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So often I get asked…. “what do I need for the range”? Well, there are several things you need such as:

  • to dress comfortably & appropriately (to include closed toed shoes and a high neck tshirt (not V neck)
  • a hat to help block the flying brass as well as the sun (if outside)
  • your gun in it’s own case, if you have a gun to work with, as well as a magazine for each gun
  • ammunition (or you can buy at the range)
  • eye protection
  • ear protection

The need for ear protection

So, let’s talk about ear protection. Obviously this is used to help you keep your hearing as long as possible! I would imagine being deaf at an early age would be a pain in the rear. Sure, there are worse things, but let’s try to keep what hearing you have.

Noise & reduction ratings

I have a friend who is a Doctor of Audiology, CCC-A, FAAA (whatever all that is), Chanda Abbot of Bay Area Audiology. She is a fellow gun enthusiast and has made custom ear protection, of which we will learn more about below.

However, her site has a blog which speaks about ear plugs that will keep you safe during work. In it has some interesting facts as well as some others found elsewhere:

  • Decibels (dB) are the unit of measurement for sound.
    • whispering is about 30 dB
    • speaking at a normal volume is about 60 dB (other than me, of course lol)
    • a standard lawnmower runs at about 90 dB
    • threshold of pain is considered to be about 140 dB per EarInc
  • A centerfire pistol, depending upon the caliber of ammunition/gun, can yield the following dB levels, also per EarInc.


learn more about the decibels of your firearms

  • The Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) determines how much sound a particular set of earplugs can block
    • Say you were at a concert with a sound level of 120 dB and your ear plugs have a NRR of 60 dB, that leaves you with 60 dB, which would be regular speaking volume.
    • So based on the above, a 9mm pistol has a sound level of 160 dB and if your ear protection has a NRR of 60 dB, that leaves you with 100 dB, which is still quite a lot left to risk your hearing.
    • BUT…  in this article from Tactical Ear Safety about recommended shooting protection, sites that OSHA (Occupational Safety & Health Admin) doesn’t agree with the calculations of above and has a formula taking into account of the NRR number, subtracting 7, divide by 2 and getting the new NRR # per this article which sites OSHA here – which doesn’t make as much sense, more like clear as mud.

Above noted article from Tactical Ear Safety, it has a cool chart of the dB of various tools, events and noises.

Pretty interesting right? So what type of ear protection should you get?

Types of ear protection

Types of ear protection I have and use

Let’s first just cover some of the different types of ear protection. This picture are the 3 types that I have and use… and noted below.

  • cheap foamy ear plugs – package says it’s NRR is 30 dB  – found on Amazon here.
    • I use these for sleeping when my husband snores, when the neighbor’s dog is barking at 5am on a Sat, when the fireworks are going off in my hood, or when others feel the need to “let” me listen to their music when I’m trying to sleep.
  • ear muffs – Howard Leight Impact Sport – website says NRR is 22 dB, but also says that the built in microphone amplify range commands to a safe 82 dB – so you can hear people but listens and stops amplification when sound exceeds 82 dB
    • I use these at the range, indoor and outdoor, and it allows for me to hear my students as well as range commands but not as much of the shooting.
  • custom molded ear protection
    • I had this pair made for me at a conference. Found the website and believe the Insta-Mold ear plugs are NRR 19-21 ish. I use them when the ear muffs get hot, misplaced, or start hurting my head.

**Keep this in mind. You have to use them correctly or it defeats the purpose or doesn’t work at well, thus potentially reducing the NRR protection.

Double up

Now, I almost always suggest for brand new shooters, those who may be a little extra nervous or anxious, to double up. What I mean by that is wearing the little foam ear plugs that go in your ear AND ear muffs that go outside your ears and basically encompass your ear. This way you have extra protection and usually helps calm the nerves a little extra.

We never know who will be in the range with us so there may shotguns, rifles or folks who blow through 25 rounds in 5 minutes, with no purpose. This can be very unsettling and intimidating for a new shooter, so double up.

Note on ear muffs

Ear muffs, there are a variety of different kinds that you can get. I originally bought mine at Gun Goddess, however not seeing the ones I got there now. There are ones with microphones and amplification options, like the ones that I use from Howard Leight, as noted above.  It has volume control, which I can turn off all together. I can double up. I can connect them to my music or radio too, if I wanted.

Keep in mind that a good fit on ear muffs is where they fit around your ears, so if you have large or smaller ears, you will want to be sure they fit properly. If they don’t create a sort of seal around your ears or don’t fit properly, then you will be letting the sound in.

I find that after a long day at the range, shooting a match, that as my glasses sit on my ears and the ear muffs press up against/around my ears that it begins to put on my ears and skin and begins to irritate me.  Fit matters. Kids too!

I also suggest hats, for ladies to help dodge flying brass (spent rounds) but keep in mind your eye and ear protection and how it works and fits with your hat as well.

The cheap ones you can buy at the big box stores are likely a great start as my ear protection muffs cost me around $75. This might not be ideal for you to start out, so consider buying a cheap pair of muffs, that fit, and paid them with some cheap ear plugs.

Note on custom ear molds

Custom fit/molded ear protection can be another option. You have to know someone to do it. An audiologist is a great person who can help you with this.  They put something in your ear to block the canal as they squirt molding in your ear.  Think of this like getting a mold of your teeth. You have to sit still for a few minutes, expressionless (so hard to do .. for me at least) and then they take them out, add the cords to help you keep them together and you are on your way.  Or, depending on the person, they may send them out to a company that puts some extra effort.

In speaking with Chanda, she referred to a few companies she works with for ear plugs as well as hearing aids. Those companies are Westones & DefendEar as well as Soundgear. These companies aren’t order direct, but you would need to work with someone, like Chanda, to create the mold and send them off to them.

Obviously the better quality and the more custom, the higher cost. But you’ll have to determine what cost your hearing is worth.

Bottom line

Ultimately the goal is to protect your ears from the excessive noise, the repetitive noise, and help keep your ears safer and protected for longer periods of time. Inevitably just like going to a concert and wearing any kind of ear protection, repeated beating of your ears will deteriorate but this will help last longer.

I have enclosed some links throughout this blog to help give you ideas of each one however please feel free to do your own research.  And then it’s basically going to come down to personal preference, expense, availability and well … your comfort and use preferences.

I would love to hear what you use, where you found it, the prices you paid, what you use it for and where, where you got it, what you like and don’t like about ones that you have and just help share with other ladies.

I hope this has been helpful. Let me know in the comments below.