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Looking for quality ear protection

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What would you recommend? I need something light enough that will not hurt or cause pressure after wearing them all day. I have an Impact headset which works great, got gel cups, but after 6 hrs they still caused pressure and hurt. Tried electronic ear buds, but they crapped out after 6 months, and you could not turn the amplified volume down which was a pain when listening to amplified chatter when you are ready to shoot. Looking for something extremely light weight that is amplified and can be worn all day. Any help is appreciated. Thanks

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There are two problems with amplified hearing protection.  First, the NRR is often too low.  Second, the response time of all analog and some digital devices is so slow they allow the leading edge of the sound wave to get through.  Then there is how they were tested and measured.  For example, I have four ear muffs.  Two are amplified and two passive.  The highest NRR passive set reduces my a claimed 30dB.  Yet one of the electronic  muffs with a rating of 26 blocks more sounds when turned off.

 

After trying lots of combinations I've settled on the following.  I always wear a pair of NRR 33dB disposable foam inserts AND I insert them correctly.  When I need more I put a set of electronic muffs on over them.  That gets me up to 35+dB reduction.  The foam inserts are very comfortable and I hardly know they are there.  I only put the muffs on over them when running Open shooters, etc.  I take them off when not needed.  BTW, I highly recommend digital electronics with a response time of 1 to 5 milliseconds.

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Peltor TEP-100 or 200 for me. Been using them for years. All day battery life (though my first pair started only holding about 5 hours of charge about 4 years in). With the skull screw tips they are good enough to shoot and RO open guns. Not so much indoors though. 

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The MSA Sordin Supreme headsets are nice.

 

Peltor ComTacs are nice cans too.  Expensive, but nice.

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3 hours ago, abb1 said:

Can you turn the amplified volume down on these for when you are shooting?

It has 2 levels, when they are turned on its on the lower level, none amplified, The 2nd level amplifies the sound.. 

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Peltor EEP-100 with Skull Screw Tips are 30db noise reduction for 180 bucks from Amazon, this things rock

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Peltor EEP-100 with Skull Screw Tips are very good as are the MSA Pro-X's.  

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21 hours ago, abb1 said:

What would you recommend? I need something light enough that will not hurt or cause pressure after wearing them all day. I have an Impact headset which works great, got gel cups, but after 6 hrs they still caused pressure and hurt. Tried electronic ear buds, but they crapped out after 6 months, and you could not turn the amplified volume down which was a pain when listening to amplified chatter when you are ready to shoot. Looking for something extremely light weight that is amplified and can be worn all day. Any help is appreciated. Thanks

https://www.amazon.com/vdp/4b7321f9283448ac822ac442ef12a27c

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Doesn't really help you but I was just mentioning today that it would be sweet if electronic ear pro had a one button quick on/off that you could just hit to shut off when your on the line, then hit again to turn on when you're done.

 

I started using the Walkers rechargeable ear buds this year.  The cups/muffs are just too hot in the summer and get in the way of taking my hat on/off

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Posted (edited)
On 8/1/2020 at 6:15 AM, abb1 said:

Can you turn the amplified volume down on these for when you are shooting?

The Walkers do have a volume dial.

 

65847b1a-2681-4c92-9ccd-9cc7ceccfa83_small.jpg

Edited by terrydoc

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I have bad hearing loss in my left ear due to Army service.  About 10 years ago I had an audiologist make me custom ear plugs.  They stuffed cotton balls down my ear and injected silicon, and then polished it up.  These have loosened up over time (maybe shrunk, I dont know) but I would recommend this route.  In Iraq, I had a ruptured an ear drum after an rocket hit my house, and then again when I got hit with an IED so one ear is a medium surefire plug and one side is a large surefire plug.  this custom route worked out best and blocks out sound better than the sordins or peltor comtacs Ive been issued over the years.  I think the set was like 50 bucks so well worth it over the surefire ear pro I was using before.  I wear muffs at matches when Im up to shoot to preserve whats left of my hearing in addition these custom plugs from the explosions, MG fire, and other hearing hazards over the year causing damage.

