Best Ear Plugs for Shooting 2016: Reviews and Top Picks
According to the CDC, noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) affects more than 10 million Americans in total. Expand that map to other countries and the number doubles and even triples.
Exposure to gunfire is one of the many reasons why people experience hearing loss, but unlike some of the others on the list, it's entirely preventable with the right equipment. That's why it's so important to find a good pair of ear plugs before you go hunting, shooting or tracking. When you're regularly dealing with bullets that explode out of their chambers at 140+ decibels, you need something protecting your eardrums so the sound waves won't shred them.
The good news is that there are plenty of ear plugs on the market to help you prevent NIHL. You'll need to sift through your options and find the best ear plugs 2016, but that's why I'm here. I've been in the gun business for many years now, and I can provide plenty of suggestions based on budget, gun type and noise level.
Let's get started, shall we?
Quick Look of the Best Ear Plugs for Shooting
1. Etymotic Research ER125-GSP15BN GunSport Pro Hearing Protection
2. Liberty DuraPlug Uncorded Disposable Foam Earplug
3. Mack’s Shooters Ear Seals Ear Plugs
4. Ear Pro By Surefire 4 Sonic Defender Ear Plugs
5. Decibullz Custom Molded Earplugs
6. 3M PELTOR TEP-100 Tactical Digital Earplug
Special features like high-sensitivity signal processing
Easy switch controls
Active technology that both amplifies and blocks noise depending on its settings
Extremely soft and comfortable
Disposable pairs can be used and discarded at will
High visibility for compliance checks
Comfortable foam material
Washable and reusable
Uses seven contact points to ensure a good fit
Made of eco-friendly, hypoallergenic polymer
Accommodates helmets and goggles
Thermoplastic molds can be heated, cooled and shaped to your ears
Kit includes everything you need for shaping
Good for continuous use
Electronic sound system filters, amplifies and blocks noise according to decibel level
Lightweight design makes for a comfortable and easy fit
Rechargeable batteries with charging station included
Requires owner to fit and replace eartips
Not suitable for very loud noise
No convenient electronic or technical features
One size fits all
Flimsy construction isn’t the most durable
Offers little to no protection for high-decibel noise
Attachable and detachable parts might be inconvenient for some
Unwieldy design can be uncomfortable to wear
Instruction manual needed
No filters for everyday sounds and conversations
Hard to re-mold after initial molding process
DIY effort necessary
One size fits all
Automatic shut-off after two hours
If you don’t mind dropping a few bucks on a pair of high-quality, high-definition ear plugs, it’s hard to beat the electronic and technological prowess of the GSP-15s.
While not meant for heavy-duty shooting or hunting, the DuraPlugs are a quick and convenient solution for everyday hearing protection needs.
While they may not offer any technical wizardry, the Ear Seals live up to their name in a back-to-the-basics way, and you won’t find a better price anywhere.
With a variety of rings, attachments and filter caps, the Sonic Defenders are some of the most customizable ear plugs on the market. You’ll have to decide for yourself if they’re right for you, however.
Though they're not the most advanced in noise protection, the Custom Molds are both creative and invaluable when it comes to getting the right fit.
Suitable for everyone from country hunters to law enforcement officers, the TEP-100s are strong, durable, technologically advanced and universally useful.
Rating : 4.8/5
Rating : 4/5
In-Depth Reviews of the Best Ear Plugs for Shooting 2016
Now that you have a general idea about the range of this list, let’s get into specifics and outline why some products are really better than others.
1. Etymotic Research ER125-GSP15BN GunSport Pro Hearing Protection
If you aren’t sure what kind of electronic ear plugs you’re looking for, the GSP-15s are a great place to start. Not only do they offer strong protection with a noise reduction rating (NRR) of 25, but they’re also equipped with a variety of settings and switches so that you have 100 percent control over their use.
Let’s start with the most important thing: their strength. The GSP-15s will protect you from sounds up to and including 80 dB, and that covers rifles, shotguns and most modern firearms. Since they’re electronic ear plugs, they also employ a dual-purpose noise filtration system that will allow you to hear anything below 80 dB without having to take the ear plugs out. Listen for animals in the bushes; take cues and instructions from your navigational equipment; hold conversations with your neighbour at the shooting range.
The GSP-15s will accommodate everything. As for how they manage such a feat, look no further than the array of technology built right into the ear plugs. From signal processors to balanced armature drivers, the GSP-15s are a marvel of science.
Best of all, you control everything with switches and settings that can be adjusted to your own specifications. Last but not least, the GSP-15s have been packaged with your convenience in mind.
