Sixty years ago, hearing protection often amounted to placing a cotton ball or a fired .38 case in each ear. Today’s shooters have much better hearing protection. Many use high-tech electronic muffs, earplugs and behind-the-ear units that do an excellent job of blocking harmful noise and amplifying speech and other low-volume sounds.

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Gunshots increase the pressure of air on eardrums and cause the bones in the middle ear to vibrate. This generates increased pressure in the liquid-filled inner ear, and if the sound level is over 85 decibels (dB), small cells in the inner ear can be damaged. Most centerfire calibers produce noise/pressure levels between 130 and 150 dB. When several guns are fired simultaneously on an indoor range, the noise level can rise far above 150 dB. The dB scale is logarithmic, so 150 dB is actually many times greater than 85 dB. Because of this, a single gunshot often produces temporary damage to unprotected ears, and repeated exposure without hearing protection can cause permanent hearing loss.

High-tech electronic hearing protection has automatic dynamic range compression that uses amplifiers to almost instantly reduce sounds when they reach a pre-set threshold level (usually 82 to 95 dB), and many also increase the volume of faint sounds by as much as 30 dB, making range commands easy to hear. They all have a noise reduction rating (NRR) of at least 19 dB, and some reduce loud noises by up to 33 dB. When high-tech electronic earmuffs are worn with foam earplugs, the total NRR often exceeds 30 dB by a significant amount without significantly reducing the ability to hear low-volume sounds.

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There’s a variety of high-tech hearing devices on the market. Prices vary according to the number of features, the sophistication of the electronics, the level of noise suppression and the length of the warranty. The following is a sample of some of the latest electronic protectors.

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Walker’s Game Ear

Peltor Tactical


Champion Target

Electronic Shooters Protection

Howard Leight

Motorola Solutions

Pro Ears


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