Why should you use ear protection when shooting a firearm?

Three veterans

Shooting firearms for recreational and defensive purposes is a popular activity among Australians, supporting a thriving industry and creating numerous job opportunities. However, the loud sounds produced by gunshots can have serious implications for hearing health, leading to a condition known as "shooter's ear." To ensure the safety of your hearing, it is crucial to understand the significance of using proper ear protection when shooting.

Explore some of the best hearing protection options available in Australia to ensure your shooting experiences are safe and enjoyable.

Why should you use ear protection when shooting a firearm?

The human ear is a delicate and sensitive organ that can easily be damaged by exposure to loud noises. Gunshots fall into a category of sounds known as concussive blasts, which can cause high-frequency reverberation within the eardrum, leading to hearing damage or long-term conditions like tinnitus. While hearing damage can occur at 85 decibels, the sound produced by the average 9mm handgun is around 160 decibels, which is well above the safe threshold. Therefore, it is crucial to wear ear protection when operating firearms to safeguard your hearing for the future.

How loud are gunshots?

Gunshots are extremely loud, and their loudness can vary depending on the type of firearm and ammunition used. On average, the sound produced by a typical 9mm handgun is around 160 decibels, which is well above the safe threshold for hearing. Even suppressed firearms can operate at around 140 decibels, which is still highly damaging to the ears. The loudness of gunshots makes it essential to use proper hearing protection to prevent hearing loss.

How loud are gunshots?

Gunshots are extremely loud, and their loudness can vary depending on the type of firearm and ammunition used. On average, the sound produced by a typical 9mm handgun is around 160 decibels, which is well above the safe threshold for hearing. Even suppressed firearms can operate at around 140 decibels, which is still highly damaging to the ears. The loudness of gunshots makes it essential to use proper hearing protection to prevent hearing loss.

Why are gunshots so loud?

Gunshots are loud because they generate concussive blasts, which are sudden and intense sound waves caused by the rapid release of energy during the firing of a firearm. When a gun is fired, the explosion in the chamber propels the bullet out of the barrel, creating a shockwave that travels through the air and into the ear. This shockwave causes the eardrum to vibrate violently, potentially leading to hearing damage.
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How long does hearing loss last after shooting a gun?

The extent of hearing loss after shooting a gun can vary depending on several factors, including the calibre of the firearm, the number of shots fired, and the distance from the source of the gunshot. In some cases, exposure to just one gunshot can cause permanent hearing damage. Hearing loss can be immediate, but it can also develop gradually over time due to repeated exposure to loud gunshots. It is essential to take hearing protection seriously and wear appropriate earplugs or earmuffs during shooting activities.

Shooter's ear

Doctor with stethoscope

Shooter's ear, also known as unilateral hearing loss, is a condition that is often found in people who use firearms frequently, such as competitive shooters or military personnel. It refers to hearing loss that occurs asymmetrically, affecting one ear more than the other. Shooter's ear can result from repeated exposure to loud gunshots over time, and it highlights the importance of protecting both ears during shooting activities.

Types of hearing protection devices (HPDs)

Hearing Protection Devices (HPDs) serve as a preventive measure against hearing loss during shooting activities. Research indicates that a significant number of shooters, particularly hunters, tend to forego wearing hearing protection, as they believe it hampers their ability to hear approaching game.

Modern HPDs have evolved to offer advanced features, enabling users to retain their ability to hear faint sounds while effectively reducing the noise generated by their firearms.

There are two main types of HPDs available to shooters:

Electronic shooting ear plug & ear muff

Electronic shooting ear plugs and ear muffs are an advanced type of hearing protection designed specifically for shooters. These devices use electronic technology to enhance ambient sounds, such as conversations and range commands, while automatically suppressing the loud impulse noises of gunshots. Electronic shooting devices provide a more natural listening experience and can be a preferred option for competitive shooters who need to stay aware of their surroundings.

Prices for electronic HPDs typically range from as little as $100, making them a practical and accessible option for many users.

Nonlinear ear plug

Nonlinear ear plugs are non-electronic HPDs designed to offer better protection against impulse noises like gunshots while still allowing for clear communication and situational awareness.

They are available in the form of earplugs and custom-made earmolds. Experts consider nonlinear HPDs with filters to be the preferred choice for effective hearing protection.

Non-linear ear plugs are also more budget-friendly, with prices starting at around $10, providing an affordable solution for those seeking reliable hearing protection.

Shooting ear protection

When it comes to hearing protection for shooting, several options are available, each with its advantages. Let's explore two popular choices: shooting ear plugs and shooting ear muffs.

Shooting ear plugs

Shooting ear plugs are a popular choice among shooters due to their compact size, ease of use, and effective noise reduction. These earplugs are designed to fit snugly into the ear canal, creating a seal that blocks out loud noises, including gunshots.

Shooting ear muffs

Shooting ear muffs are another popular option for hearing protection during shooting activities. They cover the entire ear and create a seal to block out external noises effectively. High-quality shooting ear muffs can offer substantial noise reduction and are particularly suitable for shooters who find earplugs uncomfortable or have difficulty achieving a proper fit with earplugs.

Are ear plugs enough for shooting?

Earplugs are a common choice for hearing protection during shooting activities. They are easy to carry, affordable, and offer effective noise reduction. However, using earplugs alone may not provide sufficient protection, especially with high-calibre or loud firearms. It is advisable to use both earplugs and earmuffs together to achieve maximum hearing protection. The combination of earplugs and earmuffs can significantly reduce the risk of hearing damage from gunshots.