Not only will your order include batteries, neck cords, a protective case and a few basic cleaning supplies, but you’ll also be given four sets of eartips to use as you like. You’ll have to attach them yourself, but that kind of variety can’t be beat.
All in all, the GSP-15s are a stunning example of auditory technology and one that you should definitely consider when looking for the best ear plugs for shooting and hunting.
2. Liberty DuraPlug Uncorded Disposable Foam Earplug
Sometimes you can’t afford expensive ear plugs. Sometimes you don’t want to bother with fancy electronic gadgets. When you don’t feel like spending hundreds of dollars on complicated tech, the DuraPlugs will be your savior. Made of simple, comfortable foam, the DuraPlugs have no controls, switches, levers or buttons.
In fact, they have no technology of any kind. They’re very basic ear plugs that are popped in and out of your ears as you see fit. You may be asking yourself why you’d bother with such a primitive product. However,
I’ve recommended the DuraPlugs to many customers over the years, and the response is always positive. Simple hunters with simple needs don’t want crazy technology that takes a college degree to understand.
They don’t like keeping track of little ear plugs that are easy to lose, either. With a simple and “use ’em and toss ’em” design, the DuraPlugs bypass a lot of problems created by fancier tech. It’s true that these ear plugs don’t provide a lot of protection in terms of loud noise. They’re meant for guns, not rockets in space.
However, what they lack in strength they make up for in comfort.
Since they’re made of low-pressure, self-adjusting foam, they gently fill your ear until the fit is just right, and since you replace them with a new pair every day, the foam never loses shape or elasticity.
All things considered, the DuraPlugs are a great alternative to expensive ear plugs with lots of fiddly pieces.
They’re simple, cozy and easy to use, and that makes them more valuable than many of their higher-priced cousins.
3. 3M PELTOR TEP-100 Tactical Digital Earplug
I’m often asked about “the best” or “the most useful” ear plugs on the market. My stock answer is that all ear plugs are different, and what works for one person might not work for their neighbor. In my heart of hearts, however, I think the TEP-100s blow every other brand right out of the water.
Not only are they extremely strong, capable of protecting your eardrums from a veritable hail of gunfire, but they’re also technologically equipped with everything from high-sensitivity microphones to state-of-the-art attenuation systems.
They’ll protect you on the range, through the streets, in the wilderness and even in a war zone.
They’re also very lightweight. Despite being loaded with technology, they’re still only .13 oz each, making them an easy and portable item through a variety of environments. They’re even waterproof, so you don’t have to worry about getting them wet.
Battery life is another plus. The TEP-100s are powered by two lithium ion batteries that can be recharged at will, so you’ll never run out of juice right when you need it most.
Even without the charging station, you’ll get a good 16+ hours out of them before they die. All things considered, I think the TEP-100s are the best electronic ear plugs on the market.
They aren’t the cheapest, and they might not be the simplest, but they’re very much worth both the money and the attention that they require.
4. Mack's Shooters Ear Seals Ear Plugs
You won’t find cheaper ear plugs anywhere. Let’s just get that out of the way right now. In terms of budgetary value, the Ear Seals are the single best ear plugs 2016.
Don’t think that a cheap price equals a cheap product, however. The Ear Seals are made of soft, spongy foam that never chafes or itches, and because of their unique dual-durometer design, they won’t fall out of your ears either.
If you’re tired of constantly adjusting and re-adjusting your ear plugs in a firearms setting, the Ear Seals will be a welcome break from monotony and frustration.
As for their noise reduction rating, while they offer decreased protection above 27 NRR, this number is enough to stop harmful sound waves from reaching your ear drums. You might not enjoy the perks of an electronic filtration system, but for this price, passive technology is still a cut above no technology at all.
Let’s also take a moment to appreciate the washability of the Ear Seals. Even after heavy use, a little soap and a damp washcloth is all it takes to restore them to their former glory. You won’t have to buy elaborate cleaning kits or worry about damaging any internal microphones. Old-fashioned cleaning still works for some things!
While I wouldn’t recommend the Ear Seals for extremely active or hardcore shooters, they’re more than enough for the occasional target practice or duck hunt, and the price is absolutely unbeatable. They cost less than a sandwich at the deli. There’s no reason not to give them a try.
5. Ear Pro By Surefire 4 Sonic Defender Ear Plugs
There’s a lot to love about the Sonic Defenders. This is because there’s a lot to the Sonic Defenders. With a full orchestra of filters, caps, rings, attachments and stoppers, you can essentially build your own ear plugs according to your hearing protection needs.
