Hunters Listen Up: Here’s Why You Should Invest in a Pair of Electronic Shooting Ear Muffs
OutdoorHub Reporters 08.22.18
Shooting ear muffs are pretty much a must have piece of safety equipment for gun owners – if you care at all about your hearing. With that said, electronic shooting ear muffs are still misunderstood and not as widely used as they should be.
Electronic ear muffs offer unique features over traditional hearing protection. In there simplest form, these electronic shooting muffs allow normal conversation at the range- important for hearing range officer commands, and blank loud gunshot sounds. Better grades of ear muffs such as these by Howard Leight will include multi-directional microphones, which make them ideal for use by hunters, plus inputs for an MP3 player, and exceptionally long battery life.
But what is the importance of shooting ear muffs with electronic features?
We all know hearing protection is important for shooting safety, and we all should know that even a single gunshot can cause permanent hearing damage. While pretty much everyone wears their hearing protection to the range, hunters are more lax, although for some understandable reasons. Having your hearing unimpeded when hunting is important for tracking game, and being aware of dangers around you. After all, do you really want to be unaware of a charging bear, or stumble over a hidden drug lab without being able to hear what’s going on around you?
Sometimes hunters have the luxury of putting hearing protection on before taking a shot. Maybe their game is standing still, or you are settled into a blind or comfortable shooting position and are waiting for your quarry. But lets face it, a lot of the time hunters don’t have the time to put on hearing protection, and will take that shot, figuring that a couple unprotected shots per year really won’t matter.
The National Institutes of Health have a lot to say about hearing damage. Prolonged exposure to loud noise can cause hearing loss, but what we are most interested in is impulse caused noise induced hearing loss. The sudden and loud impulse of sound from shooting a gun can be loud and strong enough to cause hearing loss. Now you might not notice it the first time, or even the fifth time, but each time that strong sound impulse hits your ears without protection, there is a little bit more hearing loss each time, and eventually it will add up.
Do you really want reach old age and suddenly have a lifetime of hunting catch up to you and wreck your ears?
Of course not, and that’s why shooting ear muffs with electronic features are so important.
When choosing the best shooting ear muff electronic, there are a few things to consider. Are you just shooting at the range? If so, you really don’t need stereo sound, you can get away with a single microphone. After all, all you really need to do is be able to chat with the people around you, and hear any commands from the range officer. You can go cheap with ear muffs like these from Winchester, but when buying at the low end, be aware of the decibel rating. Higher is better, and you really don’t want to go below 30 decibel reduction unless you are shooting “quieter” guns like .22’s or some common handguns. Of course you can always wear foam ear plugs under your shooting ear muffs, but that kind of defeats the purpose of electronic ones- so shop carefully.
But there is one other key advantage of shooting ear muffs electronic. The better ones like the Howard Leight ear muffs we saw earlier can compress sound. Because you have the passive protection of ear muffs, plus the electronic protection of transmitted sound, the electronic filters can reduce and compress sound being transmitted. Some ear muffs simply cut off the microphone at loud sounds, but the best designed ones actively work to compress and reduce heard sound through the use of sophisticated electronic circuitry.
If you still aren’t convinced about the value of shooting ear muffs with electronic features, consider how valuable your hearing is. If you mostly use passive protection, you’ll be safe and ok. But you probably won’t use them hunting, and you might find yourself taking them off at the range between shooting sessions just so you can have conversations. Unfortunately it is really easy to be exposed to loud noise by accident if other shooters are still shooting. I’ve had this happen, and can assure you that it is no fun to have a .308 suddenly go off inches from your ear! With a good electronic shooting ear muff I wouldn’t have been tempted to take my passive ear muffs off.
In the end, these kinds of shooting ear muffs are a cheap investment. They are increasingly affordable, with even high grade ones with multi directional microphones and sound compressing electronics selling for around fifty bucks or less. There is really no reason not to have at least one pair in your range bag. Your hearing, and the added benefits are really worth it.