It's time to gear up for hunting season, which leaves many shooters and hunters wondering: what are the best shooting ear plugs? Your ear plugs must protect against blast noise, and they need to let you hear voices and other safety sounds clearly, too. Shooting safety is serious business, and no regular old ear plug will do: you need the best shooting ear plugs there are.
First: What About Ear Muffs?
To start, let's quickly compare ear plugs versus ear muffs. Many hunters prefer electronic shooting earmuffs, which fit over the ears and are around the same size as a large set of headphones. Electronic earmuffs for hunters typically offer amplification of safe sounds, enhanced directional hearing, and other features in addition to protecting your hearing from hazardous noise. With those tactical advantages, it's no surprise that these ear muffs are the top choice for many hunters. However, ear muffs are heavier than ear plugs, they are bulkier and higher-profile, and they can be miserable to wear in extreme heat. If electronic shooter's earmuffs do sound perfect for your needs, we offer a big selection of shooting and hunting earmuffs right over here. But that said, let's get to the shooting ear plugs.
The Best of the Best: Hunter's Hearing Aids
The best shooting ear plugs you can get are electronic ear plugs. These are newer than electronic ear muffs, but they can offer nearly all the same outstanding features that give you a tactical edge. Most often called hunting hearing aids, electronic ear plugs fit inside the ear canal and run on batteries, amplifying safe sounds around you while providing protection from blast noise, just like electronic shooter's muffs do. Most electronic ear plugs are ready to use right out of the box, but there are also some custom fit models you can have professionally custom molded to fit your ears precisely. Hunter's hearing aids let you hear better than you could with your naked ears, they are extremely low profile and lightweight, and they stay cool in hot weather. They come in both universal fit and custom fit models. The downside is that they are expensive, starting at $25 for the low-end models and quickly ranging up to hundreds of dollars for the top-notch, high end earpieces. Though they are not cheap, hunter's hearing aids are absolutely the best shooting ear plugs you can get.
The Best Fit: Professional Custom Molded Hunting Ear Plugs
Next, we have professional custom molded ear plugs for hunting. A few are solid plugs that just provide passive noise blocking, but most custom shooting ear plugs feature an internal filter, braker, vent, or valve. Sound must pass through that internal filter before reaching your ears. Low volume sounds can pass through unaffected so you can hear clearly, but high volume sounds such as gunshots are greatly reduced before reaching your ears, protecting your hearing from damaging blast noise. These custom ear plugs do not require batteries. Because they are created to fit your ears and your ears alone, they are incredibly comfortable even for long periods of wear. That perfect fit also ensures that they are as effective as possible at blocking outside noise. Professional custom shooting plugs are durable, too, so a single pair can last for years. The only drawback is the cost: these run from about $115 to $160. If you use ear plugs very frequently, custom ear plugs will pay off in the long run. And their quality makes them one of the best ear plugs you can get for shooting, period.
We also have some DIY custom ear plugs available. Of these, Radians Custom Molded Ear Plugs are the most popular. These are much less expensive than the professional versions, and you can make them yourself. But their quality varies a lot from one attempt to another, so these DIY plugs are not nearly as reliable as the pro custom ones. DIY custom earplugs also have no particular qualities that make them especially good for shooting; they don't have a filter, they just block noise. They will muffle sound, so you will not be able to hear clearly while wearing these. But for shooters who need a custom molded ear plug at a low price, these can't be beat.
But what about regular, non-electronic, non-custom ear plugs...? Those come in two types: reusable and foam.
The Best Reusable Shooting Ear Plugs
Our top three, in no particular order:
BlastBuster Variable Reduction Shooter's Ear Plugs, featuring Hock's Noise Brakers
Like the top-shelf pro custom plugs, the BlastBuster is braker vented, preventing blast noise from entering and damaging the ear, while allowing safe sounds through unimpeded. The Hock's Noise Braker noise filter is actually a bit famous in the hearing protection world; what you need to know is that Hock's filters preserve your normal ability to hear while also protecting your hearing, and they do not require any batteries to do it. BlastBusters are ideal for outdoor range shooting and for hunting, and their six-flange ear tip design fits teens through adults (though those with larger ear canals will want to look at the premium version). These are affordable, reusable, and come with a carry case.
SureFire EP4 ear plugs feature tiny attached stoppers that let you toggle between two modes of hearing protection. Hear clearly with the stoppers open, or enjoy 24dB of constant noise protection with the stoppers closed. In both modes, internal acoustic filters reduce harmful incoming sounds, protecting your ears from blast noise. The open mode is perfect for hunting, while the closed mode is better for range shooting. (For use with the loudest weapons and/or extended indoor range shooting, see the Ultra EP7, with the same features but more protection from noise.) SureFire earplugs have an unusual design, marked by a unique ergonomic grip that makes absolutely sure the fit stays secure - critical for hunters and shooters on the move.
In demand by the Marine Corps, these tactical ear plugs are a favorite choice for civilians, police, and military. Like the other best-in-class choices for shooting plugs, these feature two modes of variable noise reduction, and an internal acoustic filter that cuts hazardous gunshot noise in either mode. Combat Arms Gen 4 shooters' plugs let you toggle between modes with a touch, which is simpler than fiddling with stoppers. These earplugs also come in three sizes, which is a big benefit for those who already know they have smaller or larger ear canals. But because of demand from our military customers, we have to limit quantities on these. Contact us if you need more than a few pairs.
The Best Foam Shooting Ear Plugs
Finally, we come back to the same place we always do: here at the humble foam ear plug. With absolutely no bells or whistles, these ear plugs do not have variable modes (well, except for one...) and they do not allow you to hear what is going on around you. They will block sound, and that's it. They are also designed to be used just once and thrown away, so it really isn't safe to use them more than a handful times before replacing them. But they are better at blocking sound than any other hearing protector out there - and they can do it for pennies a pair.
Some foam ear plugs are designed specifically for shooting. Mack's EarAmmo Foam Ear Plugs come in hi-viz orange, they're shaped like bullets (not a far cry from the usual foam ear plug shape!), and their machined aluminum case will be an asset for transport and storage. They also make Mack's Shooting for Her foam ear plugs, which are smaller, softer, and pink. These are both NRR 30 ear plugs (on a noise blocking scale that runs from 1 to 33), so they will do a good job of defending your ears. Also worth mentioning is the Multi-Max foam ear plug, which technically has variable noise reduction - but it requires actually taking the ear plug out of your ear, turning it around, and putting it back in the other way to switch modes.
But you can beat that NRR (and that price!) with an industrial foam earplug. The best cheap ear plugs for shooting actually aren't designed for shooting at all, but for protection from industrial noise. Our Just the Highest NRR foam ear plug trial pack is your very best bet. These plugs have been chosen specifically because they offer the most noise blocking you can get, making them tough enough for extended indoor shooting. This pack lets you try 34 different pairs of foam earplugs easily, and for even less than they would cost individually. Your ears are just as unique as your fingerprints, so trying different ear plugs for yourself is the only sure way to find the very best foam shooting ear plugs for you.
Until next time, be safe and do the right thing.
Tom Bergman, Vice President
Ear Plug Superstore