Hearing Protection Buyer's Guide
Noise levels are measured in decibels, which we write "dB". A gun shot is rated at 149dB and to compare, the typical office generally has a noise level of 60dB to 65dB. Noises louder than 80 decibels are dangerous and can cause immediate and permanent hearing loss. When we look at what hearing protection to buy, we need to pay close attention to the product's NRR, or Noise Reduction Rating, which is defined as the maximum number of decibels (dB) that the hearing protector will reduce the sound level when worn. By law, all hearing protection products have to have a NRR rating. The highest NRR rating you can get is 33 NRR. A product with a 28 to 31 NRR is recommended for indoor shooting. There are two different kinds of hearing protection, ear plugs and ear muffs. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health actually recommends using both earplugs and earmuffs together when shooting. It might come as a surprise to hear that earplugs can actually offer more protection than ear muffs, because ear plugs fully block the ear canal.
There are quite a few different types of ear plugs: single use, multiple-use, banded and corded. An example of single-use ear plugs is 58066.
Banded or corded ear plugs are best if you move between a noisy place and a non-noisy place, like between the shooting range and your range's lobby. 93339.
Multiple-use earplugs are easier to use because they do not require rolling to fit in your ear. For example, 75023
Earmuffs are either electronic or passive. Electronic earmuffs amplify quieter sounds, allowing you to hear your range master's commands, like EAR-113. These earmuffs will have integrated microphones and some have independent volume controls, such as 46160.
Passive earmuffs simply block sound using foam and other materials located inside the ear cup. A good example is 46161.
One thing to look for in your earmuffs is the style of band. Plastic headbands hold their shape better than a metal band. Metal bands can become stretched through time, leading them to decrease the level of protection.
Other earmuffs offer added features such as 75027 with a built-in am/fm radio and EAR-111 that has a jack to plug in your iPod.