Safe Shots: Hearing Protection Essentials for Shooting Range Enthusiasts

Safe Shots: Hearing Protection Essentials for Shooting Range Enthusiasts

Although noises as common as a gas-powered lawn mower can be dangerous to our ears, one application that is never questioned is shooting activities. A single gunshot can cause serious hearing damage. If you happen to use an indoor shooting range, that risk is multiplied as the sound is trapped and bounces. The audio assault may feel different depending on the type of firearm sound you’re be exposed to. Caliber, barrel length, and even action type each play a role, but almost all are dangerous.

Official sources don’t agree exactly on what decibel level is created by each type of firearm, but what is agreed upon is that unless you’re alone, firing subsonic ammunition from a bolt action outdoors with a suppressor, your firearm is generating a dangerous level of sound. Even the proliferation of suppressors doesn’t guarantee safety; a suppressor quiets the sound from the round firing, but not the sonic crack as the projectile breaks the sound barrier.

Fortunately, modern hearing protection has come a long way in both protective abilities and comfort for long wear. A special consideration that has led the development of shooting sports-specific hearing protection is the type of exposure. For example, operating machinery or attending a motor sports race also requires hearing protection, but exposure there is typically to a constant noise level that also doesn’t peak as high as shooting. For such activities, the classic “plug”-type hearing protection brings the sound down to a safer level, blocking out almost all sounds, many of which couldn’t be heard over the activity’s noise floor anyways. 

In contrast, shooting sports have literal bursts of dangerous noise, yet can have almost no hearing threat between those bursts. Between those bursts, shooters need to be able to maintain situational awareness and hear what is going on around them. The result is that hearing protection that might be ideal for mowing the lawn or attending a race is not ideal for shooting sports. Regardless of what hearing protection you may already own, a dedicated set for shooting activities is strongly recommended.

There is good news. Modern electronic hearing protection that works for shooting sports can also work in other environments. Electronic hearing protection like our Intrepid BT protects against unsafe sound, but can amplify ambient sounds. This means you can shoot safely and still hear that someone was approaching or calling out. These advancements are available in both in-ear and over-ear configurations. We’ve covered the pros and cons of each in our Sound Choices post.

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