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I've been looking into the MSA Sordin's - Hate to cough up that much money but they re comfortable. I have tried a pair of my buddies on. Real good stuff. 

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Posted (edited)
On 7/31/2020 at 10:09 AM, zzt said:

There are two problems with amplified hearing protection.  First, the NRR is often too low.  Second, the response time of all analog and some digital devices is so slow they allow the leading edge of the sound wave to get through.  Then there is how they were tested and measured.  For example, I have four ear muffs.  Two are amplified and two passive.  The highest NRR passive set reduces my a claimed 30dB.  Yet one of the electronic  muffs with a rating of 26 blocks more sounds when turned off.

 

After trying lots of combinations I've settled on the following.  I always wear a pair of NRR 33dB disposable foam inserts AND I insert them correctly.  When I need more I put a set of electronic muffs on over them.  That gets me up to 35+dB reduction.  The foam inserts are very comfortable and I hardly know they are there.  I only put the muffs on over them when running Open shooters, etc.  I take them off when not needed.  BTW, I highly recommend digital electronics with a response time of 1 to 5 milliseconds.

 

Most of this is exactly spot on... Except, the truth of the matter is ALL currently available electronic ear pro is bad, and even a response time of 1 to 5 milliseconds is way too slow to prevent the transient sounds (like a snare drum crack, or a gunshot report) from causing hearing damage. All electronic ear pro works off of electronic and/or digital compression/limiting to do what they do, except the compression/limiting algorithms they incorporate are basically s**t compared to what they'd have to be to truly "catch" a transient sound before it could do any damage. It really doesn't matter what you spend on electronic ear pro either, whether $50 for the Impact Sports you see at every match, or $350+ on the latest bluetooth enabled rechargeable earbuds, they're all a bit gimmicky in a way, since they might let you hear range commands easier or allow you to pump tunes from you iPhone into them, but none of that is actually protecting your hearing as best as possible.

 

If you really want to protect your hearing you want PASSIVE ear pro, the electronic stuff just isn't fast enough.

 

Also, as mentioned, most electronic ear pro can't match the noise reduction available with passive ear pro: with electronic muffs/plugs costing ~$50-450+ only able to do 26dB of NR, while passive muffs/plugs costing $1-10 can do 33dB NR. It's because they physically can't, the tech just isn't there yet, the electronics that are used to raise dialogue and ambient sound while still attenuating (turning down) transient sounds is just what's available that's small enough to be worn on/in the ear, that doesn't mean it's good. In order for electronic ear pro to incorporate a fast enough Attack Time (that's what the speed response setting of a compressor/limiter is called), it'd have to cost several thousand dollars, and I'm not even sure the technology exists yet to miniaturize that tech enough to use it 'real time' and wear on your head while shooting.You want the most noise reduction you can get.

 

Lastly, but importantly, the Decibel scale doesn't work like a "normal" scale, it's not "1, 2, 3, 4, etc" or like the volume knob on your stereo, raising in a linear fashion; every 6dB is perceived as TWICE AS LOUD, so the difference between 26dB and 33dB means the 26dB NR ear pro is letting sounds through more than TWICE as loudly as 33dB NR ear pro.

 

The ubiquitous foamy ear plugs (with usually ~32-34dB NR) are great, but like stated above, they have to be inserted/used properly. Any of the passive muffs that offer 32-35dB NR are also great, and can be had easily for under $20. BOTH, is even better, I always recommend both when shooting indoors, but even outdoors, both is safer for you.

 

For the best seal, most protection, and all-day comfort, nothing beats custom plugs though. Custom plugs have as close to a perfect seal as one can get (they're molded to your ears after all), so while foamies can work great, 33dB NR plugs that fit poorly or walk out aren't delivering 33dB NR, a good seal delivers what it's capable of 100% of the time. Also, custom plugs allow air to move into your ear more like "normal" (no plugs), which provides spatiality and directionality so you don't feel as "plugged up". 

