Best Shooting Ear Protection Reviewed & Rated for Safety
If you're a marksman of any kind time at the range is incredibly important. But shooting indoors, even shooting outdoors can do a number on your ears. Obviously, there is a ton of variation when it comes to gun caliber and size, which will make for a wide range of decibel (the unit of measurement for the loudness of a sound) measurements, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t risk. For instance, the barrier for permanent and harmful immediate damage to an eardrum is around 140db, while one of the quietest calibers of gun on the market is the .32 LONG at a high 153db. This means, that nearly any cartridge-based ammunition or firearm could cause irreparable damage to your ears in a single shot.
In a Hurry? The test winner after 12 hrs of research
Amplifies ambient sound
Can play music
Blocks 85db and up
Amazing sale price
Comfort for shooting
Best Shooting Ear Protection
1. Honeywell R-01526
Amplifies ambient sound
Can play music
Blocks 85db and up
Amazing sale price
Comfort for shooting
Some cup fitting issues
Reports of static
Amazon’s Choice for best shooting ear protection comes in the form of these Howard Leight Impact Sport Sound Amplification Electronic Shooting Earmuffs, and truly, they are a piece of genius which is why we had to put them at the top spot on our list here. There are so many things to love about these Howard Leight Earmuffs, but we should really pick out the top two and maybe squeeze in a handful of other ones along the way.
The reason why electronic ear protection will always reign supreme over the normal standard of noise-canceling headphones or protection is that they don’t kill all of the sounds. Cues and callouts could spell the difference between being a safe shooter and putting someone or yourself in harm's way while shooting. The ability to hear your surroundings at a range is extremely important. A built-in microphone picks up and sends ambient noise through to your ears, but completely shuts off and blocks all noise as soon as the ambient noise hits or goes over 85db, keeping you well within the safe zone at all times.
Out of Your Way
One of the toughest parts about using non-shooting related ear protection while at the range is that the designers and manufacturers aren’t aware of what the situation is while you’re shooting. The Howard Leight Honeywell Impact Sport Earmuffs are the opposite. They are designed with comfortable padding all around, but most importantly, slim ear cups and rifle cut-aways for easy cheek leaning and aiming. Try doing that with your standard noise-canceling protection.
Cost and Value
The standard price for the Howard Leight Honeywell is a great deal all on their own. But thanks to being pegged by Amazon as a “must-buy” item, these earmuffs are an absolute steal. They protect your ears from harmful volumes. They amplify ambient noise so you don’t miss the conversations or twig snaps. You can even use them as headphones with the aux jack! There is no greater value on the market.
2. Fnova 34dB
Fits adults and kids
Some cup fitment issues reported
May be tight on huge heads
These are the exact types of hearing protection that we mentioned a moment ago that the Howard Leight (and others like them) will always beat out no matter what, at the range. It’s pretty simple why these just aren’t necessarily designed with shooting and gun-play in mind. Though, they do an absolutely amazing job of blocking out those harmful noises we need to do a better job of avoiding. Which is why they are on this list, and why they are so high on said list. If you’re hunting for something that might be more useful while shooting but also outside of the range, then the Fnova Adjustable Ear Protection sets might be the exact thing you’re looking for.
While the electronic ear protection might be the most modern way to keep the harmful decibels away from your ears whilst still allowing you to be present, ear protection like this Fnova set is the extremely simplified version. There’s nothing fancy here, just extremely deep and thick protection from noise. The Fnova Professional Ear Defenders are like over-ear headphones, but without a single piece of electronics within them. They just simply protect, only allowing 34db of sound within them.
One of the better design decisions made by Fnova when putting together the headband for their Professional Ear Defenders is that they wanted the same earmuffs to fit both adults (with giant heads) and children (that have smaller heads, obviously). This isn’t normally something that earmuff manufacturers think of, rather, they’d prefer to have two offerings, one for adults and a different one for youth.
Cost and Value
It’s always delightful when you think about all the benefits that come with a pared-down design, and simple elegance. One of those perks is that you won’t be paying as much for the simple version of a product as you would if you thought about picking up something a bit more complicated. There’s no shortage of uses for the Ear Defenders by Fnova, and that’s exactly what they’ve aimed for with these budget-friendly monsters of protection.