For example, you can take out the stopper if you want to hear low-level sounds and conversations without removing the ear plugs entirely. You can attach and reattach a separate earpiece to equip it with radio communication capabilities. It’s all up to you, and this level of customization is one of the reasons I rank the Sonic Defenders so highly.
That said, the ear plugs aren’t perfect. They can be unwieldy to wear and use, especially if you aren’t familiar with their seven contact points; their stems are designed to stay in place once you attach them to your ear, but their rigidity can require an adjustment period. You might also get confused by all of their detachable parts and where they go.
Once you learn how to use them, however, the Sonic Defenders are more than a match for gunfire and other loud noises. They’ll protect you for sound waves up to 85 dB. That’s protection at the level of full ear muffs!
Last but not least, an understated benefit of the Sonic Defenders is their hypoallergenic material. They’re made of medical-grade polymer that won’t irritate your skin or set off any allergic reactions, so they’re actually safe to apply to the whole family, including children. If you’re teaching your young one how to safely handle a gun, ear plugs are an important part of that, and the Sonic Defenders can be used by everyone with a need.
6. Decibullz Custom Molded Earplugs
The Custom Molds are some of the most unique ear plugs on the market, and it’s all because of their innovative shaping technology that allows you to build a perfectly customized product. You see, the Custom Molds don’t come in any particular size or shape. They come in thermoplastic material that you heat up at home and then mold to the shape of your ear. Never again worry about measuring, sizing or adjusting ear plugs; the Custom Molds will address the task quickly and permanently.
Another plus of the Custom Molds is that everything you need comes right in the box. You’ll receive two molds, three sets of triple-flange tips, one set of foam tips and a pouch to carry everything. All you need is hot water and a willingness to roll up your sleeves and get it done.
Oh, and did I forget to mention? The Custom Molds have a noise reduction rating of 31. That’s only a few steps away from the highest level of protection that you can have, so not only are they customizable and convenient, but they’re extremely strong, too.
The Custom Molds do come with the drawback of having passive technology, so there isn’t any kind of internal filtration or amplification system. There aren’t any microphones to pick up low-decibel noises, so if you want to hold a conversation in between rounds, you’ll need to remove the ear plugs entirely.
With the Custom Molds, what you see is what you get. It’s up to you to decide if that’s a plus or minus in your book.
Our Top Picks of Ear Plugs for Shooting
3M PELTOR TEP-100 Tactical Digital Earplug
I can’t recommend these ear plugs highly enough. They might not be in everyone’s price range, but truly, you get what you pay for with the TEP-100s.
They're used in a variety of recreational and military environments, so they're suitable for even intense gunfire.
They contain active hearing protection that will filter through low-decibel noises (like human speech) while blocking harmful, high-decibel noises (like bullets and explosions).
They're comfortable, lightweight and easy to store, stash and transport.
3M is a trusted brand in equipment and tools, and once you try the TEP-100s, you'll understand why so many customers put their lives in their hands. I understand that the cost is prohibitive to some, but if you're wary of spending that much on ear plugs, try to think of the TEP-100s as a long-term investment that will pay itself back in time.
You don't have to take my word on their value, however. Many customers are saying the same thing that I am on Amazon, so go on over there and check out product reviews for the TEP-100s. You won't be disappointed.
Ear Pro By Surefire 4 Sonic Defender Ear Plugs
When it comes to value, you have to balance both the initial cost and the long-term worthiness of the product in question. If something is cheap, will it offset its affordability by needing to be replaced often?
If something is expensive, will it last long enough to provide a return on investment?
The Sonic Defenders are right in the sweet spot of “cheap” and “durable.” They don’t have the lowest price on the market, but they don’t have the highest either, and they’ll last for months and even years if properly maintained.
The Sonic Defenders also bring a lot of value to the table in terms of customization.
With different pieces and attachments that will allow you to control your own level of hearing protection, they essentially function as multiple pairs of ear plugs in a single package, saving you the need of buying separate pairs for separate occasions.
If you’re looking for ear plugs that can get the job done no matter what the job is, look no further than the Sonic Defenders. They’re flexible, affordable and convenient, and they’ll make a very useful addition to your gun gear. Check out their page on Amazon for more information.
Ear Pro By Surefire 4 Sonic Defender Ear Plugs
For the best deals, see it at Amazon.com
Choosing the Best Ear Plugs for Hunting & Shooting : A Buyer's Guide
Electronic ear plugs will protect your hearing while you shoot, hunt, track and ride, but how can you be sure you’re buying the best? What criteria should you use while you’re browsing brands and deciding between products? Here are just a few tips for finding and selecting the best kind of ear plugs.
