Hearing protection for woodworking AND shooting?

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Forum topic by dpop24 posted 11-28-2011 06:54 PM 3334 views 0 times favorited 4 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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115 posts in 1993 days

11-28-2011 06:54 PM

I use a cheap set of passive ear muffs for woodworking and yard tools and they do a decent job. I almost always have my iPhone with headphones underneath the ear muffs and this has seemed to be a cheap, effective solution to having tunes and hearing protection together.

Well, this weekend I went to the shooting range for the first time in a long time. I took my cheapo passive ear muffs which are a huge step up from the foam earplugs I used in my youth (yes, I was young and dumb!) but were still woefully inadequate for shooting and I needed to double up with foam earmuffs. Even doubled up, I found them to be inadequate and have started researching hearing protection options.

I would like a nice set of electronic ear muffs, but I am very confused with all the options and can’t decide if they would be adequate for both woodworking and shooting. Will they limit the extra loud gunshots but let in the much lower dB woodworking machines? For those LJ’s that also shoot, has anyone had any luck with using the same set for both purposes or should I just get a set dedicated to shooting?

-- If it ain't broke, take it apart and find out why

4 replies so far

View czlee's profile


6 posts in 1733 days

#1 posted 02-06-2012 07:11 PM

I’m a competitive shooter and a soldier so I have a good bit of experience with hearing protection. Most shooters are using peltor and Howard Leight which can run $50 to $125. On the upper end you have pro ears that run $200 plus. The difference is the noise reduction rating and electronics. The low end rate from 18-28 db while the high end go up to 33db. The low end will also have an obvious cancellation effect because they tend to block all noise upon each shot. The high end ca block just the frequency while allowing normal conversation through each shot.

The main thing to look for is a good seal around the ears and a NRR that matches your shooting activity. Also consider the profile if shooting long guns. Large muffs can interfere with your sight picture. For pistol shooting 22db are fine. If shooting magnum rounds, large caliber rifles (30.06) up or firearms with a break or compensator you will need 28-33db and still might have to double up for indoor shooting. Be sure to check the fit and seal. $300 muffs are worthless if they don’t fit.

View Knothead62's profile


2581 posts in 2385 days

#2 posted 02-06-2012 08:17 PM

czlee is right- fit is important. I have some foam plugs that are rated for 33db by Howard Leight. They have a plastic cord connecting them. When I shot competitive trapshooting, I would pass the cord through the adjusting band on the back of my hat so I would always have them. You couldn’t start a round without eye and hearing protection! Keep in mind that this was shooting in the open. If you are shooting under a cover of some sort, this will magnify the sound. My recommendation- buy the best you can afford. Believe me, good hearing protection is much cheaper than hearing aids. The fellow who taught me to shoot skeet about 45 years ago shot for years without hearing protection. He was stone deaf and had two very powerful and expensive hearing aids.

View JAAune's profile


1617 posts in 1741 days

#3 posted 02-07-2012 05:45 AM

I own a pair of Pro Ears that I use for both shooting and shop sessions when I’m in the machine rooms of a woodworking school. These are the really expensive muffs that muffle loud sounds and amplify quiet noises at the same time. Due to unilateral hearing loss I’m pretty much unable to communicate with anyone if I’m wearing conventional muffs and there’s a lot of background noise. The Pro Ears let me listen to range master commands, coach instruction etc. without forcing me to remove the protection.

In a small shop setting I use conventional muffs since I seldom have to talk to people while a machine is running. We just turn the power tools off if we need to do any serious discussion.

In a school shop I find the Pro Ears useful for the same reasons as I do at the range. There is a difference though. These muffs will amplify EVERY low level noise in the background and bring it up to conversation level. With lots of machines running the result is a constant, loud and annoying hum. It’s not dangerously loud but it’s not pleasant either. Consequently, I keep the amplification turned way down until someone actually wants to talk to me. At least the volume control is variable and each earpiece is independent from the other.

If you want maximum protection then the electronic muffs may not be the way to go. The best possible noise reduction comes from wearing NRR 33 muffs and earplugs at the same time. I don’t know how useful electronics would be if you have ear plugs on under the muffs.

The NRR 33 muffs are very bulky too. I doubt any of them would work well with long arms.

-- See my work at and

View dpop24's profile


115 posts in 1993 days

#4 posted 02-08-2012 06:03 PM

Wow, thanks for the great info guys. I was sure that this topic had been ignored and long forgotten so I appreciate that you found it and took the time to reply. Since I didn’t get any feedback at the time, I went ahead and just took a gamble on some Howard Leight R-01526 Impact Sport Electronic Earmuff from Amazon for $52. I tried them with several woodworking tools and what happened is exactly what JAAune explains above, they amplified the tool sounds! With the electronics shut off, they were no better than the junky one I already had so I’ll save those for shooting. They are only listed as NRR 22 so I hope they are adequate.

Since those didn’t work, I went ahead and picked up these too. They work fine and have an aux input for my iPhone so I don’t have to wear headphones underneath, but essentially they are no better than the solution I had so looks like I wasted quite a bit of money on this experiment.

For anyone in the same boat and on a budget, I’d recommend just getting one set of the highest NRR that you can find/afford and forget all the fancy stuff OR get one dedicated set for each discipline. It doesn’t seem that there’s a lot of crossover capability between woodworking and shooting in the price point that I was shopping in. Someday I’ll learn my lesson, it doesn’t pay to be cheap because you pay for it in the long run!

-- If it ain't broke, take it apart and find out why

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