How to Choose Your Ear Protection: Ear Plugs vs Ear Muffs

Ear Plugs vs Ear Muffs

Ear protection is an essential part of any shooter. Selecting the right equipment to protect your ears isn’t easy because there are completely different ear plugs and ear muffs available on the market.

Being aware of their differences can help you to make the right choice when deciding which one matches your needs best.

Ear Plugs vs Ear Muffs – What Are The Differences?

There are key differences between these two types of ear protection, what they do differently, and who should use them.

Here, we’ll compare ear plugs vs ear muffs for hunters and shooters so that you can choose the best type of hearing protection for yourself based on your particular needs.

How Do Ear Muffs Work?

Ear muffs are basically headphones with a headband for you to keep them in place. The speakers sit on the outside of your ears, but they’re close enough that all sounds are blocked when the cups are put over your ears. So, ear muffs form an air-tight seal around your ears.

When sound levels hit 82 decibels or above, the built-in microphones pick it up and send it through to the speakers inside so you can hear everything clearly – just as if you weren’t wearing any hearing protection at all.

Ear Muffs Pros:

Because they form a tight seal around your ears, ear muffs create a more effective barrier against noise than ear plugs do – which means they have an NRR rating higher than ear plugs.

They’re less likely to come loose or fall off, which makes them a better choice for automatic weapon fire and other similar situations – especially if you need to wear head protection as well.

Also, they can be great for hunters because they allow you to hear approaching the game without having to remove your hearing protection first.

Ear Muffs Cons:

Because the speakers sit right outside your ears, ear muffs don’t provide quite as much noise reduction as ear plugs do – so their NRR rating is lower than that of ear plugs.

They also have a “squishier” design, which means they don’t fit as tightly as ear plugs do, so it takes longer for safety managers to test out the fit properly by trying them on.

Earmuffs can also be a problem for shooters who need to use their cheek weld from time to time. When that happens, the muffs have a tendency to move out of position and reduce your protection just when you need it most.

How Do Ear Plugs Work?

Ear plugs are made from a type of foam that is compressed into a small cylinder shape before being inserted into your ear canal. This creates an airtight seal inside your ear, which blocks out any noise.

Because they block noise by forming a tighter seal around your ears, ear plugs generally provide more protection than ear muffs do – even though the NRR ratings may be lower on some models.

Ear Plugs Pros:

Because they go deep inside your ear canal, ear plugs are the most effective type of hearing protection against noise. This makes them a great choice for shooters because they give you optimal noise reduction at the lowest possible profile.

They’re also easy to insert and remove on your own, without any help from anyone else, which is especially useful if you need to take them in and out frequently during the day or night.

Ear Plugs Cons:

Because they have less surface contact with your head than ear muffs do, ear plugs can be more likely to fall off or shift position and reduce your protection in that way.

They also don’t seal around your ears as tightly as ear muffs do – although this can be a benefit in certain situations when what you really want is some hearing in the background.

Earmuffs vs Ear Plugs for Shooting

Shooting ear protection can be a bit of a balancing act. In order to get the most effective hearing protection, you need something that will reduce sound levels enough when you’re shooting – but not so much that it’s hard to hear your surroundings.

For this reason, the two best types of hunting and shooting ear protection are usually a set of both ear muffs and ear plugs. That way, if one doesn’t work well enough on its own, you have the other there as backup.

Earmuffs vs Ear Plugs for Sleeping

Ear plugs can be a great choice when sleeping, too because they’re small and compact enough to wear while you’re lying down. This is especially true if you share your bed with someone who’s snoring.

If so, stop snuggle time from turning into earplug time by getting yourself some good quality electronic ear plugs for couples instead.

Just remember that the foam in regular ear plugs gets compressed over time, so it’s probably best not to reuse these more than once when you use them to sleep.

You may also want to choose softer types of foam in order to avoid waking up with an earache in the morning.

When To Choose Earmuffs Over Ear Plugs?

Ear muffs are a good choice for shooters who need to wear a face shield because they’ll fit easily under the guard and won’t interfere with your cheek weld.

They’re also great if you need to communicate with others – by shouting at someone or whispering – while still wearing your hearing protection.

On their own, ear muffs don’t reduce noise all that much (especially when it comes to higher-decibel sounds like gunfire), but they can make it easier for people around you to hear what you have to say.

In addition, ear muffs tend to be more comfortable than ear plugs if you have sensitive skin on your ears because there’s no foam pressing into them. You may find that some types of earplugs irritate your ears, especially after wearing them for a long time.

Conclusions: Ear Plugs vs Ear Muffs 

Your choice of ear protection is largely based on the environment you’ll be in and what type of noise reduction you’re looking for. Ear plugs are a great choice when shooting or sleeping if you need to take them in and out frequently during the day or night.

They also don’t seal around your ears as tightly as ear muffs do – although this can be a benefit in certain situations when what you really want is some hearing in the background.

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