Earplugs Vs. Earmuffs for Shooting – How to Choose Your Hearing Protection

by Lindsey Carter

The ear is one of our most sensitive sensory organs. Long term subjection to loud sound can cause irreversible damage to hearing. Hence it is essential to wear ear production in loud environments.

Our work inevitably takes us to loud places. For some people this exposure is not just limited to work. Those who like to practice any kind of short or long distance shooting are also exposed to loud noises for long periods of time.

However, prolonged exposure to noise above 70 decibels can cause hearing impairment over time. And any noise above 120 decibels can damage our ears instantly. With this in mind ear protections must be used at all times during shooting practices.

Fortunately, there is an abundance of noise reduction devices in the market. Earplugs and earmuffs are the most popular choices. And rightfully so! But choosing one over the other can be confusing. So let’s take a look at both of them in more detail.

Earplugs Vs. Earmuffs for Shooting: Which is better for Shooting?

Earplugs Vs. Earmuffs for Shooting: Which is better for Shooting?
Earplugs Vs. Earmuffs for Shooting: Which is better for Shooting?


Earmuffs are soft ear covering encased in plastic. They fit over the ears and protect them from loud noises.

Advantages of Earmuffs

One of the biggest advantages of using earmuffs is that it is designed with the concept of one-size-fits-all in mind. You do not have to make customized earmuffs to make them fit. Besides, many of them feature an adjustable band to fit the wearer’s head snugly.

Earmuffs essentially provide more protection from higher frequencies. Even so, they are astonishingly easy and effortless to apply. All you have to do is simply put the band over your head and place the muffs over your ears comfortably.

You don’t need to be scared of misplacing them. Their size makes them easy to locate. Besides, you can check whether everyone within the range is wearing them or not with a quick once-over.

Some electronic earmuffs come with microphone and audio input jacks. This allows the wearer to take phone calls and converse.

Earmuffs are a common accessory worn during winter to keep the ears warm. So wearing earmuffs in cold climates can be more comfortable for the users.

Most importantly, earmuffs are more durable and last much longer than earplugs. They are perfect for use in loud and unhygienic environments. You will never have to worry about getting an ear infection from wearing earmuffs.

Disadvantages of Earmuffs

Despite all the advantages, many people have faced a few drawbacks while using earmuffs..

For starters, they can be rather uncomfortable for long wears. The material of the earmuffs can often irritate the skin of and around the ears. Especially in hot and humid climates.

Besides, when compared to earplugs, they provide low noise protection as they don’t enter the ear canal directly. They are also less portable and much heavier to carry than earplugs. And can end up costing a pretty penny too.

Another notable disadvantage of using earmuffs is that you cannot wear other safety equipment with it. Helmets and safety goggles can interfere with the fitting of the earmuffs. Besides, if you wear prescription glasses, you might find them inconvenient as well.


Earplugs are ear protection devices made with PVC, silicone, soft plastic and polyurethane foam. They are inserted within the ear canal to provide noise protection.

Advantages of Earplugs

One of the most favorable attributes of earplugs is that they can be customized in numerous ways. You can choose between moldable and pre molded earplugs. And they also have the option of being disposable or reusable.

The small size of the plugs allow ease of carrying. You can just carry them in a zip lock bag or even directly in your pocket. But don’t let their size fool you! Earplugs have been proven to provide superior protection from loud noises.

They are easy to store and use even with other types of safety equipment. You can pair it with your prescription or safety goggles with convenience. They will never come in the way of your helmet either.

Most essentially, they are fitted for confined spaces. If you plan to shoot in a hot and humid place for long periods of time then, earplugs are the ideal noise reducing device for you. They will not surround your entire ear so there is no possibility of irritations or allergies.

Lastly, earplugs are extremely cost effective. You can buy them in bulk without breaking your bank.

Disadvantage of Earplugs

There are a few limitations to using earplugs as well.

Even though they can be customized to suit everyone’s liking, they are not appropriate for everyone. Especially for people who are prone to ear infections.

The same size will not fit everyone and they, more often than not, have to be customized, which ends up costing more than the initial price.

Regardless of being moldable or pre molded, you will require a certain method of insertion. Otherwise, the plugs will constantly be at the risk of slipping out. As a result, the noise protection can suddenly be reduced, leaving your ears vulnerable.

Besides, earplugs should only be used in dry and clean environments. You will need to practice good personal hygiene to avoid any infections. Some users have found it irritating for the ear canal.

Their small size might be favorable for carrying but they are very easy to lose and difficult to monitor.

Final Verdict

Thus, each product has its own advantages and disadvantages. However, both can provide adequate protection from loud noise. So you should choose your safety device depending on the level of noise you will be exposed to and its duration.

While purchasing the equipment, look for the NRR (Noise Reduction Rating) on the package. This number determines how many decibels of noise will be reduced when the device is worn. After this you can consider the issue of comfort and hygiene.

Above all, you must remember that the reason you’re wearing hearing protection is to protect your hearing. Therefore, in extreme cases you can even wear both at the same time for maximum security.

About Lindsey Carter

Lindsey and Mike C. grew up in the same neighborhood. They also went to the same Cholla Middle School together. The two famillies from time to time got together for BBQ parties...

Lindsey's family relocated to California after middle school. They occasiotnally emailed each other to update what's going on in their lives.

She received Software Engineering degree from U.C. San Francisco. While looking for work, she was guided by Mike for an engineering position at the company Mike is working for. Upon passing the job interview, Lindsey was so happy as now she could finally be back to where she'd like to grow old with.

Lindset occasionally guest posted for Mike, adding other flavors to the site while helping diverse his over-passion for baseball.

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