Why Should You Use Ear Protection When Shooting a Firearm? | A Full Guide and Recommended Protective Equipment

Ear protection is significant in various scenarios, from protecting your ears at sessions, especially while working power equipment. Another instance in which hearing protection is necessary is when shooting. The issue is that most shooters who use firearms don't wear hearing protection because they are too focused on their sport to consider their hearing health.

Each shot from a rifle, on the other hand, causes the eardrum in your inner ears to deteriorate. Hearing is a critical skill to pick up nearby disturbances when you're out shooting.  So, why should you use ear protection when shooting a pistol or any other firearm? Keep reading as we dive into further details.

Do You Need to Wear Earplugs During Hunting or Shooting?

Excessive exposure to firearms will undoubtedly result in noise-induced hearing loss, one of the leading causes of hearing loss in the United States today, impacting millions of Americans. Wearing hearing protection during hunting or shooting is the perfect solution to prevent the risk of long-term damage to your ears. Earplugs are quite effective in this scenario as they seal your ear canal, preventing sound waves from exerting pressure on the eardrum.

Earplugs for shooting

Unfortunately, you can't restore your inner ear hearing due to noise damage because damaged ear cells do not regenerate but rather die.

Noise-induced hearing loss is cumulative, and each small amount of damage to your hearing contributes to your total degree of losing your hearing. 

Protecting your hearing is vital not only for firing individuals but also for those standing nearby. Even if you are not the shooter, this does not imply you are at a safe enough range to avoid the need for earplug wear. 

Sound levels less than 70dB are safe for hearing. However, loud noises of more than 85 decibels (dB) are likely to cause damage to the delicate hair cells of your inner ear. Alarmingly, gunshot noise levels might exceed 140 dB ~ 175 dB. While this will vary depending on the caliber of the gun and the shooting location, one thing is certain: without protection, this loud noise will take a significant toll on your hearing.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) notes that exposure to a single event at 140 dB SPL would account for 100% of an individual's daily permitted noise exposure. Despite this, it is obvious that many people do not wear ear protection while shooting or standing close to a shooting range. Some people grew up shooting without wearing hearing protection, and when those around you are also not wearing them, it's challenging to develop an earplug habit.

people on the shooting range

Essential Hearing Protection & Earplugs For Shooting

Every hearing protection should provide an NRR – a numerical value showing the protection's effectiveness. Additionally, you can utilize the NRR to determine the decibel level of sound that goes over your ear protection. The higher the noise reduction rating (NRR) of your ear protection, the safer your hearing. For comparison, the maximum NRR is 33, which significantly reduces the degree of loud noise penetrating your ears from gunfire on the shooting range.

You also have options available for the hearing protectors you choose to wear. Earmuffs that are larger over the head or smaller earplugs are valid solutions that might ultimately come down to your personal preference. Fortunately, selecting appropriate ear protection is not difficult. Ensure that the ear protection you choose fits comfortably. After each usage, you should clean reusable earplugs by typically soaking in rubbing alcohol or a wash down to avoid any probable ear infections.

a gun, earmuffs and paper targets

When it comes to earplugs, some individuals prefer custom-molded hearing protection. Their specific mold ensures that they will stay securely in place in your ear canal and will not move or become loose. Since shooting produces brief yet obnoxiously loud bursts of sound, even when you realize your earplugs have been removed, the loud noise and harm to the sensitive ear structures may have already happened. Thus, a bespoke mold provides a much more secure fit, a more solid seal, and a safer experience.

Alternatively, as recommended by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, wearing earplugs under earmuffs is a very efficient method of protecting your ears from the extremely loud sound produced by gunshots. 

What to Look For in Shooting Ear Protection

Each activity has its safety equipment, and hunting or shooting is no different. The surroundings determine the hearing protection worn in this activity.

Range Shooting

You can determine the hearing protection worn in this activity by the surroundings because gunfire occurs at a rapid and constant rate on the range and is typically conducted inside. We suggest wearing earplugs with a high Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) to give you the best security against hearing loss. Ear-plugs are readily available at drugstores. A secure fit is critical to avoid feeling prompted to remove them.

Competitive Skeet

Shooters are continuously looking about for their target in an outdoor situation, which may not be ideal for using ear muffs. Rather than that, we propose that skeet shooters indulge in a set of custom-molded earplugs that completely filter out the sound of rapid firing. Earplugs entirely block the ear canal, offering your more protection. Your audiologist may offer this service or refer you to a reputable source.


Because it is critical to hear what is happening around you while hunting, using ear protection that completely shuts out all sound is not an intelligent choice. We recommend that hunters use specialized electronic hearing protection for this pastime, which muffles gunfire when they push the trigger. These gadgets are available online or at most sporting goods stores.

Our Recommendations for the Best Earplugs for Shooting Protection

If you're looking for reasonably priced custom-molded hearing aids, Decibullz manufactures some of the best shooting earplugs. They provide fitted earplugs with an easy-to-follow set-up procedure. Boil enough water and soak the earpieces in it until they soften. Once they've cooled slightly, you may mold them to the curve of your ears for an excellent bespoke fit. Ensure that you follow the safety recommendations to avoid damaging your eardrum. 

various brands earplugs

Our EP4 Sonic Defenders Plus is a medical-grade polymer and has excellent reviews for its low decibel output (lower NRR) and compatibility with smaller caliber weapons. Additionally, these earplugs have a retaining ring to prevent them from sliding. They will provide inadequate protection when used in conjunction with noisier firearms like revolvers or rifles.

Mack's Shooter Ear Seal Ear Plug is another easy, effective method of protecting yourself from high-caliber rifles. Walker's Game Ears Razor Slim Electronic Muff is a popular earmuff on Amazon, with a 23dB NRR and an excellent 4.8 rating system out of nearly 8,500 reviews.

Why Is Hunting Without Hearing Protection Dangerous?

Firearms are held near the face during hunting season, and a single discharge from a handgun can leave your ears ringing. When you are hunting, and even when not physically firing a rifle, shooting weapons will cause hearing impairment. While a single gunshot or two might not seem much, even one gunshot can cause hearing loss.

a person with a gun aiming

A single shotgun burst hit 165 decibels, and while we should limit sound much below 85 dB for solace, that is more than nearly twice the amount you should hear. The volume range is significantly higher than that for a jet engine operating at 100 feet, which operates at a maximum of 140dB. Even a noisy pop concert is quiet than a gunshot, and the maximum acceptable noise level is 140dB, although instant hearing damage occurs with noise levels as low as 125dB.

Therefore, a shotgun burst at 165 decibels can permanently damage hearing if it is the safe noise level. A single gunshot once at a time might not sound as much, but even brief exposure can cause lasting hearing impairment.

In comparison to other hunter types, bird hunters are more at risk for ear complications during hunting. This is because they shoot numerous rounds every day and frequently chat with other hunters. While hearing loss is not exclusive to hunting, hunters must contend with a condition known as hunter's ear.

two hunters and a dog walking


The secret to prevention is to be conscious of your environment's volume level and use hearing protection when it reaches harmful levels. The majority of individuals do not understand what is loud and excessively loud. Consider downloading a smartphone app that measures sound levels.

A smartphone app will notify you how loud an area is to wear hearing protection if you come into contact with one that is louder than you anticipated. Hobbies are vital for a high quality of life, as is hearing health. Regardless of how loud your activities are, protect your ears from loud situations and schedule yearly hearing examinations.

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