How to Protect Your Hearing in Shooting Sports

Jan 19, 2024

Athlete wearing earmuffs.
Protecting your hearing is critical in shooting sports, for athletes, coaches, and spectators alike.

To achieve this, ear protection with a noise reduction rating (NRR) of at least 25 dB is required while on the range.

The two traditional forms of ear protection are [ear]muffs and [ear]plugs.” These two safeguards are designed to preserve hearing for the future, as sound deterioration tends to worsen with age. Using a shotgun without the proper ear protection will only accelerate this process.

Earmuffs, designed for a comfortable fit on most individuals, efficiently block out noise by covering the entirety of the outer ear. However, this full coverage has the potential to hinder your gun mount so take the opportunity to try different styles. “Pay attention to size, headband and shape. There should be no break in the seal between your head and muffs while you are wearing them.

Moving beyond the classic muffs, electronic earmuffs feature components created to suppress impulsive noises like gunshots, while also enhancing communication capabilities. A good pair of basic earmuffs will cost around $15 whereas electronic earmuffs will run you $50 or more.

Single-use foam earplugs are another popular option. Even with a cord attached, single-use foam earplugs are often inexpensive or even free at certain ranges.

Shooting sports athlete holding firearm and wearing foam earplugs.

The expandable material accommodates most ear canals, and they come in various colors, although bright orange is the most common.

When wearing them, ensure a snug fit by rolling them around, but be aware that they can make normal conversations challenging, prompting occasional removal.

Pro Tip: Keep a few extra pairs of single-use earplugs in your range bag just in case you or one of your teammates needs a pair!

For a more sustainable and user-friendly option, consider reusable earplugs crafted from silicone or rubber. These alternatives offer a durable and eco-friendly solution for extended hearing protection.

Custom-molded earplugs provide a similarly effective yet potentially more pleasant fit by conforming exactly to your ear shape. This secure seal, however, can lead to some communication issues.

Athlete wearing a pair of custom molded earplugs.

For those seeking molded protection with conversational clarity, consider custom-molded earplugs with impulse filters. This feature allows you to hear soft sounds like voices while blocking out loud impulse noises.

Adding in impulse filters will bump your standard custom-molded prices from around $100 to around $200 or more. At large competitions, it is common to find a vendor on-site that can create custom molded earplugs for you.

Regardless of your choice, prioritize the fit, as improperly fitting earmuffs or earplugs render your ears practically defenseless. Evaluate the pros and cons to identify the protection that works best for you. No matter what, do not use AirPods to shield your ears on the range; they definitely don’t count as ear protection.

To read about other essential items needed for shooting sports, visit

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