Which ear protection is right for me?

There are several varieties of hearing protection these days… but which one is correct for your needs?

Most of it can be narrowed down on certain factors:

Your activity – Are you doing range shooting, hunting or both? 
Do you mainly shoot indoors or outdoors?

Your application – Do you need something with electronics for hearing enhancement combined with protection?
Or something more passive?

Your age – Are you young where concerns of growth would still be possible?
Or have your ears matured where the only concern is with significant weight loss or gain?

Caliber of firearm – What type of shooting are you doing – shotgun, handgun, rifle?
Automatic or semi-automatic?

Style and Comfort – Do you need something smaller and less bulky on your head or in your ear?

Cost – What will get the job done for the right price?

Specific Earplugs

Below is a breakdown of general models with advantages and disadvantages to consider:

Disposable Earplugs

  • Advantages – cheap, decent noise reduction ratings (NNR) when inserted properly, variety of shapes and styles, small and lightweight
  • Disadvantages – can be hard to position in the ear correctly, possible contamination when used multiple times, may irritate the ear canal with undue retention pressure
 
  • Advantages – washable variety of shapes and styles, small and lightweight
  • Disadvantages – can be hard to position in the ear correctly, may irritate the ear canal with undue retention pressure, eventually might have to replace from time to time

Passive/Electronic Ear Muffs  

  • Advantages – designed to fit most ears comfortably, may be worn with additional earplugs underneath, both passive and electronic models available (some with communication/Bluetooth/music inputs as well), can be cheaper alternative
  • Disadvantages – can be bulky on the head, more uncomfortable in humid/hot environments, may interfere with protective eye wear or have seal leaks where protection is compromised

Solid Custom-Fit Earplugs

  • Advantages –  maximized comfort and fit, variety of styles and models to choose from, hygienic and reusable, reduced variance in attenuation value, small and lightweight, 3D printing has increased the ability to reorder without refitting
  • Disadvantages – can be expensive, may need extra instruction for insertion and removal

Passive Filtered Earplugs

  • Advantages – able to hear situational proximity sounds (like speech and audible signals) better, keeps louder sounds limited to 80-85 dBs, no batteries required to work
  • Disadvantages – lower starting NRR ratings, limited to proximity awareness

Variable Filtered Earplugs

  • Advantages – able to hear situational proximity sounds (like speech and audible signals) better, variable attenuation means as the noise increases so will the protection levels, no batteries required to work
  • Disadvantages – lower starting NRR ratings, limited to proximity awareness

Electronic Earplugs

  • Advantages – gain full awareness of your surroundings, digital programming for best quality of sound, several variations (some with communications, and non-impact use)
  • Disadvantages – can be expensive, can require more care/cleaning, requires batteries to operate