Choosing Your Hearing Protection

Just as you take precautions when firing your pistol, it is also important to always wear proper ear protection. Though the result of not wearing ear muffs or plugs will not endanger the lives of others, it can cause permanent hearing loss. There are three major types of ear protection available and everyone seems to have their particular favorite. Different factors influence the shooter/hunter to reach for one over the other. These factors may include cost, convenience, comfort, and effectiveness.

(1) Ear plugs are inserted to block the ear canal. They may be premolded (preformed) or moldable (foam ear plugs). Ear plugs are sold as disposable products or reusable plugs. Custom molded earplugs are also available. Many choose to store their earplugs in the pistol holster they have chosen.

(2) Semi-insert earplugs consist of two earplugs held over the ends of the ear canal by a rigid headband. These will also fit in your handgun leather holster.

(3) Ear muffs consist of sound-attenuating material soft ear cushions that fit around the ear and hard outer cups. They are held together by a headband.

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How do I choose my hearing protectors?

The choice of hearing protectors is a very personal one and depends on several factors including level of noise, comfort, and the suitability of the hearing protector for both the shooter and hunter. Most importantly, the hearing protector should provide the desired noise reduction. If the noise exposure is intermittent, ear muffs are more desirable, since it may be inconvenient to remove and reinsert earplugs. However, earplugs are easily stored inside your holster.

Hearing Protection Comparison

Ear Plugs


1- small and easily carried

2- convenient to use with other personal protection equipment (can be worn with ear muffs)

3- more comfortable for long-term wear in hot, humid work areas

4- convenient for use in confined work areas


1- requires more time to fit

2- more difficult to insert and remove

3- require good hygiene practices

4- may irritate the ear canal

5- easily misplaced

6- more difficult to see and monitor usage

Ear Muffs


1- less attenuation variability among users

2- designed so that one size fits most head sizes

3- easily seen at a distance to assist in the monitoring of their use

4- not easily misplaced or lost

5- may be worn with minor ear infections


1- less portable and heavier

2- more inconvenient for use with other personal protective equipment.

3- more uncomfortable in the hot, humid work area

4- more inconvenient for use in confined work areas

5- may interfere with the wearing of safety or prescription glasses: wearing glasses results in breaking the seal between the ear muff and the skin and results in decreased hearing protection.

How should I care for my hearing protection device?

  • Follow the manufacturer's instructions.
  • Check hearing protection regularly for wear and tear.
  • Replace ear cushions or plugs that are no longer pliable.
  • Replace a unit when headbands are so stretched that they do not keep ear cushions snugly against the head.
  • Disassemble ear muffs to clean.
  • Wash ear muffs with a mild liquid detergent in warm water, and then rinse in clear warm water. Ensure that the sound-attenuating material inside the ear cushions does not get wet.
  • Use a soft brush to remove skin oil and dirt that can harden ear cushions.
  • Squeeze excess moisture from the plugs or cushions and then place them on a clean surface to air dry. (Check the manufacturer's recommendations first to find out if the earplugs are washable.)

Whatever device you choose, ensure to make them a part of your “things to take” especially when going to the shooting range.