If you fire a gun on a regular basis, you probably understand the importance of proper ear protection. Whether you shoot for work or play, your hearing can be greatly affected by these loud blasts. Since hearing loss is gradual, the bad news is that you won’t notice it until it’s too late. The good news is that you can take precautions now to reduce or prevent hearing loss related to firearm use. Lots of people have questions or misconceptions about this area of tactical gear. Let’s take a closer look with our tactical ear protection buying guide to help dispel some common misconceptions and break down the basics.
The Big Three
There are three main concerns with firing any type of firearm in regard to protecting your hearing. These factors can help you determine which ear protection is best for you. When looking at any type of tactical ear protection comparison, you have to figure these three factors into which solution might work best for your needs.
- Frequency: from low to high sounds, measured in Hertz. Higher frequencies have a higher chance of doing damage to the ear, but you should consider both frequencies.
- Intensity: how soft or loud a sound is. This is measured in decibels and denoted as dB.
- Duration: how long the report or feedback from the firing blasts.
Inside versus Outside
When looking at the above factors which determine how much protection is needed, our tactical ear protection buying guide needs to start off with the difference between shooting indoors and outdoors. When you shoot indoors, the sound is naturally more concentrated which means it is more powerful. When shooting outdoors, the sound has more space to travel outwards, so you get a slightly quieter shot. However, when shooting outdoors, there is also the echo factor which should be considered. With blast sounds, those top three factors all come into play. For instance, if you are shooting a high blast, large caliber firearm indoors, you will probably need a higher sound reduction rating even without the factor of echoes which prolongs the factor of duration because the intensity is greater than outdoors. Of course, when working with high caliber firearms, you should opt for earplugs and a quality headset combined instead of one over the other. However, in an outdoor setting, you can probably get away with just the headset and skip the plugs since the sound is slightly less intense.
People ask if there are different types of ear protection for indoor versus outdoor, but the answer is all gear is pretty much the same with the only difference being the noise reduction ratings. If you shoot with a set of ear protection indoors, you can basically shoot with it outdoors as well. It depends more on the firearms than the situation.
Understanding Sound Ratings
One of the biggest considerations to make in terms of tactical ear protection comparison is the matter of how much sound is blocked. Since not all firearms fire off at the same level of sound, you will need to keep this in mind. For instance, a revolver and a rifle have different levels of sound created with the shot. If you are working mostly with revolvers or lower caliber guns, you will still need protection, but with rifles, automatic, or anything louder and closer to your shoulder, you will need a higher level of protection against sounds. The way to measure this is based on the decibel blockage rating. Many people are confused by the rating they see associated with the decibels so let’s take a closer look at the matter.
The decibels rating will state that it blocks a certain number of decibels from the sound decibels created by the firearm. For instance, if a firearm creates a decibel of 140dB, a quality pair of ear protection might offer blockage of up to 30dB. Many people assume this isn’t enough protection or it is a sign of poor quality, but these products aren’t designed to eliminate all sound but rather greatly reduce it to a safer level. So, if you are shooting handguns which create lower decibel, you can get away with 21 dB rating for safe levels or up it to 30dB to reduce even more noise. It is all about reducing sound to a safer level for the sake of your hearing.
Personal or professional use?
People often ask if they need different ear protection for personal or professional shooting. The answer is rather simple. Regardless of whether you are training for professional development or personal enjoyment, the guns are the same and therefore the sounds have the same potential to do hearing damage. The goal is to protect your hearing regardless of why you are training.
Here are a few recommendations for great solutions for this purpose to help you protect your hearing from loss.