarely tell you the frequency ranges and amount of counter-noise they cover. Remember, they are designed to enhance the quality stereo sound they deliver from your phone or iPod, while blocking intrusive or harmful levels of outside noise.
In contrast, electronic hearing protection for shooters, whether plugs or muffs, have microphones on the outside delivering outside sound to you ears controlled by the volume control, but when they hear the crack of a gunshot at a high decibel level, usually about 80, their electronics very rapidly shuts off the speakers momentarily, so that you get the full protection of the physical block from the muff or plugs. This means the actual noise protection comes from the physical padding or plug, not any electronics. This also means you want the plugs well positioned in you rear, o rmufss with quality padding and protection. The electronics are there to help you hear conversation and range instructions, but chop off the sharp gunshot crack. As noted above, if you get ones with bluetooth they do help with hearing telephone or music.
I have been trying to find if there are actual noise-cancelling protectors for shooters, that use the 180 degree noise method to negate the gunshot sound, but so far have not discovered if such a product exists. If anyonie is aware of such a product please let us know here.
 
wear foam plugs and electronic ear muffs. you can turn up the passive volume on the muffs, and it amplifies what you can hear, but cuts out loud sounds. you can actually hear a little better than normal, or with the muffs I have this works.
 
What should I be looking for?
This is a common question and the short answer is use high NRR plugs and put the best electronic muffs you can afford with the highest protection over them. A bit longer answer is fit and comfort depends on the product and your use. Shotgun competitors have different need from pistol shooters and will select different fit and style (low profile muffs vs. rounder).

I will not use anything that isn't made by one of the large occupational hearing protection companies. I've tested products from other companies and just won't trust what little good hearing I have left to companies that don't have to meet the quality standards.

 
This is a common question and the short answer is use high NRR plugs and put the best electronic muffs you can afford with the highest protection over them. A bit longer answer is fit and comfort depends on the product and your use. Shotgun competitors have different need from pistol shooters and will select different fit and style (low profile muffs vs. rounder).

I will not use anything that isn't made by one of the large occupational hearing protection companies. I've tested products from other companies and just won't trust what little good hearing I have left to companies that don't have to meet the quality standards.

If i wear regular earplugs underneath electronic ear muffs, doesn't that negate the ability to hear normal sounds like conversation while shooting?
 
+1 for the Sordin Supreme Pro X's. The wife and I have had them for years; very tough. I opted for the gel pads. They keep more sound out and are more comfortable IMHO but are hotter in summer.
 
doesn't that negate the ability to hear normal sounds like conversation while shooting?
oops, our esteemed @hso beat me to the punch.

Basic 3m foam plugs only knock noises down around 25-29. Normal human conversation runs to 65-75.
Gunshots run 150-160 and damage begins at 100 (OSHA allows one, just one 140dB event per 8 hour shift w/o protection).

The math is weird because decibels (dB one tenth of a Bel) are measured on a log scale, where each Bel is an order of magnitude larger than the next, so, you can't just add, say, 29 and 25 and call it good. The math will make your head hurt (it does mine).

"Stacking" hearing protection you get a touch more than half the additional protection. But, that could be the difference between tinnitus and not (maybe). And, of course, all humans differ just a bit, too.
 
I've got to ding Walkers here because they're unwilling or unable to replace a battery cover on one of my headsets. My son lost a battery cover during a mule deer hunt in October. You don't notice something like that until you take the headset off your head, and then you wonder where it fell off. So I contacted Walker (GSM Outdoors) to acquire a new cover at my expense, but they won't or can't replace it. Instead, they offered me a 30% discount on whatever.

It's a flimsy piece of plastic that snaps on with no retaining fastener. The headset was $38.25 when I bought it 3 years ago and they still sell the same model. I guess this is what duct tape is for, but that speaks to the kind of business they do. I imagine they ship their junk from China and if anything goes wrong with it covered under warranty, they just trash them and send a new one. Disposable garbage. Even if they didn't plan for an inventory of replacement parts, you would think someone could scrounge a cover off some returned headsets for a customer, but obviously their employees are not "empowered." What a waste.

I have three Walker electronic headsets. I'll avoid Walker from now on.
 
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