The importance of ear protection truly can't be emphasized enough. Whether you're shooting skeet, bird hunting, or are in the back country pursuing big game, it's imperative that you wear the right protection to prevent damage to your eardrums. This can be applied to even those who aren't shooting but are just nearby the shots.
As sportsmen and hunters, it's no secret that we go through many rounds of ammo throughout the year--from the dove fields in the early fall to the target range preparing for a big game hunt or the duck blind in the winter. No matter what you enjoy, we go through a lot of rounds every year. Hearing protection has gained much more attention in the past several years, and for good reason.
Just last spring, I met with some incredible shooters at the range, most of them much more seasoned than I am, around 50-60 years old. I asked one of them if he had used ear protection when he was growing up hunting. "It just wasn't talked about when we were growing up, but I wish it were," he said. "Your eardrums can only take so much exposure. Wear the earbuds while you're young, you won't regret it."
Enough said. Now that you know their importance, here is a list of my favorite products for ear protection based on my own experiences in the field over the years.
Editor's note: Products featured on Wide Open Spaces are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.
1. The Best for Sighting In or the Range
Walkers Razor, $40-47, Amazon
- Low profile.
- Amplify voices at the range.
- A little bulky for hunting.
Walkers has become the poster company for ear protection among hunters and shooters alike. The Razor is model I prefer to use when I am shooting at the indoor range or in the field sighting in my guns. They maintain a subtle profile even for being muffs. They have a Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) of 23, which is solid for what you would use them for. Another great feature about the Razor is that they amplify quieter noises such as voices and only block sounds that reach a certain decibel. This allows you to hear someone talking to you or giving you instructions, while they still block out the loud sounds of a firearm. These retail at under $50, which is a solid price point for their quality.
2. The Best Comfort for Earplugs
Decibullz Custom Molded Earplugs, $25.99, Amazon
- Extremely comfortable.
- Excellent hearing protection.
- A little extra prep work before you head to the range.
Moldable earplugs are one of those ideas that are so genius and simple that I can't believe I hadn't thought of it. Decibullz took that idea to a whole new level with its products. Now you don't have to worry about earplugs being uncomfortable and not fitting right. With Decibullz, you can simply heat, mold into your ear, and then they're ready to use. They're slightly on the expensive side at $25.99 per pair for an NRR of 31; but overall, I love them and use them quite often.
3. Our Favorite Backup Pair
Honeywell Quiet Band, $26.95 (3 pairs), Amazon
- Easy to pack.
- More of a backup pair than a first choice.
I always wanted to like banded earplugs due to their functionality, affordable price point, and simplicity, but they never seem to fit right. The Honeywell Quiet Band bridges that gap pretty well. Although they aren't my first pick, I always keep them in my hunting pack as a backup when I'm on a big game hunt. You just never know when you'll need an extra pair. And these are compact enough to store in any hunting pack without eating up the space you need for other equipment. They have an NRR of 25 decibels--which is very respectable--plus they're reliable, and they're convenient enough to keep in your pack all season in case you misplace your expensive pair.
4. Our Favorite Skeet Shooting Option
Walkers Silencer Digital Earbuds, $86.95, Amazon
- Expensive for earbuds.
Digital earbuds are a great way to protect your ears, amplify low-level sounds, and still maintain a low profile. These are my earbuds of choice when I am shooting skeet. They're incredibly comfortable, and I don't have to worry about them catching on anything as I swing through my shots. At the same time, I can chat with my friends on the skeet course without pulling my protection as others shoot. They operate on four No. 10 batteries, and I've found the life of these batteries is quite impressive compared to other brands. They retail at $86.95, which is a slightly higher price point for the market. However, from my experience, they are worth every penny.
5. The Best Disposable Option
Mack's Ultra Soft Foam Earplugs, $8.99, Amazon
- Excellent protection.
- Single use.
No matter how many fancy pairs of earbuds or muffs you buy, it's always great to have a stash of foam throwaways--just in case something goes wrong with your main pair or you lose them. Mack's Ultra Soft Foam Earplugs are probably the most comfortable as far as a throwaway option goes. They even offer different styles and fits based on your activities, which is a nice touch. A case of 50 pairs retails for around $10, or about 20 cents a pair--which is hard to be upset at, even for throwaways.
6. The Best Overall Option
Axil GS Extreme, $199.99, Amazon
- Great for enhanced hearing while hunting.
- Excellent protection.
For those looking for top-of-the-line studio-quality sound with phenomenal hearing enhancement, there is the GS EXTREME by AXIL. It's jaw-dropping how well these earbuds pick up even the slightest bit of sound. I can wear these while I am in the deer blind and can hear deer walking through the woods better than when I am in a treestand with nothing in my ears. AXIL has improved on its last model, with two times the speed and compression as well as twice the battery life and two times the noise isolation. These are truly the pinnacle of ear protection--however, as you can imagine, that comes with a cost. While these retail at $199.99, you can sometimes find them for as low as $129.99 if you catch a sale at the right time.
READ MORE: GEAR REVIEW: ISOTUNES SPORT DEFY AND ADVANCED HEARING PROTECTION
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