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Foam vs silicone ear plugs vs muffs?

Discussion in 'Shooting Gear and Storage' started by UrbanHermit, Sep 24, 2021.

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Foam vs silicone earplugs?

  1. Foam

    10 vote(s)
    17.5%
  2. Silicone

    4 vote(s)
    7.0%
  3. Muffs

    12 vote(s)
    21.1%
  4. Combination

    30 vote(s)
    52.6%
  5. Other

    1 vote(s)
    1.8%
  1. UrbanHermit

    UrbanHermit Member

    Joined:
    Jan 31, 2020
    Messages:
    205
    Just a curiosity poll to see which type of ear protection is the most popular.

    I've always had a strong preference for flanged silicone plugs, because I can wear them unobtrusively around my neck, wet them on my tongue, and slip them in my ears properly with just one hand without having to set a rifle down. This makes it possible to take opportunistic offhand shots at game while walking to and from a stand, hiking, or just woods loafing, without the complication and expense of a suppressor. Without the ability to quickly and smoothly apply ear protection while holding a rifle, without taking my eyes off the target or creating a large visual disturbance with excessive fumbling around, I would end up squandering or passing up over 50% of the shot opportunities I get at any game animal.

    One time, as a teenager, I fired a .270 Winchester from a 22" bolt action using Winchester White Box 130 grain without ear protection, and while it didn't seem to cause any permanent damage, the experience was so disturbing to me that I vowed to never shoot a firearm without ear protection of some kind ever again. I consider it to be utterly astonishing, almost unbelievable, that it was routine practice for decades for people to shoot modern, high pressure, bottleneck rifle cartridges without ear protection, whether hunting or in any other circumstances. I would almost rather be confined to a wheelchair than lose one of my primary senses.

    Foam plugs usually advertise higher NRR, but they've never worked for me. My ear canals are shaped strangely or something, and it takes too much time and frustration to get foam plugs in correctly. I can't use earbud headphones for the same reason. They have no practical application other than at the range, at which it's simpler to just throw some muffs over silicone plugs I always carry.

    I have some nice electronic muffs too. They "work", in that you can hear your surroundings and be protected from impulse noise simultaneously, but they have so many issues that I've largely stopped using them. It's very tricky to get them to fit correctly in conjunction with my hat and hair and glasses, and in such a way that they won't crack open when I adopt a shooting position or interfere with cheek weld. They get very hot and sweaty, and it's not realistic to wear them 24/7 on a full day hunt or camping trip, not to mention that they rely on batteries and are inherently unreliable as electronic devices. They are large and cumbersome and there is no way to take them off and store them without stopping and taking my pack off.

    So I just use silicone plugs in conjunction with modest cartridges like .223, .30-30, 9mm, etc in long barrels with linear compensators. Until suppressors become cheaper and easier to obtain, this is the only realistic way to effectively and safely use firearms for any kind of practical purpose outside of a range that I have discovered so far.
     
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2021
  2. mcb

    mcb Member

    Joined:
    Feb 19, 2008
    Messages:
    5,753
    Location:
    North Alabama
    When shooting rifles and similar very loud guns I use cheap foam plugs and a good pair of muffs over them. When I am shooting competitively I wear electronic ear protection, muffs or plugs depending on weather so I can hear range commands etc. Depending on the rifle I am carrying I might wear my electronic in the ear plugs while hunting.

    I love my suppressed 300 BO with subsonic for tromping around in the woods as no hearing protections is needed.
     
    DoubleMag likes this.
  3. UrbanHermit

    UrbanHermit Member

    Joined:
    Jan 31, 2020
    Messages:
    205
    I'm thinking of getting either a 300BO or 7.62x39 bolt action specifically because I believe it will have low muzzle blast in a short barrel. I have a .223 bolt action with a .22" barrel, and it is the quietest center-fire I've ever used other than .44 specials in a lever action, but this is probably the shortest barrel I would accept in this cartridge, and it would probably be louder with 5.56.
     
  4. mcb

    mcb Member

    Joined:
    Feb 19, 2008
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    5,753
    Location:
    North Alabama
    In a short barrels both of those cartridges have some harsh muzzle blast. I mistakenly fired my 5-inch 300 BO pistol the other weekend with subsonic ammo but without the suppressor mounted to see if it would cycle (had just drilled the gas port in the barrel). That hurt and my left ear was ringing for about two hours after the shot. The only thing I have done worst to my hearing was shooting 3 shots of 357 Magnum without ear pro. That rang my ears for the rest of that particular day. Now with the suppressor mounted that 5-inch gun is fairly pleasant to shoot with subsonic ammo.
     
    DukeConnor likes this.
  5. UrbanHermit

    UrbanHermit Member

    Joined:
    Jan 31, 2020
    Messages:
    205
    By "short" I meant more like 16". That's what I consider short. Any less than that and it's straight walled cartridges only for me.
     