Three color options
100% satisfaction guarantee
Will hurt bigger heads
Here comes a long-winded product name but from a company that sounds like the chap that leads a hunting party wearing a fancy trilby hat and a suede coat that has a standard pianists tail. Teasing aside, Vanderfields has put together an extremely elite pair of shooting ear protection muffs with their offering, and it should be considered by anyone looking to spend a few dollars less than the average price of our list, without giving up more than normal cheap protection would.
One thing no one would ever see coming is a decently made pair of ear protection that comes in under the bar of the normal price for comparable products, that somehow manages to record a better Noise Reduction Rating than almost all of those same big name brand’s versions that you will pay a few bucks more for. The Vanderfields Ear Protection for Shooting has an astounding 26db reduction rating. Meaning that all noise is muffled to 26db or lower while wearing these protective muffs.
Small Name, Big Guarantee
After swinging for the fences with their competition-staggering Noise Reduction Rating they were awarded, this relatively small company backs all of that up with a 100% Satisfaction Guarantee that seems to have no end. If at any point you’re not happy with these higher rated, and slightly cheaper standard protection earmuffs, you will get your money back or a replacement pair.
Cost and Value
Everything about this product oozes value. Whether you want to focus on the brilliant money-back satisfaction guarantee provided by a small manufacturer, or the competitive Noise Reduction Rating, or the slightly cheaper price tag, or the boasted extreme comfort, there’s something to eyeball at every turn with this product, and everyone looking for a decent pair of ear protection muffs should consider picking one up from Vanderfields.
Additional patches for flare
Amplifies ambient noise
Above budget price
Only two colors
Walker’s is a name that almost every single fan of hunting or range shooting will recognize. They’ve had a long traditional history in crafting amazing gear for the seasoned hunters and the rookies. That’s why it’s a no-brainer for us to put what is essentially their version of the number one item on our list, here at number 4. Walker’s stands to not steer you wrong, and we tend to agree with all of the customer ravings.
That Army Appeal
It’s not that often that we focus so much on aesthetics when we’re reviewing and building guides for safety gear. Everything is usually designed for safety, right down to the visuals. But ear protection is a tad different because it’s such a small piece of protective gear, a lot of these companies go the extra mile with their looks, and Walker’s is no slouch. These electronic ear protection muffs have an amazing Aircraft Carrier type of design, and they even send along some patches for the side of your muffs.
Noise Reduction Rating
All hearing protection is graded on a rate of decibel allowance and disqualification. This system is called the Noise Reduction Rating, or NRR in short-hand. This number is the maximum amount of exposure your ears will have whilst wearing the given protection, so it’s obviously a lot better to have as low of an NRR number as you can. The Walker’s Patriot Series Electronic Ear Muffs are sitting at a comfortable NRR of 23db. That’s 60 decibels lower than the Howard Leight pair we put at the top of our list.
Cost and Value
The cost of ear protection that installs systems of electronic support are roughly five times the cost of just padded ear protection muffs, but the fact that you’re not getting into crazy price ranges with the technological advancements we’ve made is pretty great. The Walker’s Patriot Series muffs are a great deal at their price and are backed by a ton of fan appreciation, some extra goodies thrown in, and a staggeringly low NRR rating.
Wide range of fits
Folds down small
Ear fitment complaints
Can be tight on huge heads
On the surface, you might be looking at this product listed and be fearful that it resembles the awful types of products that are pushed all over social media. Buzzwords galore, a bunch of weird keyboard characters that aren’t common, and not a whole lot of actual information. Luckily for us, and you, there is a ton of info on the box. These ClearArmor Shooters Hearing Protection Safety Ear Muffs are one of the best pair of standard ear protection muffs on the market, and they fall in line when it comes to the price.
Great NRR Rating
Yes we know, technically the last “R” in “NRR” stands for “Rating” but the title of this segment just feels weird if we don’t add the word at the end as well. It keeps things smooth. Stop hassling me! The ClearArmor 141001 (great name right?) have an astounding NRR number of just 31db which is slightly lower than most of the other standard hearing protection muffs on our list, and just above some of the most premium ear protection sets on the entire market.
Much like some other notable headsets on our list, the ClearArmor Shooters Hearing Protection Ear Muffs also have a wide range of fits. At their widest, they will easily go over a full-grown adults head, while at their smallest, will easily fit someone just a few years old, and can even be fitted on some babies (reported in the reviews). That’s a range that many items on this list just won’t compete with.