 

While pricey, I use and can recommend these: https://1of1custom.com/products/pro-impulse-custom-ear-plug (if one wants to be able to change filters; though, I usually just end up using the Total Block inserts for shooting), or these if you want a KISS option: https://1of1custom.com/products/total-block

There are a few other manufacturers I've used and had good experiences with too, but seems companies and/or audiologists offering the ACS brand are good to go, so that's what I'd recommend.

 

The custom plugs with the filters are pretty much the only available way to just attenuate enough to hear range commands and such fairly easily (-15dB NR) while still being fast enough and providing more noise reduction to catch dangerous transient sounds (-33dB), but $185+ for plugs that work with a passive system is a hard sell... "electronic" sounds way cooler even though it isn't.

 

Beware though, all "custom earplugs" aren't created equal, if you can buy them at Academy or online, or get them made and wear them the same day, then they're not even close to the real thing. Don't get fooled thinking a set of "custom earplugs" you can pick up for $30 and mold yourself at home is even anything like real custom plugs, they're not. If you have to first make an appointment to get them, and then some guy/gal squirts stuff into your ears and then tells you to expect a package in 2-6 weeks, than they're probably legit.

Edited by ck1

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9 hours ago, ck1 said:

 

Most of this is exactly spot on... Except, the truth of the matter is ALL currently available electronic ear pro is bad, and even a response time of 1 to 5 milliseconds is way too slow to prevent the transient sounds (like a snare drum crack, or a gunshot report) from causing hearing damage. All electronic ear pro works off of electronic and/or digital compression/limiting to do what they do, except the compression/limiting algorithms they incorporate are basically s**t compared to what they'd have to be to truly "catch" a transient sound before it could do any damage. It really doesn't matter what you spend on electronic ear pro either, whether $50 for the Impact Sports you see at every match, or $350+ on the latest bluetooth enabled rechargeable earbuds, they're all a bit gimmicky in a way, since they might let you hear range commands easier or allow you to pump tunes from you iPhone into them, but none of that is actually protecting your hearing as best as possible.

 

If you really want to protect your hearing you want PASSIVE ear pro, the electronic stuff just isn't fast enough.

 

Also, as mentioned, most electronic ear pro can't match the noise reduction available with passive ear pro: with electronic muffs/plugs costing ~$50-450+ only able to do 26dB of NR, while passive muffs/plugs costing $1-10 can do 33dB NR. It's because they physically can't, the tech just isn't there yet, the electronics that are used to raise dialogue and ambient sound while still attenuating (turning down) transient sounds is just what's available that's small enough to be worn on/in the ear, that doesn't mean it's good. In order for electronic ear pro to incorporate a fast enough Attack Time (that's what the speed response setting of a compressor/limiter is called), it'd have to cost several thousand dollars, and I'm not even sure the technology exists yet to miniaturize that tech enough to use it 'real time' and wear on your head while shooting.You want the most noise reduction you can get.

 

Lastly, but importantly, the Decibel scale doesn't work like a "normal" scale, it's not "1, 2, 3, 4, etc" or like the volume knob on your stereo, raising in a linear fashion; every 6dB is perceived as TWICE AS LOUD, so the difference between 26dB and 33dB means the 26dB NR ear pro is letting sounds through more than TWICE as loudly as 33dB NR ear pro.

 

The ubiquitous foamy ear plugs (with usually ~32-34dB NR) are great, but like stated above, they have to be inserted/used properly. Any of the passive muffs that offer 32-35dB NR are also great, and can be had easily for under $20. BOTH, is even better, I always recommend both when shooting indoors, but even outdoors, both is safer for you.

 

For the best seal, most protection, and all-day comfort, nothing beats custom plugs though. Custom plugs have as close to a perfect seal as one can get (they're molded to your ears after all), so while foamies can work great, 33dB NR plugs that fit poorly or walk out aren't delivering 33dB NR, a good seal delivers what it's capable of 100% of the time. Also, custom plugs allow air to move into your ear more like "normal" (no plugs), which provides spatiality and directionality so you don't feel as "plugged up". 

