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Best ear defenders for shooting: because you don’t get a second chance with your hearing

Once your hearing is damaged that's it. So always protect it out in the field.

best ear defenders

Pro Hunt Electronic Ear Defenders

So why should you buy the best ear defenders for shooting you can get?

Too many shooters seem to be ignorant to the damage that the noise from gunshots can do to their hearing. You only get one pair of ears, so it makes good sense to look after them, especially when you consider how affordable good hearing protection is these days. Blocking out the harmful noise from your firearm doesn’t have to mean that you can’t hear what’s going on around you. Electronic ear defenders have integral speakers that amplify sounds so you can chat with friends and listen to shooting instructors, or tune into the subtle sounds that herald the imminent arrival of your quarry

Why getting the best ear defenders for shooting is crucial

Thankfully we’re all much more aware of the need to protect ourself today because a shoot day can be very noisy. Most 12-bore gunshots produce a sound of around 150 to 160 decibels (db), while a .30-06 rifle with a 24in barrel produces around the same. Consistent exposure to sounds of more than 95db is bad, and noises of more than 120db can cause permanent damage to your hearing in seconds. Read our piece on why you should always wear ear defenders when shooting. 

Deafness apart, if you neglect to wear ear defenders for shooting you could end up with the dreaded tinnitus, a miserable condition which gives the sufferer a constant ringing in the ears. (Read more about how tinnitus affected a shooter here.) The RNID website advises: “For very high noise levels, earmuffs and earplugs can be worn together. This usually provides an extra 10 to 15dB protection than if either is used alone.”

All in all, it’s much simple just to carry efficient ear protection with you when you’re off shooting. So here’s our list of the best ear defenders for shooting, in different price brackets.  The higher the decibel protection the more effective the ear defenders. The RNID advises: “To make sure earplugs give you enough protection, choose ones with an SNR figure of at least 20dB.” (More on noise-induced hearing loss here.)

If you want to be super-safe, the American Speech-Language Hearing Association recommends you protect your ears with ear defenders and ear plugs. (Read Matt Cross’s article on what’s best, ear plugs or ear muffs?)

ear plugs

Wear ear plugs like these combined with ear defenders for the best hearing protection

Top choice

Let’s start with the ear defenders that, in our opinion, you’re likely to see many shooters wearing. They’re not the cheapest in our list of best ear defenders for shooting, but there is a reason for their popularity and it’s because they are very good at what they are designed to do.

3M Peltor SportTac Headset – Level Dependent Active Hearing Protection for Shooters, with Impulse Noise Control, 26 dB, Orange/Green

best ear defenders for shooting: 3M Peltor SportTac headset

  • Battery Life: 600 hours
  • Automatic shut off: Yes
  • Foldable: Yes
  • Sound protection: Protects from loud impulse noises

+ Most popular

+ Comfortable to wear


Tom Payne, Shooting Times contributor, says: “These are my go-to best ear defenders. They are robust and comfortable to wear, even after I’ve worn them for six hours at a stretch. I wear them seven days a week.”

Mark Heath, Instruction Manager at West London Shooting School agreed: “When teaching I prefer electronic ear defenders normally Peltor Sportac, these give excellent protection and enable conversation to continue with clients. When game shooting I will often wear the Sportacs. Given that I am around shooting most day of the week I consider it important to protect and to wear appropriate protection to try and preserve my hearing. Some of our older clients who didn’t wear protection in their early shooting years are invariably suffering from some hearing loss.”

Matt Manning says: “These distinctive ear defenders have earned themselves a loyal following and there are very few game shoots and clay grounds where they won’t be seen. They are popular for good reason; chiefly because they are reasonably priced, medium-weight ear defenders that function reliably with minimal maintenance.”


Best of the rest

1. Bisley Compact Ear Protectors


Bisley Compact Hearing Protectors

Best for price

+ Palm size

+ Efficient noise reduction

Cheap, cheerful but effective. These ear defenders hug your ears comfortably, are lightweight, foldable and provide noise reduction of 22dB.


2. BERETTA Prevail Ear Defenders Black 

Beretta ear defenders

Best for looks

+ Protection of 25dB

+ Lightweight

– Price

These come with a useful neck strap and are available in green, blue or black. Lightweight, slimline and fold neatly into the pocket of your shooting jacket.


Peltor Optimise III earmuffs

3. 3M Peltor Optime III Earmuffs with Headband – Protection Against High Noise Levels in Industrial Settings, 35 dB, Black/Red

Best for value

+ 35dB protection

+ Industrial quality

These impressive ear protectors have been dubbed a ‘supermuff’ and were developed for use in extremely noisy environments. The protection is based on new technology with a double casing that minimises resonance. This results in maximum high-frequency muffing so you can be safe in the knowledge that your hearing will be sufficiently protected.