Cost and Value
You can tell that the ClearArmor Shooters Hearing Protection Safety Ear Muffs are of decent or good quality because they land on the price range at around the same dollar value that all of the other standard (non-electronic) hearing protection comes in at. You get one of the best NRR numbers on one of the best ear protective sets on the market, all for very little in terms of wallet weight.
6. Westone DefendEar
Three levels of amplification
Fits almost anyone
Poor customer service
Remember that time -- like a few hundred words ago -- when we mentioned that the evolution of hearing protection starting with Homer’s Odyssey and that the most common form of ear guarding comes in the form of little plugs? Well, Westone took that mark and threw a whole ton of engineering at it, and spat out one of the coolest, most unique, and well-equipped pairs of hearing protective earplugs ever to be made.
The Plug of the Future
Instead of embarking down the path of little foam plugs, Westone has developed plugs that fit firmly in the ear canal, that have more tech packed into them then your Apple AirPods. These little bad boys have the ability to block out anything about 30db from reaching your eardrums and have three standard settings of ambient noise allowance. Thanks to a tiny microphone, these buds will let normal levels of volume in, even amplifying them in some cases, letting you hear a conversation, whispers, and even the rustling of leaves.
Will Fit Almost Everyone
Thanks to the foam fitting ends, the Westone DefendEar (get it? It’s like defender, but with the word ear in it?) can and will fit almost everyone's ear. Simple mush down the foam with your fingers -- like you would with normal neon foam plugs -- and let them retake form within your ear canal. This can be a bit of a process at times, but they do an amazing job of filling almost any ear canal.
Cost and Value
We’ll get it out of the way now, the Westone DefendEar Digital Shooter Hearing Protection Ear Plugs are crazy expensive. But on the shoulders of that vast expense comes half a century of manufacturing and design prowess, as well as a ton of technology and safety packed into these teeny weenie plugs. These are the true golden children of the hearing protection aisle.
7. Honeywell R-01902
350-hour battery life
Passive 30db NRR
Earcup fitment woes
Bulkier than other sets
Here we’ve got another one of the fantastic offering from Howard Leight by Honeywell, very similar to the number one item on our list, but a little bit older and less fresh in the design. But that doesn’t make them less of a viable option for those looking to pick up a very worthy pair of earmuffs for their shooting ear protection needs. Rather, those that might not have access to the sale of our number one item, might opt for this version of the Impact Pro because the base price is cheaper.
Safe and Sound
A lot of electronic headphones boast the number that reactionary releases will promote, like the NRR rating (Noise Reduction Rating) and that’s amazing. At its core, all ear protection of any sort should promote how well they can block sound, considering that’s their sole initial job. But the Howard Leight by Honeywell Impact Pro model a few years old uses it’s active ambient noise amplification to allow all sounds up to a safe decibel (82db) and immediately shuts off when anything makes a higher level of sound, which is perfect for gunshots.
Though they are electronic ear protection muffs, the Howard Leight by Honeywell Impact Pro headset can also passively block out sounds above 30db with the microphone and amplifier turned off, making this one of the best protective ear muffs on our entire list, and that’s completely discounting the technologically advanced systems that it also offers.
Cost and Value
At a few Hamiltons, less than the newer, more sleeker model, these Howard Leight Impact Pro over-ear protective muffs are a darn good deal. Even if you were to take out the active electronically advance ambient pass-through and amplification, you’ve still got a top-tier set of protective headphones.
Very oval ear cups
It’s always a little bit daunting searching for gear to use while shooting or hunting (or any outdoor activity really) and running across companies that just aren’t brought up in those types of conversations in North America. Ucho is one of those companies. They aren’t an astoundingly historied company with a million great products and mountains of stellar reviews over decades, but they have put together an amazing package if you’re shopping for some high-quality shooting ear protection.
I suppose that most people with average-sized heads have probably never had to deal with the “headset hangover” because they just naturally fit comfortably into any setting. But as a large-headed human, I can assure you that the headache from headphone pressure is just no fun. Thanks to an adjustable pin system, the Shooting Ear Protection Safety Earmuffs from Ucho have a “no-pressure” guarantee. Along with a 100% risk-free warranty.
It’s not going to blow anyone away, but for a relatively unknown company trying to make a few bucks by offering a surprisingly competitive product in a lucrative market, the Ucho Shooting Ear Protection has a really solid 34db NRR rating, and that’s on par with the biggest brand names on this list.
Cost and Value
Another area that might surprise you is that the Ucho Shooting Ear Protection isn’t below the market median. These competitive protective muffs are also comparable in the price department. With the Ucho pair, you get a comfortable fit, foldable design, and a 34db on the Noise Reduction Rating board which is fantastic.