  6. Bwana John

    Bwana John Member

    Joined:
    Sep 10, 2004
    Messages:
    2,555
    Custom molded to my ear silicon. ~$50. No muffs to get in the way, no swampy ears under the muffs.

    The biggest problem with them is they work so well I cannot hear range commands or someone pulling up to a shooting site unannounced.
     
    MutinousDoug likes this.
  7. UrbanHermit

    UrbanHermit Member

    Joined:
    Jan 31, 2020
    Messages:
    205
    I've never tried the custom molded ones. Don't know why. I probably should.
     
  8. trackskippy

    trackskippy Member

    Joined:
    Oct 2, 2010
    Messages:
    562
    I used the foam at work for years, and still always have a handful in my pockets every day. I normally use the silicone finned type for shooting and have for decades. I believe if you get to looking, both the foam and silicone have the highest ratings.

    Muffs usually dont have the ratings and they just suck to shoot with anyway, especially with long guns. Then you also have the glasses breaking the seal too.

    I got hearing aides a couple of years back and the dr was also pushing the custom molded ear protection. While I was reading the info he had on them, they only had a rating of something like 16, which seemed really low, especially compared to the cheap foam plugs which are usually 33-34. When I asked him about that, he just kind of looked at me.., didnt have an answer, and I told him Id pass.

    I have a couple of short barreled AR's and a suppressor for them, and that takes about 95-98% of the muzzle blast off the gun, according to AAC anyway, but it seems about right, and I can shoot without any kind of hearing protection with no problem with it, for a little while anyway. If I shoot 50 rounds or so, or more, even with it mounted, my ears ache later on, and have that dead feeling you get from being around loud and concussive stuff. For a couple of rounds, like critters in the yard, or show someone how well they work, I usually dont bother, but if Im shooting beyond that, I still wear my plugs.
     
    sparkyv likes this.
  9. dodo bird

    dodo bird Member

    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2010
    Messages:
    642
    I always double up. Unless it’s a 22 rifle. Then using either. Too many concerts, fireworks, airplane noise, and gun fire this late in my life.
     
    geronimotwo, DoubleMag and J-Bar like this.
  10. Ranger99

    Ranger99 Member

    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2021
    Messages:
    385
    I wear both muffs and foam at any range.
    I can still hear someone talking loud, or
    if a rangemaster calls a command because
    the places I've gone they always use a
    megaphone.
    Hunting I just use foam, and they stay in
    every minute if I'm to where a shot can
    possibly be fired.
    JMHO- I don't depend on hearing a deer
    approach because I've been hunting way
    too many times when a deer approached
    me in total silence. And they can do it too
    in the driest crackly leaves you can find.
    Years back when I started seriously bow
    hunting, i can tell you at the times I've
    looked one direction thinking I heard
    something, only to turn around and a
    deer would be standing there staring
    straight at me within spitting distance.
    I use some foam plugs I get through the
    pharmacy that can be worn dark to dark
    and be comfortable. I can still hear
    things such as birds wings fluttering
    and such, but the plugs block the
    supersonic crack from a gun that
    damages ears. I don't know how anyone
    hunting from a blind doesn't use at least
    a minimum of plugs. Even with the muzzle
    of the gun outside there's still that
    shockwave that can damage your ears.
    A shockwave from a shot I took a couple
    of years ago was such that it split the
    fabric of a popup blind I was in
    Hearing protection is cheap and worth
    any minor discomfort you may experience
    for relatively short time in your hunting day
     
    DoubleMag likes this.
  11. V-fib

    V-fib Member

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2002
    Messages:
    725
    Location:
    michigan
    i wear the North Sonic II ear plugs for hunting, and plugs with muffs for my loud revolvers.
     
  12. Gary Gill

    Gary Gill Member

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2003
    Messages:
    55
    Location:
    Indiana
    I prefer plugs if I am shooting a rifle but will add ear muffs if another shooter is blasting loud.
     
    sparkyv likes this.
  13. Bwana John

    Bwana John Member

    Joined:
    Sep 10, 2004
    Messages:
    2,555
    My custom molded plugs are not even compatible to cheap foam plugs.
    I don't want to figure out the numbers on a log base 10 scale but I'd say the custom molded ones work at least 5 orders of magnitude better than cheap foam at protecting my hearing.
    I would say they are at least 2 orders of magnitude better than my best muffs.
    Even 9mm cases work better than cheap foam plugs for me.
    Ill chew up paper and shove it in my ears before using cheap foam.
     
    Ifishsum and DoubleMag like this.
  14. trackskippy

    trackskippy Member

    Joined:
    Oct 2, 2010
    Messages:
    562
    I was going by the rating on custom molded plugs on their brochure. It was about half of the Howard Leights I use and we were given at work.

    Those work very well if you put them in properly. Ive always been amazed at how many people cant seem to figure out how to properly put them in. You roll them up into a small cylinder between your fingers and insert them "into" the ear canal and let them expand. Not just try and jam them into your ear, or put them in the outer ear sideways, etc.