Ear pain while shooting

Experiencing ear pain while shooting may indicate that your hearing protection is not fitting correctly or providing adequate noise reduction. Ear pain can also be a sign of improper insertion of earplugs or earmuffs. It is crucial to ensure that your hearing protection is worn correctly and comfortably to avoid discomfort or potential hearing damage.

Bluetooth hearing protection earbuds for shooting

For shooters who prefer wireless and convenient solutions, Bluetooth hearing protection earbuds for shooting are becoming increasingly popular. These earbuds combine excellent sound quality, wireless connectivity, and effective noise reduction, making them an ideal choice for shooting activities.

Best hearing protection for shooting in Australia

In Australia, the best hearing protection for shooting is a combination of earplugs and earmuffs. There are various brands and models available, each offering different levels of noise reduction and comfort. The top-rated options often include well-known brands such as Surefire Sonic Defenders, Honeywell Impact Sport, 3M Peltor TEP-200, and more. When selecting hearing protection, consider factors such as noise reduction rating (NRR), comfort, durability, and ease of use.

Surefire Sonic Defenders

The Surefire Sonic Defenders are highly regarded hearing protection earplugs trusted by military and law enforcement professionals. With a range of colour options, these earplugs are not only functional but also suitable for tactical, hunting, and civilian use. Featuring a unique port-plug opening, they allow for passive sound to pass through, offering situational awareness while still protecting against harmful gunfire noise. The secure fit ear hooks ensure they stay in place even during intense movement, making them an excellent choice for shooters seeking reliable and versatile hearing protection.

Main features

  • Trusted by Military and Law Enforcement
  • Multiple colour options for tactical, hunting, and civilian use
  • Port-plug opening for passive sound
  • Noise Reduction Rating (NRR): 24dB
  • Secure fit ear hooks for stability during movement
  • Lanyard ear-to-ear mechanism for added security

Honeywell Impact Sport

The Honeywell Impact Sport earmuffs are designed to provide both hearing protection and enhanced situational awareness for shooting enthusiasts. Their slimline design makes them lightweight and comfortable to wear for extended periods. Available in various colour options, including high visibility orange and yellow for hunters, these earmuffs boast large and robust controls that can be easily operated with gloves. The ability to amplify passive sounds up to 85dB means you can hear range commands and conversations while still being shielded from high-impact gunshots.

Main features

  • Slimline design for lightweight and comfortable wear
  • Over ten colour options to choose from
  • Large and robust controls for easy operation with gloves
  • NRR: 22dB
  • Amplifies passive sounds up to 85dB for enhanced awareness
  • Suitable for both shooting and everyday use

3M Peltor TEP-200 Tactical Ear Plug

The 3M Peltor TEP-200 Tactical Ear Plug is a high-quality and versatile wireless earbud option for shooters. With excellent build quality and comfort, these earbuds come with large physical button controls that can be operated even while wearing gloves. The earbuds' charging case adds convenience and provides a secure storage solution. With Bluetooth 5.0 technology, the TEP-200 offers improved battery life and a stable connection. These earbuds are customizable, with various tip styles available to ensure the perfect fit and maximum noise reduction for the user.

Main features

  • Excellent build quality and comfort
  • Large physical button controls for glove-friendly operation
  • High-quality charging case
  • NRR: 29dB with appropriate ear tips
  • Customizable with various tip styles for optimum fit and noise reduction
  • Bluetooth 5.0 for improved battery life and stable connection

Howard Leight Quiet Band

The Howard Leight Quiet Band offers a unique and convenient hearing protection solution for shooters. This product consists of a plastic neckband with attached earplugs, making them quick and easy to put on and take off during shooting sessions. Available in high visibility colours, they are easy to spot if dropped or left behind. The Quiet Band is an ideal choice for hunters and shooting enthusiasts who prefer a portable and compact design for their hearing protection needs.

Main features

  • Convenient plastic neckband with attached earplugs
  • High visibility colour for easy detection
  • NRR: 25dB
  • Ideal for quick and easy on/off during shooting sessions
  • Suitable for hunters and shooting enthusiasts
  • Compact and portable design

Sordin Supreme Pro-X Active Ear Defenders

The Sordin Supreme Pro-X Active Ear Defenders are premium-quality hearing protection with a track record of reliability. These ear defenders offer an impressive NRR of 32dB and 31dB noise cancellation, providing unmatched safety in noisy shooting environments. The IP67 waterproof rating ensures they can withstand tough conditions, making them suitable for all-day use in various shooting scenarios. With an AUX input for music and radio connectivity, the Sordin Supreme Pro-X is a top-notch option for shooters seeking the best in hearing protection.

Main features

  • Premium build quality and reliability
  • NRR: 32dB and 31dB noise cancelation for unmatched safety
  • IP67 waterproof rating for enhanced durability
  • AUX input for music and radio connectivity
  • Suitable for all-day use in noisy environments

Conclusions on ear protection while shooting

Understanding the importance of using ear protection when shooting firearms is not complicated; it is the most straightforward method to safeguard your hearing over time.

Even a single gunshot can lead to permanent and irreversible hearing damage.

Whether you want to acquire more knowledge about Hearing Protective Devices (HPDs), explore hearing aid reviews, or obtain a hearing aid for existing hearing loss, EarPros is here to assist. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation with a licensed hearing professional.

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