 

While pricey, I use and can recommend these: https://1of1custom.com/products/pro-impulse-custom-ear-plug (if one wants to be able to change filters; though, I usually just end up using the Total Block inserts for shooting), or these if you want a KISS option: https://1of1custom.com/products/total-block

There are a few other manufacturers I've used and had good experiences with too, but seems companies and/or audiologists offering the ACS brand are good to go, so that's what I'd recommend.

 

The custom plugs with the filters are pretty much the only available way to just attenuate enough to hear range commands and such fairly easily (-15dB NR) while still being fast enough and providing more noise reduction to catch dangerous transient sounds (-33dB), but $185+ for plugs that work with a passive system is a hard sell... "electronic" sounds way cooler even though it isn't.

 

Beware though, all "custom earplugs" aren't created equal, if you can buy them at Academy or online, or get them made and wear them the same day, then they're not even close to the real thing. Don't get fooled thinking a set of "custom earplugs" you can pick up for $30 and mold yourself at home is even anything like real custom plugs, they're not. If you have to first make an appointment to get them, and then some guy/gal squirts stuff into your ears and then tells you to expect a package in 2-6 weeks, than they're probably legit.

Always interesting to read something that sounds pretty factual but all I know is I wore foam ear plugs for years in the Army. Yes they were good plugs that I bought and yes I put them in correctly. I still ended up with hearing loss and ringing in my ears upon retirement. They do virtually nothing for me when shooting Open except make my ears ring even more.

  I also had custom passive plugs made when I first started USPSA. They are great for anything but Open and 5.56. Again make my ears ring like the foamies.
  I use electronic Peltor tactical pros with gel pads . Whatever the electronics are rated at “technically” I don’t know. But they are great at canceling and amplifying as needed. And my ears feel just as good as when I wear passive peltors rated at 33db except I can hear.😂

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im a foam guy. I do have the heavier impact sports electronics and do wear them when shooting pistol . They definitely let more by then the foam and are slightly uncomfortable after a while with eye pro on.

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Fact is, and the shorter version of what I was saying is, the cheap foam earplugs when used correctly, rated at 30+ dB noise reduction, are probably the best for most shooters if you want to preserve your hearing.

 

Don't even really get me started on Open guns... let's just say if you value your hearing, you probably should pick another division... 

 

I actually try to pick a squad with the fewest number of Open shooters, because with those, usually the safest place for one's hearing is behind the gun pulling the trigger since the sound and concussion coming off the comps is usually directed elsewhere. They're also the reason why I'll probably never become an USPSA RO/Safety Officer, the guys chasing them around with a timer are getting the s**t kicked out of their eardrums. And, regardless of what noise reduction one's ear pro are rated, you can't hide from concussion, if you can feel it then it's damaging your hearing, it literally rattles your inner ear, making you slowly go deaf with every round fired.

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4 minutes ago, ck1 said:

Fact is, and the shorter version of what I was saying is, the cheap foam earplugs when used correctly, rated at 30+ dB noise reduction, are probably the best for most shooters if you want to preserve your hearing.

 

Don't even really get me started on Open guns... let's just say if you value your hearing, you probably should pick another division... 

 

I actually try to pick a squad with the fewest number of Open shooters, because with those, usually the safest place for one's hearing is behind the gun pulling the trigger since the sound and concussion coming off the comps is usually directed elsewhere. They're also the reason why I'll probably never become an USPSA RO/Safety Officer, the guys chasing them around with a timer are getting the s**t kicked out of their eardrums. And, regardless of what noise reduction one's ear pro are rated, you can't hide from concussion, if you can feel it then it's damaging your hearing, it literally rattles your inner ear, making you slowly go deaf with every round fired.

I appreciate your expertise. I guess hearing loss will just be part of the game. I'm around way too many rifles and open guns to save it by now I guess. I do however, have my ears checked every year as part of my CDL physical and they so far do not seem to be getting worse. At least that's good I guess.