4. Peltor 7000107979 3M PELTOR Bull’s Eye III Earmuffs, 35 dB, Military Green, Headband, H540A-441-GN

3m peltor

Best for visibility

+ Shaped for rifle shooters

+ Soft wide cushions add comfort

These are particularly good for rifle shooters – the ear protectors are shaped to work with a rifle butt. Offering 35dB noise reduction. Mark Heath says: “Clay shooting, I usually wear non- electronic Peltor ear defenders often with foam plugs in addition. I can then take the ear defenders off and have a conversation with just the foam plugs in.”


And finally a real bargain pair of ear defenders

5. Napier Pro9 ear Protectors for shotgun, Rifle, Gun or pistol 

Napier Pro 9 best ear defenders

Best for portability

+ Light and foldable

+ No batteries needed

– Can feel uncomfortable after a while

Entry level ear defenders that are light, portable and fold up to slip in a pocket. So there’s no excuse not to have them to hand. They are noise cancelling but you’ll still be able to listen to conversation. No batteries needed. Over 32dB noise reduction.


What about electronic ear defenders?

Standard ear defenders will do the job, but if you want to step up your hearing protection then it’s worth investigating electronic ear defenders.

Electronic ear defenders differ from standard ear defenders because they have a microphone on the outside which detects sound. Low and medium frequency sound is blocked whilst higher frequencies (voices, signals and alarms) are heard more clearly. So you will be able to hear dogs and safety calls for example, whilst your hearing is protected from the noise of loud bangs and gunshot.

They are more expensive than standard ear defenders but then they offer more features.

In addition some ear defenders have built-in two way communication systems so you can listen and speak to your fellow shooters. This is particularly useful for shoot captains who want to talk to beaters or keepers.

Here’s a selection of electronic ear defenders to be considering that rank highly with users.

1. MSA Sordin Supreme Pro IV with Green Cups

MSA Sordin Supreme Pro IV

MSA Sordin Supreme Pro IV

The sound on these is amplified up to ten times so you will actually hear better, although your hearing will be protected at the same time. Clever.

  • Battery life: 600 hours of two AAA batteries
  • Weight: 300g
  • Automatic shut off: Yes
  • Foldable: Yes
  • Sound protection: 82db


2. 3M PELTOR ProTac III Headset, 32 dB, Black, Headband, MT13H221A

3m peltor pro tac

These are the choice of Matthew Clark, editor of Sporting Gun. You will be protected from the harmful sound of gunshot but you’ll be able to hear what’s going on around you.

  • Battery life: 100 hours of two AA batteries
  • Weight: 500g
  • Automatic shut off: Yes
  • Foldable: Yes
  • Waterproof: Weatherproof
  • Sound protection: Reduces harmful levels of sound to 32db
  • Extra features: 3.5mm jack. A listen-only stereo input to connect to a mobile phone, radio, two-way radio or other external devices.


3. Caldwell E-Max Low Profile Electronic Hearing Protection with Sound Amplification 21-25 NRR – Adjustable Earmuffs

These amplify sounds below 85 decibels (normal communication range) but block off above 85 decibels.  E-Max Pro high quality electronic hearing protection from Caldwell delivers style and comfort for all day use, plus it comes in youth and adult sizes and an array of colours.

  • Battery life: Untested, two AAA batteries
  • Automatic shut off: No
  • Foldable: Yes
  • Waterproof: Water resistant
  • Sound protection: Blocks sounds above 85db
  • Warranty: 12 Months
  • Extra features: Two microphones offer stereo sound; low-profile ear cup for ease of shooting.


5. SWATCOM Active8 Waterproof Headset Black


  • Battery life: 600 hours, two AAA batteries
  • Foldable: Yes
  • Waterproof: Survive 1m of submersion for 30 minutes
  • Sound protection: Blocks sounds above 82db
  • Extra features: Twin speakers in each ear cup for fail safe audio


If ear defenders were judged on comfort alone, these would win hands down. The inner gel seals sculpt securely to your head without feeling at all tight. Other colours include: carbon, green, black, blaze, multi-cam and sand. They are so well designed that their 415g weight is barely noticeable. Note: The speakers inside won’t play sound louder than 82db, but the actual protection / attenuation is only 26db.

6. ISOtunes Sport DEFY Shooting Earmuffs: Rechargeable Bluetooth Hearing Protection


  • Battery life: 22 hours, two AAA batteries
  • Foldable: Yes
  • Waterproof: Water resistant
  • Sound protection: 25 db noise reduction rating
  • Extra features: Bluetooth 4.2 connectivity

Automatic Bluetooth pairing means you can connect these muffs to your phone and listen to music or take calls.  Tactical sound control means you can also listen clearly to external sounds at up to 8x volume, and claimed 30dB-attenuation hearing protection cuts in less than two milliseconds. All controls are simple to operate via an intuitive array of five buttons and audio prompts.


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This article was originally published in 2017 and has been updated. 

All products are independently selected by our editors. If you buy something, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more.