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 ear plugs are also available. Many choose to store their ear plugs in the pistol holster they have chosen.
(2) Semi-insert ear plugs consist of two ear plugs held over the ends of the ear canal by a rigid headband. These will also fit in your hand gun holster.
(3) Ear muffs consist of sound-attenuating material and soft ear cushions that fit around the ear and hard outer cups. They are held together by a head band.
How do I choose my hearing protectors?
The choice of hearing protectors is a very personal one and depends on a number of 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, ear plugs are easily stored inside your holster.
Hearing Protection Comparison
- small and easily carried
- convenient to use with other personal protection equipment (can be worn with ear muffs)
- more comfortable for long-term wear in hot, humid work areas
- convenient for use in confined work areas
- less attenuation variability among users
- designed so that one size fits most head sizes
- easily seen at a distance to assist in the monitoring of their use
- not easily misplaced or lost
- may be worn with minor ear infections
- requires more time to fit
- more difficult to insert and remove
- require good hygiene practices
- may irritate the ear canal
- easily misplaced
- more difficult to see and monitor usage
- less portable and heavier
- more inconvenient for use with other personal protective equipment.
- more uncomfortable in hot, humid work area
- more inconvenient for use in confined work areas
- 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?
Whatever device you choose, be sure to make them a part of your “things to take” especially when going to the shooting range.
- 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 head bands 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 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 ear plugs are washable.)