Shooting Hearing Protection ranges from simple foam ear plugs that are very inexpensive to high end electronic ear muffs. The price varies considerably, and this is one type of product that you definitely get what you pay for.
Shooting Hearing Protection is rated by a NRR variable. Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) is the measurement, in decibels, of how well a hearing protector reduces noise as specified by the Environmental Protection Agency. The higher the NRR number the greater the noise reduction. While wearing hearing protection, your exposure to noise is equal to the total noise level minus the NRR of the hearing protectors that you are wearing. As an example, if you were exposed to 80db of noise but were wearing earplugs with an NRR of 29, your actual noise exposure would only be 51dB. Higher end shooting ear muffs typically have a higher NRR rating.
Starting on the low end of shooting hearing protectors is the foam ear plug. These are very inexpensive, and typically are a one time use. These are made by brands such as Champion Shooting Sports, Allen Company and Pyramex. You simply place the foam plugs in your ear, and throw them away when you are finished shooting. These typically offer the least amount of hearing protection. Allen Company makes foam ear plugs with an NRR of 31, while Champion Shooting Sports makes some with an NRR of 32. Variations of foam ear plugs may include a neck cord to keep the ear plugs from getting lost.
The next step up is shooting ear muffs. These typically offer protection from 19dB to 26 dB, and have foam ear pads that are typically adjustable, and have a center strap or brace that goes over the top of your head. Champion Shooting Sports has several varieties, as well as Caldwell Shooting Sports. Some of the newer varieties are low profile, which is not as thick in the ear muff area, which is less restrictive when shooting a rifle or shotgun.
The final variety of Shooting Ear Muffs are the self clipping electronic versions. These operate by amplifying normal conversation, but immediately turn off or “clip” the instant there is a loud noise such as gun fire. These are also available in a low profile design, and are sold under Champion, Caldwell and Howard Leight brands. This style of shooting protection is typically the most expensive, with some models ranging up to $149.
In deciding which style of shooting protection is best for you, take into account how often you will need hearing protection, how long you will wear it a one time, and what price do you feel comfortable spending, and you will find a variety that fits your shooting supply needs.