    Ive only seen one or two of the muff type that have a rating as close to what the foam plugs have, and those are the type you used to get in or around aircraft in the military. Most of the muffs Ive seen sold for shooting these days are about half that.

    As kids, before ear protection was a thing, we used cotton balls, cigarette butts, empty shell cases, you name it, and none of that crap works, and is a good part of why I wear hearing aids now. ;)
     
  15. sparkyv

    sparkyv Member

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2014
    Messages:
    2,646
    Location:
    Deepinnaheartta, Texas
    ...and when shooting my X-frame! :eek:
     
  16. UrbanHermit

    UrbanHermit Member

    Joined:
    Jan 31, 2020
    Messages:
    205
    Thankfully I don't go to shooting ranges anymore and never have to be anywhere near one of those things again, or an AR pistol.
     
    Gary Gill and sparkyv like this.
  17. kenboyles72

    kenboyles72 Member

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2018
    Messages:
    79
    I have the Decibullz custom fit ear plugs. If done right, are very quiet, can't hear normal conversations.
     
    Ifishsum likes this.
  18. DoubleMag

    DoubleMag Member

    Joined:
    Sep 4, 2011
    Messages:
    1,324
    Right question kinda. The most POPULAR may not be,the most EFFICIENT.

    This pops up from time to time around here and the answer remains the same. The physical mass of the instrument is the best indicator of best protection, and that is ear muffs. Best for actual shooting situations, range commands, hunting? I would say electronic ear muffs. I have the professionally fitted (sit down in an Audiologist office, pay doctor bill) full shield electronic compression circuit 'plugs' to which I also add to electronic muffs, based on activity such as competitions. Hunting, I use the gizmos and later in season = colder, use muffs. They're warmer:cool:

    Ppl think just sticking something in the ear canal works and it does to a point because you can still hear / receive sounds AROUND the flappy thing sticking out called the...ear. Completely covering the area e.g. muffs helps with that.''I can't hear you'' may work when sticking fingers in your ear to drown 'her' out, but, loud cracks will get in just the same. If all you have is you and a loud boom is coming, best to flatten your hands and completely cover the ear area with the palm of your hand...


    All that said, the most practical for the regular shooter or shooterette? Prolly the basic good ol' foam plugs.
     
  19. Dibbs

    Dibbs Member

    Joined:
    Sep 3, 2018
    Messages:
    1,563
    I use foam, exclusively. They're cheap, disposable, easy to use, and efficient. I imagine anyone shooting for more than an hour or so,
    on a regular basis, might find them uncomfortable.

    Keep and occasionally use muffs, find them sweaty, bulky, and uncomfortable.
     
    DoubleMag likes this.
  20. AzShooter1

    AzShooter1 Member

    Joined:
    Dec 6, 2006
    Messages:
    337
    Location:
    Surprise, Az
    I use ProEars Stealth. Best of two worlds, they fit like regular plugs but act like muffs with sound limiting capability. I can wear any hat I want with them.

    Before I found these I used ProEars 300 muffs that I've had for 15 years. I know the guys that started the company so I stay with them. They are great for letting me hear range commands and people talking to me but eliminate the sound of the gun when firing.
     
    DoubleMag likes this.
  21. illinoisburt

    illinoisburt Member

    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2014
    Messages:
    1,580
    Location:
    Central Alabama -- recently relocated from Chicago
    Busy range days I always go with electronic muffs. Can hear what's going on including normal conversations (and people talking 50 feet away). I do prefer the simplicity of foam plugs when shooting by myself. In the woods with slug gun or centerfire I usually put in baffle plug in the right ear since that's closest to the action and it's usually cold so I'm wearing a gaiter and knit hat. I get some hearing protection without losing my senses while hunting.
     
  22. JDeere

    JDeere Member

    Joined:
    May 31, 2020
    Messages:
    460
    I have an older pair of Peltor electronic muffs for the range and that's all I need. I need to hear what's going on around me. No doubling up required and I run magnums on occasion. Deer hunting in the blind I just use those foams on a rope I call them. Got a box with individual packets and if I lose a set, just grab another pack.
     
  23. misser

    misser Member

    Joined:
    Jun 15, 2020
    Messages:
    77
    for shooting foam ,for standing around watching some one shooting, muffs
     
  24. gifbohane

    gifbohane Member

    Joined:
    Nov 7, 2016
    Messages:
    809
    I got a pair of custom molded plugs from my ear Doctor for $ 200. They do NOT work any better than a good set of muffs. I use them both at the range to protect what is left of my hearing. The Doctor said that the plugs were not meant to keep out all sounds. He said a lot of women buy them to block the sound of a snoring husband but they always come back bitching that they do not work, they still hear the snoring.
     
    .38 Special likes this.
  25. 1942bull
    • Contributing Member

    1942bull Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2020
    Messages:
    753
    Location:
    Southeast PA
    I seem to be the only vote for other as I write this post. My “other” is a pair of 31 NR Otis Ear Shields.

    6BEC0002-B72F-41B7-8D49-5F2BD4E9224F.jpeg
     
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