These electronic ear plugs for shooting don’t just provide protection against hearing loss, they make shooting much more enjoyable.
The danger that even a one-time exposure to excessive noise could result in permanent hearing damage is undeniable. According to The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) any noise level at or above 85 decibels (dB)—such as the outside hum of traffic on a local road—could cause noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) if exposure times are great enough. The noise levels produced when a firearm is discharged, then, are certainly capable of causing damage to hearing and need to be protected against.
According to one source, a gun blast, the quietest of which (on an unsuppressed firearm) might clock in at 134 dB or so for a .22—or up to over 165 dB for a .44 magnum, or even greater depending upon environmental variables such as inside vs. outside or distance away from the shot—can pulverize the delicate machinery of the inner ear like a slug fired through water balloons.
Most shooters are keen to this danger and take precautions at the range by using foam ear plugs or shooting ear muffs of some kind. I had personally never given the topic much thought beyond that myself—that is, until an opportunity came along to try out some Platinum Recreational Instant Fit ITC noise-canceling electronic ear plugs from SoundGear.
First impression: Three-hundred bucks for a pair of ear plugs? Who in their right mind would spend that much on those? I wondered.
Actually, it turns out that many of the world’s top shooters already invest mighty sums of money in custom fit ear plugs—some costing as much as a couple thousand buckeroos. By comparison, the SoundGear plugs are a real steal. But would they work as advertised?
Range Test of the ITC Ear Plugs
That’s because the units—which permit normal noise level sounds to enter, while keeping dangerous-level noises at bay—make it feel like you’re not wearing any protection at all. In fact, they even amplify sounds somewhat, up to 8x enhancement according to SoundGear.
Most amazingly, they eliminate that muffled, congested, stuffy-head feeling you get with a big pair of ear muffs affixed to your head. I felt free of that weird sensation so typical when shooting with foam earplugs and muffs where it seems like your equilibrium is “off” and the walls are closing in.
I cannot overstate how impressed I was by this unexpected benefit. Being free of the odd sense of having your hearing cut off, everything was simply more natural feeling. It was actually more enjoyable to shoot!
As an added benefit, it sure was a lot cooler shooting in the afternoon summer sun using the ITC plugs as opposed to hot ear muffs, which don’t exactly breathe very well.
Noise Reduction Results
The ITC or “In The Canal” Recreational plugs engage at the 93 dB level, and cut noise by up to 25 dB—while the Industrial version slashes noise at about the 80 dB level. That means either unit kicks in to suppress noise well below the 140 dB level of the average gun shot.
Its digital sound reproduction enhances environmental sounds—making it possible for me to hear with what can only be described as super spy hearing clarity.
The plugs come in a compact little carrying case that saves space in your range bag. It includes four orange and four black silicone sleeves, a cleaning brush, two packs of batteries and the two digital hearing devices that get inserted into the sleeves. One tip: remove the batteries after each use or they’ll keep drawing down and you’ll have to replace batteries on your next trip.
This tiny electronic hearing aid protects against noise-induced hearing damage from gun shots, yet doesn't cancel out the surrounding environment. The net effect: I actually shot better because my natural sense of balance wasn't thrown off by that “muffled” feeling you get with a bulky headset clamped onto your head. It makes me more effective in the hunting field, and I have more fun. I started off thinking this was all about hearing protection. But hearing is believing. What it’s really about is shooting enjoyment. That it protects my hearing while doing that is just icing on the cake.