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The Benefits of Electronic Hearing Protection

Mar. 18, 2024

In recent decades, technology has advanced at an astonishing rate. Even in the shooting world, where tradition often reigns, the digital age has made its mark. Now, electronic hearing protection is readily available to shooters at an affordable cost, thanks to modern technology.


Yet, despite its accessibility, many passionate shooters remain unaware of how electronic hearing protection functions or the reasons to invest in it.



All About Earmuffs


Traditional non-electronic earmuffs are referred to as "passive" hearing protection. These earmuffs feature cups around the ears filled with sound-absorbing foam, which effectively dampens incoming sound waves, diminishing the risk of hearing damage from gunshots and other loud noises.


However, this design makes it challenging to hear ordinary sounds at regular volumes. It's easy to spot someone wearing passive earmuffs at the shooting range because they often find themselves shouting to hold a conversation. It's worth noting that without any form of hearing protection while shooting, people may need to raise their voices to communicate with you.


Electronic earmuffs for hearing protection retain the standard ear cups with sound-absorbing foam found in passive earmuffs. This ensures that if the battery runs out, the shooter's hearing will still be safeguarded. What sets them apart is the inclusion of external microphones on the earmuffs. These microphones capture surrounding sounds, amplify them, and deliver them electronically to the shooter's ears.


With electronic muffs, I've noticed that turning the volume control to the maximum allows me to hear better than I can with my naked ears. This is why many hunters opt to wear them in the field. It's important to note that even firing just a few rounds without electronic hearing protection while hunting can lead to irreversible hearing damage.


Early models of electronic earmuffs, including modern budget-friendly options, incorporate a "stop gate" feature. When these muffs detect a loud sound surpassing a certain decibel level, the amplifier automatically shuts off. Once the noise subsides, the amplifier resumes functioning.


While this mechanism effectively protects the ears, it may result in a slightly distorted audio experience for the wearer. If someone nearby is shooting frequently while others are trying to converse, it may seem as though their earmuffs are intermittently turning on and off. Additionally, older or cheaper models often include only one microphone, making it difficult to discern the direction of incoming sounds.


Most modern models of electronic hearing protection feature the latest amplifier technology, which offers "sound compression." This lets shooters hear all of the low-level environmental sounds going on around them, including conversation, footsteps, even the wind, but when a loud sound, like gunshots, occurs, the sound is not cut off but rather compressed into a lower volume. The sound is essentially continuous as opposed to cutting in and out.


An excellent benefit of electronic hearing protection is that shooters can maintain conversations without needing to remove their earmuffs and expose their ears. Often, the moment they do so, someone nearby unexpectedly begins shooting, prompting them to hastily readjust their earmuffs. I've witnessed this scenario countless times.


Contemporary electronic hearing protection typically incorporates multiple microphones, usually one on each earmuff. This design makes it easier to pinpoint the direction of incoming sounds, a crucial feature for shooters using electronic hearing protection during hunting or in tactical settings. Additionally, most electronic earmuffs are powered by widely available and inexpensive AAA batteries, which can last for hundreds of hours.

Electronic Hearing Protection