Protect hearing while shooting firearms


I shoot regularly, a 9mm pistol, but there are obviously others on the range as well. My audiologist suggested I start using double ear protection - both plugs and earmuffs. Does anyone use custom molded ear protection or shooting, or any other high decibels activities, and is it worth the extra hassle and cost?



I used custom silicon mold for trap and pistol competition (22+45) shooting which is louder. Didn’t wear anything for waterfowl or upland game where the exposed shot are infrequent. Worked well. My major loss is disease related.



and is it worth the extra hassle and cost?

seriously? .50¢ foam plugs and the muffs you should already be wearing for mowing, etc



It all depends on what the hearing you have left is worth to you. One thing to remember is a muzzle blast from a firearm can exceed 140dB and the best earmuffs with say a 33dB rating will only cut cut out about 13 dB from that 140 dB blast.The use of muffs and plugs will lower it another 4 to 8 dB. Electronic muffs don’t do a great job with intermittent noise such as is found in shooting, but work best when exposed to constant noise as is found in using power tools or garden equipment. If you want to keep the hearing you have left, you might want to limit how much exposure you give your hearing at the range. I was told when I was 10 by my ENT to stay away from shooting guns, rock concert and always wear ear protection when using power tools and garden equipment.



You’re right, the generic foam insert plugs are a no brainer. For me, they aren’t even the 50 cents - my range provides them at no cost. What I’m talking about is I’ve seen people use full custom molds - I assume made the same way that ITC hearing aids are made. I would imagine the cost for something like that would run a couple hundred dollars.



Frankly if your hearing is such that you need aids you should stay out of indoor shooting ranges.



I was a fairly avid shooter before I had hearing loss. Now I won’t take the chance and risk my residual hearing by shooting. I wear my ear muffs even when mowing the lawn to protect my hearing.



This is a case of not really the answer I wanted, but it’s probably the answer I needed to hear.

You specifically mention indoor ranges. I’ve never shot outdoors, but there is an outdoor range a half hour drive away (as opposed to five minutes for the local indoor range). Is shooting outdoors that much more gentle on hearing than an indoor range?



You should probably avoid outdoor ranges too, a muzzle blast is a muzzle blast and 140+dB is 140+ dB.



Lucky you, in our country we cant have gun legally with hearing loss.



Indoor ranges do seem much louder. While the level from your rounds may be nearly the same, your neighbors sounds are “kept in close” and seem louder than outdoors.



It makes no difference if your indoors or out, you have hearing loss and no matter what you do to protect the hearing you have left is going to be exposed to 140dB of sound that will take more of your hearing.



I shot competitive pistol for years both indoors and out. I was also a trap shooter and hunter. I used fitted molds and standard hearing protection and nothing while hunting. Before the Meniere’s add a big loss, I had the normal mild-moderate loss in my late-60’s. Damage seems to be a combination of volume and duration. The bark of a .45 is brief if loud. Based on my firing 10’s of 1000’s of rounds and consulting in steel mills, I’d say that the effect wasn’t as much as the worry here. I’ll admit that I wasn’t thinking much about loss back then but with all that it was mild-moderate until the large noise-unrelated loss.



I wonder where that measurement is taken. I’d think its much larger in front of the gun – definitely not a place we want to be. :smiley:



Indoor ranges you can’t control the gangbangers that like to blast away with their 44 mag, 357sigs or ARs. The blast waves in the enclosed range are much worst that outside. Outside is just the least of two evils. Take up fishing or golf or whatever Dr keeji suggest.



I shoot indoors, often, and I had my audiologist make me a custom set of shooter’s molds. I don’t remember the price but I think they were about $100. I wear those and my hearing hasn’t been affected by shooting.

I also wear muffs when I run the lawnmower, chainsaw, and the power sander and dust collector my basement shop.



Interesting. As a 63 year old suburban homeowner I never considered myself as a gangbanger simply because of what I shoot. I guess I can add gangbanger to my resume.

F.Y.I. Where I shoot the very safety conscious ranger officers can and do control what and how people shoot. Outdoors it’s a different story.



For sure!! My shooter’s muffs get used more at home than they do at the range. At the range it’s foam earplugs under these: with the power part turned off.



There are quite a few threads on the forum regarding ear protection from loud music, shooting, etc. Just wanted to chime in with some important additional information, possibly helpful in preserving both your ear protection and your HA’s.

About 30 years ago, I got a set of North gun muffs for working in the yard with power tools. They worked great (and still do, relatively). But over time, I noticed the ear cups were disintegrating. Didn’t think too much about it. Hey, things get old, wear out, and need replacing.

Then I noticed the plastic coating on the upper part of the handle on my Honda lawn mower was deteriorating. Wow! Something’s wrong here. Maybe it was that a piece of the plastic “shrink-wrap” handle coating actually broke off in my hand - shortly after I had smeared myself with OFF! Deep Woods mosquito repellent. It’s 25% DEET.

Well, some people are concerned that DEET causes nerve damage. But, motivated by my lawn mower handle going south, I Googled/Binged the Internet and found a bunch of references to the fact that DEET causes deterioration of many types of plastic:

So that’s what probably happened to my North gun muffs, too. I used to copiously smear Deep Woods OFF! on my ear lobes before donning the gun muffs to work in the yard with power tools.

So anyone who applies a DEET-containing mosquito repellent in the hair, around the ears, has it on their hands, etc., might want to worry about getting it on their HA’s, receiver wires, etc., as well as the effect on any ear protection they might wear while out in the yard.

The reason for putting this comment in a hearing protection thread is that I finally decided it was time to get a really good set of new gun muffs. I was surprised at how relatively inexpensive they’ve become on Amazon. I got a pretty good pair for $12.99. It fits me (just). The brand I got is not very adjustable as to head size (in spite of what it says in the product info on Amazon). Although it’s rated as NRR: 34 db, SNR: 35 dB, the low frequency reduction is not that good, ~18 dB at 125 Hz, ~26 dB at 500 Hz. Above those frequencies, at 1000 Hz and above the reduction is close to 40 dB but the package says that given 100 dB white noise (I guess), the average noise level entering the ear will be approximately 65 dB. Also (again, not so good instructions), the box includes a set of foam ear plugs, too, and it seems implicit, but is not explicitly stated, that the claimed level of sound protection will only be achieved if you are also wearing the foam ear plugs as well as the ear muffs.

So in 2019, you can get pretty good ear protection cheap but stay away from the DEET! (Hey! That rhymes!). There are lots of other brands on Amazon. I just happened to pick these. At $12.99, I figured I could afford to take a chance. Disappointed at relative low frequency protection. Anyone have a brand that works better below 500 Hz???

P.S. The DEET effect also explains why my Timex watch straps kept going south, too, within about a year. Now that I know about DEET and have a Samsung Galaxy Gear S3 Frontier smartwatch with a silicone strap, I’m more careful to wipe my hands dry after smearing OFF! on myself, don’t wear my watch when spraying, smearing, and go way out in the yard, away from anything near my house (like my car!) to apply the OFF! I will similarly remove and not use my HA’s when before applying and using DEET-containing materials.

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Live loud music and HA's - How to protect ears and enjoy improved frequency response I get with HA's

I think that for the employees needing safety gear that they can’t and shouldn’t make it unreasonably expensive to get the safety gear.

As for Deet…with that materials effect…I always wonder what it might be doing to our skin. I use it. I don’t like being sucked dry just as much as the next guy…but…