There are two basic types of hearing protection. The first, which comes from “passive” technology, will block out external sounds in all forms. It’s the equivalent of stuffing cotton in your ears so that you can’t hear a thing.
The other type of protection comes from “active” technology, and it refers to ear plugs that will filter through low-decibel sounds but block high-decibel ones. For example, you’ll be able to hear voices, instructions, range commands or animals moving through the bushes, but once you actually start firing, the hearing protection will kick in and block the sounds of gunfire. Active technology is usually talked about in decibels, so if you find electronic ear plugs advertising the number 70 dB, they’ll allow anything under 70 dB while protecting you from anything over 70 dB.
Active technology is what you need if you’re a serious shooter or hunter. While passive technology will get the job done in a pinch, it simply doesn’t have the same level of convenience as active technology, so it’s worth the extra money.
Find The NRR
When looking at ear plugs, there should be a little number on the package that says “NRR 25” or “29 NRR” or “NRR 82 dB.” They all mean the same thing; they signify the product’s Noise Reduction Rating.
The NRR is an official ranking of measurement by industry professionals and testing institutions. I won’t get into the math behind the numbers, but long story short, the chart goes up to 33 NRR. The higher the NRR, the stronger your level of hearing protection. So a 30 NRR is stronger than a 25 NRR.
The NRR is occasionally represented by decibels instead of a chart number. These aren’t interchangeable, so make sure you fully understand what level of protection you’re getting before you buy.
The NRR is a very important consideration when searching for ear plugs, and any product without an NRR should be considered untested and untrustworthy. You don’t want to be the first person to test a product’s level of hearing protection when you’re actually at the range.
Some products come with a one-time battery that can’t be replaced. Once the battery is dead, the ear plugs are meant to be thrown away.
Other products offer replaceable batteries, but since they’re very small, you might not find them stocked with the double- and triple-As in your local grocery store. You might have to order them online or directly through the manufacturer.
Others still use rechargeable lithium ion batteries. These batteries can be recharged through a charging station that’s powered by either a USB or electric cable. Sometimes portable or “convenience” chargers are run by yet more batteries.
Other considerations for batteries should include “how strong are they?” and “how many hours will they last?” If you’ll be replacing them when the time comes, you should also ask yourself if you have the skill and equipment required for such a precision job.
Choose Your Features
Ear plugs can offer a wide variety of technological features, and there’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to which features you value or prioritize. It all depends on how you plan on using them.
Here are just a few features you might see when looking for the best ear plugs for shooting:
• Internal amplification
• Hypersensitive microphones
• Customized eartips
• Volume controls
• Compatibility with other technology
• Neck cords
• Protective cases
If you see anything on this list that you want, make a note of it before you go shopping. These features are only potential add-ons that may or may not be included with every pair of ear plugs on the market, so if something is important to you, make sure your chosen product includes it.
Find the Right Fit
Some ear plugs are manufactured in a “one size fits all” variety. Others will come in multiple sizes depending on the length and width of your ear canal, or they’ll offer multiple-sized ear tips that you can attach and replace at will. Some are actually moldable through thermoplastic material that shapes to your ear after being heated.
Regardless of which variety you buy, it’s worth the effort of taking a tape measure to your ears so there won’t be any mistakes or miscalculations down the line. Ear plugs aren’t like headphones where it doesn’t matter if they’re oversized or dangling from your neck. The whole point of ear plugs is to keep your eardrums safely protected from danger, so it’s imperative that your ear plugs fit snugly into your ears with no wiggle room.
Weight is also something to keep in mind. Even the most comfortable pair of ear plugs can feel heavy and burdensome when you’re wearing them for hours at a time, so make sure you buy something lightweight or with anti-chafe properties for continuous use.
Stick to Your Budget
The price of ear plugs can range from $5 to $500, so it’s important to have a budget in mind before you start waving your credit card around. How much can you afford to spend? Does that number include shipping and product protection? What about batteries? Will you be replacing them, and if so, how much do replacement batteries cost?
You should also consider after-use expenses such as cleaning kits and tools. Ear plugs need to be maintained to keep them in good working order, so the extras are less of an indulgence and more of a necessity.
Ultimately, the price range is yours to set, and it can be as controlled or relaxed as you see fit. Just make sure you have some kind of budget in mind as you go shopping for ear plugs; their prices vary so wildly that it’s easy to develop an inaccurate picture of how much certain brands, features and models cost.