9. Pro For Sho
Can feel tight to some
Earcup fitment problems
Regardless of how “pro” these are “for sho”, the Maximum Hearing Protection from the folks with the oddly hip and slightly misspelled phrase that “the kids say” is a great alternative to the pair of Fnova Professional Ear Protection we listed above. There’s a whole ton of care and love put into the manufacturing of these earmuffs, despite what the not-so-catchy company name is. They even match the 34fb rating that the Fnova pair has.
One thing that a lot of people don’t consider -- and unfortunately, those people also include the manufacturers and designers of these products -- is that safety and fashion can have some overlap. But not too much, because you’re still wearing giant earmuffs. The Pro For Sho Maximum Hearing Protection muffs come in nine different amazing colors, and those are just the ones we found on Amazon. These are a great choice if color options are key to your search.
It’s not really something that stands out against other items on this list, because a lot of products in this market can do this, but it is exceptionally great when a pair of shooting ear protectors that are this size can pack or fold down into something that’s not much bigger than a softball. Most headphones these days don’t even fold away that much, and here you’ve got almost perfect sound protection for your ears that is able of fitting in your jacket pocket or your bag with ease.
Cost and Value
At just a little bit more than the Fnova pair of ear protectors, the Pro For Sho Maximum Hearing Protection is an astounding value at this budget-friendly price. Thanks to the standard non-technological design, these simple earmuffs can withstand high volumes letting in just 34db to the wearer's eardrums. Safety at one of the best numbers and a cheap price is always a good sign.
10. Mpow Foam Earplugs
Soft and comfortable foam
Carrier can only hold one pair
Not optimal for re-use
Mpow is the leaders in the beautifully standard ear plugs. Yes! We’re at the end of our list and we’d be remiss if we didn’t include an option that was just the everyday foam earplugs that we have made mention of no less then a thousand times over the course of this buying guide. Mpow has some impressive history, but nothing beats how impressive these simple foam earplugs are.
They may resemble those concert-goers ear plugs, and they are, really, but that doesn’t mean they can’t also be highly functional at accomplishing the task they set out to do, which protects against high levels of volume. These little green foam gems have a wonderfully shocking Noise Reduction Rating of 32db, meaning all sound around you is passively muffled to 32db of volume or lower, acting more like a whisper to your eardrums then a gunshot.
Not only are you getting a pair of foam ear plugs that will fit nearly any ear canal, but you’re also getting 59 more of the exact same thing! That’s right, there are 60 pairs in this bottle. It’s also great to know that these ear plugs are hygienic, thanks to a cool little plug carrying a bottle with a key-chain attachment. They are also made out of gentle and soft foam that won’t do any sort of damage to your inner ear, and have a slow rebound, helping the wearer ensure a perfect fit and position.
Cost and Value
In what other markets can you opt to get a really high-quality pair of anything, or go for the version that’s slightly cheaper, and comes with 60 pairs? Probably not many. But the Mpow is last on our list for a reason. Many shooting enthusiasts understand that owning often reusable and reliable over-ear protection might be a better investment.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
If we were to look at the regular gold standard for volume protection and ear coverings, you’re going to want to (as we did) pay close attention to the quality of the headband, and that which is stuck to it. This is the part that you will most likely notice the most while wearing it, and picking up some ear protection only to have it bother you because it’s uncomfortable, is a huge bummer. The hinge of the ear cups is also a crucial point of focus because that’s almost always the first thing to go on over-ear protection or headphones. One of the muffs will break off from the hinge and you’ll be left fending for your drums, or just using tap like the rest of us.
The foam in everything matter. But not more than it does within the ear cup. Almost all of the manufacturers on our list and most of the market will have a clear description or diagram that displays exactly how their ear cups are built, staged out like a lego explosion. This is something you’re going to want to watch out for while shopping. It’s easy to hide the density or quality of a muff in a product shot. The exploded diagram is key.
For those ear protection headsets that rely a whole lot on electronics and technology to offer the wearers a supernatural experience while also protecting their hearing, you’ll need to pay as close attention as you can to the quality of those electronics. You’ll often seek our consumer reviews for this, as it turns out, those tasked with selling shooting ear protection sure don’t understand technical mumbo-jumbo, so there’s a bare minimum in the product descriptions.