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Just now, Sarge said:

I appreciate your expertise. I guess hearing loss will just be part of the game. I'm around way too many rifles and open guns to save it by now I guess. I do however, have my ears checked every year as part of my CDL physical and they so far do not seem to be getting worse. At least that's good I guess.

 

I work in audio, so protecting my hearing is a big deal to me. That said, shooting probably isn't the best sport in that regard, but I try to do what I can lol!

 

It's great that you get checked regularly, most people don't until they've done serious damage and are saying "What?" all the time.

 

And the scary thing is: hearing doesn't really come back, once it's gone it's gone, if it lasts more than a couple days it usually means it's permanent.

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Problem is, an Open gun or a rifle is so loud that even the best ear protection is not really enough to get the report down to an endurable level.  

Other guns are marginally too loud.  Campaign headquarters for silencers.  

 

In particular, the Sordin is a very deluxe piece of kit, but it is not quiet enough for sustained fire.  

There is an Internet Guru known as Trevor who massaged the specs to make it look as good as any, but if you apply the same calculations to my $20 Peltor passive, you get a much higher rating even by his method.  Quieter is quieter.  

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I also used to work in audio, among other things.  I also have a pair of Peltor Tactical Pro muffs.  They are analog and the response time is in the 20+ millisecond range.  I cannot wear them alone because I CAN hear the inital wave front before they shut down.  As I said earlier I use the Howard Leight NRR 33 dB foam plugs inserted correctly.  I cannot stress how important it is to insert properly.  95 out of 100 I see using them have them inserted incorrectly.  When I am running Open shooters, or shooting Open, I put the Peltors on over the foam plugs and leave the volume off.  That gives me  33dB + 26+ dB in reduction for a total of approximately 35-36 total reduction.  I'll tell you I have trouble hearing speech or the timer when protected like that.  I will sometime crack the volume on a tad to help.  It doesn't seem to hurt.

 

I'll note that my practice range is covered with a A frame roof.  No amount of protection is enough in there.  I have suffered hearing loss because I shot in there.  I don't anymore.

 

I'll disagree with ck1 in that my HL digital electronic muffs do cut off fast enough at 5ms that I am not bothered by the initial wave front.  However, they don't provide anywhere near the overall reduction the Peltor Tacticals do.

 

FWIW, custom molded ear plugs, done right can get you to 35dB of reduction.  That said they still have to be inserted properly.  Another big disadvantage is they push ear wax down well into the ear canal, and you have to be conscientious about cleaning it out.  That means 10 minute Hydrogen Peroxide soaks in each ear, warm water squirts with an ear syringe,  and delicate use of Q-Tips deep in the canal.  You can also have it done in a clinic, but that takes 25 minutes per ear.  The good part is nothing is inserted into your ear.  They loosen with Hydrogen Peroxide and use warm water jets to get the plugs out.  Your ears are definitely squeaky clean after that.

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Pink passive old school peltors over the foam plugs from the big box from 3M that you get from Grainger.

No batteries.

Always works

Avoid squads with open guns.

 I always know which are mine.

 I used to wear hearing protection when I worked in manufacturing and I had a set of active cans given to me by my boss. I felt fatigued a bit more sonically at the end of 12 hours. I pitched them. I used to double muff-plug then and when I grind/cut steel I still double up. I have crappy ears from guns/guitars/obnoxious exhaust systems.

Im a brute with any equipment.

Simple is good.

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Let me ask you this. Some ppl have stated the electronics don’t shut down fast enough. 
Now please correct me if I’m wrong. When I’m wearing electronic muffs I am still wearing muffs...any sound I hear is digitally enhanced coming in thru a speaker. That speaker is not nearly as loud as a gun shot, and only as loud as I have the volume turned to. 
So even if it doesn’t shut off for the 1st 1/2 second of a gunshot, I’m only hearing that gunshot thru the speaker, which is not turned up very loud. 

So in that sense I really shouldn’t get any more noise to my ear than I would with just muffs and no electronics, correct? 

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