In-Ear Hearing Protection

Now that I’m helping run an action steel program, I’m finding that being on the line all day wearing electronic earmuffs in hot weather is awful. I’d like to be able to wear a hat that offers more shade than a ball cap. I’m looking at electronic plugs, but it looks like anything decent is ridiculously expensive. Walker has the Razor line, which would be fine, but they don’t look to be binaural, which is a deal breaker for me.

I know there are mechanical earplugs which are open for conversation normally, but close in response to loud impulse, however I have no idea if they are actually any good. I know people who swear by them. But earplugs aren’t exactly something you want to ask your shooting buddy “Hey, can I try that?”

I’m curious how much these work, and whether they hush conversation too much. The thing I like about electronic muffs is that I can’t tell I’m muffed unless I’m trying to hear someone over a lot of gunfire. I’ll even forget I have them on in winter.

Anyone have any recommendations?

22 thoughts on “In-Ear Hearing Protection”

  1. I am not quite sure what you mean “don’t look to be binaural, which is a deal breaker for me.” What do you mean binaural?

    Lots of people I know use (including me) use some version of Walkers Silencer:

    I like these. And many non-electronic muffs go over these if you need double protection indoors, which sometimes I do. I can hear conversations, about as well as one would expect at a gun range – I can more or less have a full conversation at an indoor range and provide instructions (say – to the teenager learning to shoot a pistol), so long as the other person is also wearing electronic muffs.

    I also have the Razor neck bands. They work fine, but the neck bands gets in the way often and are a PITA. I ditched them for the Silencers, but I keep them as a backup. Cant have too many backups when one is taking the pack to the range!

    1. They have a microphone for each ear so you don’t lose directionality. When you hear a noise, you can tell which direction it came from.

      1. I got the Bluetooth rechargeable on sale from Midway for $218. If you shop around you’ll find the street price a lot lower than MSRP.

  2. “I know there are mechanical earplugs which are open for conversation normally, but close in response to loud impulse, however I have no idea if they are actually any good. I know people who swear by them.”

    You need to be careful with these. 3M recently got hit with a big lawsuit and fine because they were selling units that were defective to the Army.

  3. I’ve never had any luck with the mechanical ones. I prefer the in ear active type (I use Nitroear), but all the custom made ones run $1K+. I know quite a few people that are using the new universal fit in ear systems from Walker, SportEar ( and Westone ( and are quite happy with them. In particular, the Walkers are often on sale at Midway for $150, which is hard to beat.

    The big thing with the universal fit ones is to keep extra sets of foam tips (complyfoam makes the best) so when they start to wear out and not seal as well, you can replace them immediately.

  4. I generally use the 3M Peltor TEP-100 earplugs with the Skull Screw replacement tips. They’re a bit of a pain to get seated — I have to push them in deep and keep wiggling back and forth until they get deep into the ear — but they work fairly well for my 2-3 hour normal range trips. I shoot .17HMR, .22LR, 5.56mm, .380ACP, and 9mm Ruger with them and I have no problems with reports being too loud.

    I’m not sure how they’d feel for all-day use.

  5. I use Etymotic. They have two settings. I got them at the NRAAM several years ago and they still work great. They were $300. I plan on getting another pair soon just in case. I have also ordered replacement tips online and had no problem with the company. they use #10 batteries and should last at least two days with continual use.

  6. The Surefire ear plugs use the Hocks mechanism to mechanically reduce the loud noise and are pretty inexpensive. I have really large ear canals, though, and couldn’t get them to seat well, but they seem to work well for most folks. They aren’t as good as active earpro, but they certainly are more comfortable than over-the-ear muffs on those long hot days.

    1. I use SureFire EP5 which are their full block ones. As long as I use the correct size I can work a live range with just them in place. You are right in that the size really matters.

      1. I’ve used the EP4 and EP5; The EP5 are a good set of plugs, particularly for high-noise environments, and particularly if you’re not planning to double up on earpro.

        I find the EP4 to be better for less noisy environments where you still want to be able to hold conversations and/or the movie theater/band has the volume set to 11 and you want to take things down a few notches. I find that they’re also more comfortable under muffs, particularly larger muffs, and particularly in impact noise environments (At the range with big muffs, the EP5s act like a drum head inside the muffs, which is very uncomfortable).

  7. What is pricey? If the electronic muffs had been out 50 years ago, I might not be wearing a $5K pair of hearing aids today.

  8. You should wear both plugs and muffs when shooting guns, not one only. Ideally, you should also used suppressed weapons.

    Earplugs alone are not sufficient to prevent ear damage, even if you don’t notice it occurring.

    I have hyperacusis, a disease from Hell, that I got from shooting a shotgun while wearing only earplugs. I usually doubled up, but I forgot just once with devastating consequences.

    My ears were just fine (I had been shooting for years) and then they weren’t.

    1. I have a pair of those in my EDC bag, and I use them for unplanned range visits as well as for earpro inside noisy data centers. They’re pretty decent. Not perfect by any stretch, but comfortable and with respectable noise reduction.

  9. Earlier this year I splurged and bought a pair of OTTO NoizeBarrier plugs, which appear to be an OTTO-licensed version of the Etymotic GunSport Elites that Etymotic pimped at the 2017 SHOT show but never actually released.

    The things are pretty great. Very comfortable, good noise reduction. The rechargeable case is a nice touch, too. The only downside is that if you buy them through Amazon you’re getting them from a third-party seller, Botach Tactical, and Botach doesn’t exactly have the finest rep.

  10. I’m looking into Sylnx Clarus Pro. They are in ear electronic ear pro that can also connect to your phone for calls & music. The only downside is they are not wireless.

  11. I have a pair of the Walker BT in-ear electronic plugs, and they are absolutely binaural. I love them. I wore them to Boomershoot, and they were fantastic they whole time. The BT model has iphone/android app that lets you adjust the volumes, and they can port through music and/or calls with independent volume controls from the sound passthrough. Without music playing, and a volume setting of 6 on a scale of 0-15, battery time was in the 6-8 hour range, easily. I dropped them in the charge case whenever we broke, so I don’t have hard-test numbers on how long they’d last.

    Not cheap, of course, but I’m a big fan.

  12. Surefire makes some decent inside the ear protection. They are really only acceptable for outdoor use not effective at an indoor range at all. I’ve been using them for years at shotgun events and have no hearing isuses.

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