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Hunting with firearms calls for ear protection — and without it, you can damage your ear buds.
Ear protection shouldn't be overlooked when out hunting, and there are plenty of hunters that experience long-term ringing in their ears (tinnitus) when not practicing the right safety precautions. For example, OSHA recommends limiting exposure to noises over 115 decibels, and the sound a deer rifle makes clocks in at around 175 decibels. Over time, that exposure can lead to noticeable hearing loss and continuous ringing in the ears. Luckily, it's easy to prevent this from happening. The next time you go out, make sure you're carrying a pair of ear plugs for hunting.
However, many hunters don't like wearing ear plugs for a variety of reasons: they can't hear ambient sounds with them, they interfere with proper cheek weld, and they can end up falling out. Still, hearing protection is a must-have for hunters, and there are plenty of options that eliminate these problems. These aren't those flimsy foam models that you're used to getting with a sleeping mask — these are ear plugs made to enhance your hunting experience, not hinder it. The best ear plugs for hunting will conform to your unique ear shape, and they won't block out all noises, they'll just lower the decibel of loud noises. This will allow you to hear the sounds you need to (like commands or animal noises) and lower the impact of the noises you don't. We also included a pair of earmuffs on this list, too: they'll protect you, keep your ears warm, and will fit comfortably on your head. Whatever your preference is, you should never go hunting without hearing protection again, and these top-quality finds will be used for years to come. Check out our picks below:
1. Our Top Pick for Ear Plugs
Decibullz was founded by extreme athlete Kyle Kirkpatrick: Annoyed by earbuds that didn't fit and were uncomfortable to wear, he made it his mission to create earbuds and earplugs that mold perfectly to your ear. These percussive earplugs protect you from gunshot noises by suppressing them to safe levels, and they stay secure in your ear for as long as you need them to. Just heat the earplugs with warm water for a few minutes so they'll take shape — you'll be able to reheat and reshape them over and over again.
These are the only re-modable custom earpieces in the world, and they're made right here in the USA. When there aren't any gunshots or loud noises present, you'll hear ambient noise for full situational awareness. One happy customer wrote: "The molding process allows for a true and snug fit for a true and reliable sense of noise reduction." These brilliant plugs will allow you to hear commands while reducing the impact of gunshot sounds.
2. Our Runner-Up
If you like Decibullz ear plugs but want a budget-friendly alternative, consider Orvis's Adaptive Hearing ear plugs. Their ear plugs reduce sounds up to 33 decibels, but you'll still hear background noises. You'll even still be able to hear the flush of a bird while wearing them, so be sure to use these for waterfowl hunting. These are compact and reusable, so get two pairs in case you lose one pair (or forget them at home), but they come with an included case.
3. The Best Disposable Option
If you're on a tight budget, go with Mack's Covert soft foam shooting ear plugs: you'll get 50 pairs of foam plugs for under $15. They reduce sounds up to 32 decibels, so these are great for gunshots and other harmful noises. Not only are they great for hunting, but they're ideal for shooting competitions and tactical training. They're super comfortable, so you'll be able to wear them for hours without discomfort. We recommend throwing them out after one use, but Mack's says they can be reused a few times. These are also great to keep around for friends who may forget their earplugs or muffs.
4. The Best Electronic Ear Plugs for Hunting
Electronic ear buds are slowly becoming a popular way to protect and enhance: they require batteries and are meant to amplify low-level sounds while suppressing harmful sounds that can hurt the ears. This option from Walker comes with three different sizing fins and foam inserts for the most comfortable fit to your ear, and it also comes with a case and batteries. Any sound over 85 decibels is reduced by 25 decibels, and will work for 80 hours before needing battery replacement. One reviewer wrote: "I used them for the first time on a pit blind waterfowl hunt yesterday. They ran great! The simple on off switch and manual volume adjustment knobs were very simple to get used to. The adjacent shots from other hunters were eliminated to a dull puff."
5. The Best Earmuffs
If earmuffs are your thing, try these electronic ones from ISOTunes. They run on 25 hours of battery life per charge, and do the same thing as the electronic ear plugs above: they amplify the sounds you want to hear up to eight times the volume, and protect your ears from sounds with high decibels. They're water-, sweat-, and dust-resistant.
Perhaps most importantly, they got the seal of approval from our editor-in-chief, Eric. He writes: "In particularly loud environments, like a shooting range, I found these to work extremely well. In the opposite situation, like the dove field I used them in, it was a valuable advantage to hear the sounds around me clearly and distinctly."
This has been updated by Alida Nugent. Wide Open Spaces encourages safe hunting practices — check the relevant laws for your state here.
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