Features aren’t deep in the standard pairs of over-ear protection. You’ve usually got a lightweight build, ear cups (obviously), and possibly some design that allows you to fold them up and stick them in a bag or carrier. That’s about it. There isn’t a huge list of extras one can search for when looking for the bare-bones side of the market.
The electrical and technical side of the ear protection market, however, is an astounding array of tech specs and features. From the ability to amplify ambient noise one, two, or three times louder than natural. To the absolutely crucial ability to completely shut off all incoming noise when the volume range hits a certain threshold.
Other general features include shipping with a case or carrier, having other forms of protection in the box (hunting glasses, etc), or just having some awesome variety in the color department.
It’s important that we don’t head into our search for anything with the idea that just because this market sounds boring and simple, that we shouldn’t shop for some features that might drastically improve our experience or pleasure. Be crucial regarding a product's features, and the contents of a package. There’s no shame in looking for the best option, rather than a great option.
It began a little bit hairy, but we quickly established that there are two distinct (incredibly so, I might add) price ranges in the world of shooting ear protection. Either one of them is grande and affordable. Of course, there are astoundingly expensive ear protection options out there (we included a single one), but those are mostly the exception and not the rule.
There’s a range of hearing protection earmuffs that come with no technical aspects, and all they focus on is getting the absolute best job done in keeping the noise you hear to a minimum. They do a great job of that. These will run you a few Benjamins. The median is pretty comparative, and you truly shouldn’t really have to even consider options at the 30 to 40 dollar price range, because there’s so much quality at half that price.
Then there are the active listening, ambient allowance, and more advanced ear muffs that come to the table being able to allow the wearer to remain attached to the sounds of the outside world and only cutting off the sound when it reaches a dangerous level. These ear protection options shouldn’t ever reach three digits, but they can run anywhere between 50 and 80-ish bucks, which is pretty worth it for the improvement in the experience that technology has brought to the world of sound dampening.
As with anything we post here, it’s really important to find a budget and stay within it. It truly helps if you narrow down your search criteria before setting out on the adventure of shopping because this will help keep you focused on true competitors, instead of getting lost in a different battle altogether.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
The ear protection you're wearing. We understand that you are bulletproof, invisible, and completely indestructible, and if you're and live under a lucky star you might be... NOW! But time does pass, and if you're a musician, or work outside amongst large machines of any kind, or if you like to hunt or target shoot, each loud bang, loud chord, or loud shot is messing with year ears. And yes, we understand that sometimes headphones look stupid, but trust us on this one, we don't care what kind of ear protection you buy for yourself, but buy some. And once you've bought it... WEAR IT! We're not playing here, trust us, hearing loss is the next epidemic, the world is a loud place, and we want you to be able to hear it in all its glory for many decades.
Frequently Asked Questions
q: What is a decibel?
In a world where we have to be able to measure everything, the decibel is the actual unit used to measure the impact or density of volume. This can include all things that produce sound, including cars, concerts, guns and more. There are many tools that can be used to measure decibels, and the use of decibels in relation to hearing protection is extremely important because that’s the exact scale we need to measure these products up against.
q: What is a harmful volume?
The scale of decibels is a little bit tricky, mathematically. It can often not make a whole lot of sense. The website HowStuffWorks describes that a jet engine is nearly a trillion times more powerful than a near-silent noise, yet, on the decibel scale, it’s 120 in comparison to the silent 0dB. Things like a whisper would rate between 15 and 20dB, while conversation at normal volume rates around the 60dB range.
Permanent damage isn’t guaranteed but can begin to be afflicted on your eardrums starting around the 80-85dB range. For comparison sake, a rock concert or a jet engine is 120dB, and a gunshot (the whole reason we’re here rating these items) is a whopping 140 decibels on the scale. So protection while shooting should be mandatory if you like your ability to hear things.
q: What does NRR stand for?
Tons of people asked this question, and that’s because a lot of the products on the market display an NRR number without any context. Some of the brands that took a bit more time to flesh out their product descriptions did break it down though, and we’re here to help you! The NRR number listed on ear protection is what’s known as the Noise Reduction Rating.
This is given out by a testing facility (much like a DOT sticker on a motorcycle helmet) and rates the protection according to how muffled sounds will be. For instance, a 34dB NRR means that those particular ear muffs will take sounds that are 120dB (a randomly chosen amount) and only allow 34dB of volume through. This is why things sound a little weird and low when you’re got your ears plugged or are wearing protection.