413 – Electronic Hearing Protection:
Why Electronic Hearing Protection is a great investment in your shooting.
There are a lot of things that you can do to get the most of of your defensive shooting class, but one of the easiest things you can do to get the biggest return is to invest in electronic hearing protection.
Electronic Hearing Protection Increases Safety
Protecting your hearing is important, but electronic hearing protection protects more than your hearing. As a Professional Defensive Shooting Instructor, my ability to communicate with my students is critical not only to the students learning, but also to their safety.
Many of the directions I give on the range have a bearing on the safety of my students. At times if there is confusion or some sort of a misunderstanding, there is the potential for injury to occur. We train our defensive skills so that we can lead a safer life and if that training puts us in danger, it defeats its purpose.
Having electronic hearing protection helps to reduce confusion and misunderstandings on the range because the voice of the instructor and other important sounds are amplified so that you can hear them while loud noises, such as the sound of a gunshot, are reduced to protect your hearing.
The fact that you can hear range commands and instructions clearly increases safety on the range because you know and understand what to do and when to do it without the risk of removing hearing protection to hear instructions and failing to replace the hearing protection before shooting resumes.
Electronic Hearing Protection is Convenient
One of the hassles of hearing protection is making sure that it is on when you need it and the removal of that same hearing protection so that you can hear range instructions, course content, or even just regular conversation. Often, that hearing protection that you removed when you were refilling magazines gets left sitting on the table with you ammunition when you return to the shooting line. This means you have to run back and grab your ears while everyone else waits for you to return to the line.
Electronic ears don’t have to be removed because you can hear normal conversation without difficulty. In fact, electronic ears make it easier to hear the normal level sounds that normal hearing protection blocks out making conversation on the range easier than with regular hearing protection.
Electronic Hearing Protection Helps you Learn
This may be the most important factor for most people when it comes to deciding to purchase electronic hearing protection. Plain and simple, electronic ears help you learn.
Often times on the range it can be difficult for students to hear and understand the directions that their instructor gives them. It only makes sense. They are wearing hearing protection and that blocks the sound from entering the ear. What makes the situation even worse is that I need to stand behind the students while we are on the firing line because they have guns in their hands. This means that often students can’t see my face to read my lips.
Think about the value return if you are able to increase your learning when you are at a class. If you sign up for a 2 day course like SSA’s Critical Defensive Handgun, you have your tuition, ammunition, travel and time to account for. If you can increase your return by 10 or 15% isn’t that worth spending some additional money on hearing protection that increases your safety and learning?
I think it is a no brainer.
What to look for in Hearing Protection
Electronic muffs come in different sizes, shapes and levels of performance and it makes sense to know what you are purchasing. The three areas that are most important to consider when purchasing electronic ear protection are the NRR (Noise Reduction Rating), the microphone quality, and the type of circuitry.
Noise Reduction Rating
This is a complicated topic for sure. The key is that in general the higher the NRR, the more protection that your hearing protection is going to give you. This isn’t always true, however. Keep in mind that your hearing protection needs to seal completely around the ear and if you have a NRR 32 muff that is big and bulky and the seal is pressed open when you shoulder your rifle, you aren’t getting much protection at all.
I often recommend double plugging to my students and I double up on ear pro as well. I simply wear plugs underneath my electronic ears to increase the protection. I just crank up the volume on the amplifier and get the sound that I need through the plugs while blocking out the loud damaging noises twice!
If you are shooting indoors or rifles with obnoxious comps, double plugging is a great option.
Specific Recommendations on Ear Protection
Everyone has to find their own balance of hearing protection that is right for them. Quality, features and cost all come into play as well as the frequency of use and the stakes that are involved in your specific situation. So, consider all the factors and make the decision that is best for you!
Howard Leight Impact Sport – NRR 22
The Impact Sport electronic ear protection from Howard Leight is probably the most common electronic hearing seen on the range. The performance is adequate and the price is difficult to beat.
For the price, the Howard Leights are feature rich. The directional microphones not only amplify the ambient hearing safe sounds, but the also tend to give you a sense of direction of the sound’s origin. Your hearing is kept safe as the amplification is such off when sounds reach 82 db. The Impact Sports have a NRR (Noise Reduction Rating) of 22. When it comes to comfort and convenience the Howard Leight Impact Sport continues to deliver with ear cups that are low profile which allows for you to easily shoulder long guns. A 3.5mm input jack to allow you to connect your MP3 player or listen to a radio. The Impact Sports are powered by 2 AAA batteries and feature an automatic shut-off which turns your hearing protection off after 4 hours to save battery life.
Pro Ears – Pro Tac Plus Gold – NRR 26
The Pro Tac Plus Gold from Pro Ears are the hearing protection that I wear the majority of the time that I wear over the ear hearing protection out on the range. The Pro Tac Plus Gold is a significant investment compared to the Howard Heights Impact Sport at around $250 but the performance is significantly improved. Of course, there is a reason for the difference in price. The most important improvement over other electronic options is the design of the noise attenuation of the Pro Ears. With most electronic ears, when a loud sound comes through the microphone, the sound amplification is stoped completely dampening all sounds, even sounds you need to hear like range commands.
Pro Ears are different and the difference begins with the circuitry. The circuit design filters out and dampens only the loud noises like gun shots. The rest of the sounds continue to be amplified (up to 8x normal volume) for you to hear. This means you can hear conversation and more importantly range commands even with sustained gun fire around you. This is the main advantage of the Pro Ears.
Pro Tac Plus Golds boast dual circuit boards that are military grade and have the fastest attack time in the industry at 1.5 milliseconds. This means a faster attenuation of loud sounds and a more pleasant listening environment.
What is immediately noticeable is that the sound quality is significantly better than the less expensive options.
The dual circuit boards have several other advantages. First, they allow for adjustment of the volume of each earpiece individually which can come in handy if you find your instructor or shooting partner consistently to one side. You can adjust the volume on that ear to hear what you want to hear and turn down the opposite ear to quiet what you don’t want to hear. The dual circuit boards also offer redundancy when it comes to battery life. Since each board is powered by its own battery, if one battery goes dead, the other can still give you the amplification you need to hear important information.
The Pro Ears Pro Tac Plus Gold have gold connectors to improve sound quality even when connection to your radio, scanner or mp3 player and the unit has an automatic shut off which becomes a money saver as much as a feature of convenience as the Pro Tac Plus Golds run off of 2 CR123A lithium ion batteries which are long lasting but more expensive than AA or AAA batteries. The battery life in your Pro Tac Plus Gold is around 250 hours.
The Pro Tac Plus Gold are comfortable to wear all day with Pro Form Leather ear seals that feel good next to your skin and a nicely padded and adjustable headband. The Pro Tac weigh just over half of a pound at 9.3 oz.
Each cup has a 3.5mm input for connection of your radio, scanner or mp3 player.
You can check out the very well developed Pro Ears line here to find the electronic muffs that are right for you.
- Equipped with comfortable ear seals
- MSA Sordin Supreme Pro X – The US military ear wear
- Compresses harmful noise to 82dB. Amplifies safe noise x 4 times
- Foldable slim design of cups for both left and right handed shooters
- 600 hours of battery life
Training for a defensive shooting scenario isn’t a simple or inexpensive process. When there are opportunities to gain more knowledge from a situation or to gather more return, it makes sense to do so. Electronic hearing protection is one of the force multipliers that you can use to gain more from your practice and training. In addition, it can make your range time more enjoyable and safer
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