The causes of hearing loss are varied and many and millions of people will experience hearing loss at some point in their lives. The natural process of aging is often coupled with hearing loss, and in some cases, a specific event or illness can trigger it. Exposure to loud noise can damage the delicate workings of the inner ear, and even some medications play a role in the loss of hearing. Meniere’s disease often results in tinnitus, or a ringing in the ears, that can lead to hearing loss as well. For some, a genetic predisposition to the condition exists and, of course, in other cases, the hearing loss is present at birth.
While not every case of hearing loss can be prevented, there are practical steps for anyone, at any age, can take to avoid noise-reducing hearing loss. The inner ear (ear canal) can be damaged by the sound of just one gunshot, or one loud rock concert, or one auto race. The use of ear protection can minimize your risks and, in cases where damage has already been done, prevent it from worsening.
Just as technology related to our personal devices is always evolving and improving, ear protection has also been touched by this trend. Standard ear plugs are now being superseded by high-quality electronic hearing protection that has a far better noise reduction rating. We now have sophisticated electronic options available in ear protection that provide better and smarter noise reduction and elimination than ever before.
What Is Electronic Ear Protection?
Most anyone who hunts or spends time at a shooting range is familiar with electronic ear protection, but they are not the only ones who can benefit from its use. Electronic ear protection can be used in many other settings to prevent inner ear damage and hearing loss.
Exposure to loud noise can damage the hair cells in the cochlea; these are the cells responsible for transmitting signals to the brain. Once they are damaged and die altogether, the hearing loss is irreversible. This is not something to be taken lightly, and anyone who has suffered from hearing loss (and the subsequent feelings of isolation, anxiety, and even depression) would urge you to protect your ears at all costs.
Electronic ear muffs work to amplify low sounds and reduce (or eliminate altogether) dangerously loud sounds. The latest models have “sound compression,” which actually allows you to hear more than you would be able to without the earmuffs; the sounds are all regulated to a safe level. The more expensive models will typically boast two microphones and two speakers on each side, which enhances directional sensitivity. This is especially helpful when they are used for military or police activities.
Whereas a standard ear muff simply “muffled” noise, the smart technology in electronic ear protection creates a better user experience while still achieving its primary aim: preventing hearing loss.
What Do I Need to Look For When Purchasing Electronic Ear Protection?
The Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) is the first thing you should look for with any hearing protection: the higher the NRR, the better the product. As far as shooting ear protection goes, a small caliber weapon should be used in conjunction with earmuffs that have an NRR rating of at least 20 and the number moves up from there with larger (and louder) weapons. Consult the manufacturer information to determine what sort of hearing protection is needed.
In addition to determining the NRR of the earmuffs, you will want to consider a number of other factors. The number of microphones and speakers is especially important. While some models have one microphone and one speaker in each side, and that may suit your needs, bear in mind that two on each side is preferred when directional sensitivity is a concern.
Review the volume settings of the earmuffs and how they can be adjusted. A built-in “limiter” is ideal, as this ensures you will always hear sounds at a safe level.
The “stop gate” technology of older models means the sound will simply be shut off when it is dangerous, and newer models will utilize sound compression that never shuts of sound completely, but always keeps it at a safe level. These earmuffs may be more expensive, but sound compression makes for a better user experience.
What Are the Best Electronic Ear Muffs on the Market?
As in the case of virtually all electronic devices, as technology becomes more widespread we see more competitive pricing and options. There are now many different models available for a wide variety of budgets, and anyone exposed to loud noise is probably able to afford this protection. (In some cases, an employer may provide it for you!) Whatever your scenario, if you are a hunter or a musician or a factory worker, it is worth exploring how electronic ear protection can benefit you and reduce your risk of hearing loss.
Some popular options on the market today include
These electronic shooting earmuffs have built-in microphones, the ability to automatically shut off amplification over certain levels, low profile ear cuffs and an adjustable headband, and an automatic shutoff feature after four hours, which preserves battery life.
These shooting ear muffs are a cheaper “no frills” option that still provides good protection from loud noises. They are lightweight and compact, making them ideal for travel.
These ear muffs are favored by people with smaller frames or those who prefer an especially tight fit. They are also compact and lightweight and suitable for travel, but may not work for larger frames.
No matter what option you choose, electronic ear protection is a smart choice for anyone exposed to loud noises.