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How Much Ear Protection Is Needed For Shooting?

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How Much Ear Protection Is Needed For Shooting?

People who love engaging in activities like recreational shooting are those most commonly exposed to damaging noises that can negatively impact their ability to hear.

Without proper ear protection, shooters and hunters are at great risk of permanently damaging and even completely losing their sense of hearing.

How Much Ear Protection Is Needed?

This is why choosing the right kind of ear protection for the sport is a very important matter.

What Is the Noise Reduction Rating and Why Does it Matter?

To understand the importance of hearing protection for shooters you must first understand the way ear protectors are rated. The rating found on all ear protection devices available in the market is referred to as the NRR or Noise Reduction Rating. In the United States ear protectors have a rating between 0 and 33 dB.

There is a lot of science and calculation involved in giving ear protectors an NRR rating. This can be very confusing even to the most skilled sharp shooter.

To make it easier to understand and put it in layman’s terms, the higher the NRR rating the better the ear protector is at reducing noise.

That much can makes sense to anyone who is checking and comparing different ear protection options. However, even with that knowledge at hand it is still difficult to determine how much ear protection for shooting is required.

How Loud Is Gunfire?

There is no one answer to the question of how loud a gun is. The noise produced will vary depending on the type of firearm and the ammunition used with it. Here are the three important factors to consider when measuring how loud a firearm is:

  • Frequency, which is measured using Hertz and refers to the pitch of sounds.
  • Duration, which measures how long the sound lasts.
  • Intensity, which is measured using decibels and determines how loud or soft a sound is.

To put the first facts together with these facts, you can come up with the computation of the level of sound exposure; you take the NRR rating and reduce that from the level of noise created.

To sum it up, if a gun has a noise level of 95 dB and you are using ear protectors that have an NRR rating of 25 your ears are only subjected to a 70 dB level of noise, which is not far from the normal 60 dB of a casual conversation.

How Much Noise Can Your Ear Take?

Now that you know how ear protectors work it is also important to know just how much noise your ear can withstand before any damage can occur. Experts have come together and agreed that exposure to noise levels of 85 dB continuously for 8 hours results in permanent loss of hearing.

Anything exceeding 130 dB even for just a few seconds results in more permanent and instant damage. This means that your ears and hearing can suffer a great deal when they are left unprotected for a prolonged period of time.

Signs of Damage May Vary

Although scientists and experts have agreed on the decibel levels of maximum exposure there are still many shooters and hunters who disagree with the conclusions. Their argument is that they have been exposed to close-range and loud shots countless of times in the past but their hearing is still in good or even perfect condition with no symptoms of diminished perception of sound.

You may argue the same and opt to not wear any kind of hearing protection because you have not experienced any hearing loss or damage from previous time spent hunting or at a shooting range. It is still better to be safe than sorry because of these two very important reasons:

  • Human body tissue including that found in the ear canal reacts and responds to duress and trauma differently. This means it may take more time for loud sounds to damage some people’s hearing, but it will still occur eventually.
  • Permanent hearing loss and damage is cumulative in nature so it can go undetected for a long time. Because of this, it might be too late to do damage control if it has been left unchecked for an extended period of time.


How much ear protection is needed for shooting will depend on the type of shooting and how frequently you visit the shooting range. To be on the safe side, cover your ears with protectors that have the highest NRR rating possible.

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