What is the best ear protection? What are the benefits of in-ear electronic hearing protection versus traditional earmuffs? These are important questions when considering the best hearing protection for YOU. The importance of choosing hearing protection is often overlooked and decided upon quickly and without much consideration. However, it’s one of the more important decisions a shooter or hunter will make and can often greatly affect their initial experience with firearms, especially when it comes to Noise Reduction Rating (NRR). Hearing a gunshot for the first time can be a traumatic experience for someone who has never worked or been around deafening noise. But once you move past, yet importantly, protecting hearing, what are the advantages of getting enhanced and technologically advanced earbuds? What features should you look out for and why?

Protecting hearing with a high NRR while enhancing the ability to hear ambient sounds as well as wireless connectivity are advanced features to look for in high-quality hearing protection. Another important consideration is the ergonomics and ease of use. They need to be technically advanced, yet easy to use and intuitive. Finally, there needs to be a level of reliability and durability. A shooter needs to have confidence in their hearing protection, knowing that even if the technology, the power, and the connectivity all fail, they will still operate as reliable hearing protection under the worst conditions.

Advanced Features of Top Shooting Earbuds


Noise Reduction Ratings (NRR) and Ear Protection

The NRR rating of hearing protection is a critical consideration for shooters and must be taken into account before training with live fire at a gun range. A small caliber rifle can produce noise as loud as 140 dB, whereas larger calibers can exceed 160 dB. NRR counters dB by subtraction. For example, a .22 caliber pistol hypothetically produces 145 dB. If the shooter of the pistol is wearing ear protection designed to prevent hearing loss from gunshots with a rating of 29 NRR, the 29 NRR would be subtracted from the 145 dB, resulting in a sustained dB of 116, well below the damaging level of loud noises, including the sound from the pistol being fired. Optimally, earbuds for hearing protection would provide a maximum level of 25 to 30 NRR.

Wireless Technology and Connectivity

Wireless technology in hearing protection is a relatively new concept and allows the user to communicate, listen to music or instructions, and quickly and easily adjust sound protection and enhancement wirelessly, usually by touch or small buttons. Bluetooth connectivity allows phone calls or voice commands to a wireless device when paired. This means that the wearer could protect their hearing, enhance specific sounds such as voices, and be able to take or make calls. This all makes for a safer, more comfortable shooting experience. Being able to hear instructions or warnings more clearly as well as being reachable or able to contact emergency responders would all fall under the features and benefits of advanced hearing protection.

The Importance of Durability and Comfort

Material and Build

High-quality components that provide durability and resistance to moisture from sweat or precipitation are also quality features that should be looked for in advanced hearing protection. It’s important to be able to adjust and change out hearing protection as well. Molds and ear tips generally provide more flexibility for adapting. Ear tips allow a level of customization based on the type of shooting or training taking place.

Larger, more dense molds can protect hearing by providing a higher NRR when preparing to shoot. Whereas smaller tips and molds can be great for hiking and hearing enhancement of ambient sounds while still providing a level of protection if unexpected loud noise occurs. Many ranges are outdoors, and hunting will always take place in a more rugged environment away from most civilization, meaning a hunter is generally at the mercy of nature and must have quality equipment that can adapt and endure in the event of unexpected exposure to the elements.


Comfort for Extended Use

Another benefit of better quality design in hearing protection is comfort. On a shooting range, there will usually be multiple people using firearms at the same time. Because of this, adjusting or taking off hearing protection can be hazardous. Quality hearing protection needs to be able to be worn for extended amounts of time, and comfort will play an important role in that. Shooting ranges are notoriously uncomfortable, even when taking hazardous noise out of the equation; most ranges tend to be too hot or too cold.

Even in the most uncomfortable environments, removing hearing protection is not an option, so having earbuds that are customizable and don’t interfere with your eye protection and bodily movements becomes a much more important feature for a discerning marksman on the range. The comfort of hearing protection should be tested off of the range and worn for at least an hour to check for potential discomfort wearing them for a long period of time could cause.

Sound Quality and Clarity

Sound Amplification & Noise Canceling Features

The ability to amplify sound, while considered a high-tech feature, has many practical benefits for someone who trains with firearms. Taking a training course, for instance, with an instructor to improve rifle or handgun skills. Generally, courses will have multiple shooters or people on the range who aren’t taking the training, yet still shooting. This can make it very difficult to hear an instructor's commands, especially on an indoor range. It can also affect situational awareness, for instance, if someone is hurt on the range or trying to communicate something important, such as a medical emergency or injury.

Battery Life and Charging Options

Battery Life Expectancy

It’s great having a wide variety of advanced features such as Bluetooth connectivity and sound enhancement. But what good are advanced features without the necessary battery life to run them? Especially taking into consideration that a source for charging might be unavailable for hours. On a hunt, or even a firearms training course, minimal time can be as much as four hours. Battery life is an imperative feature when considering the best hearing protection. The Axil XCOR is an excellent example of high-quality, feature-rich, modern shooting earbuds. They can provide up to twelve hours of continuous use based on different options. Being able to rely on long battery life over an extended shoot is an important criterion when looking for “the best” in hearing protection technology.

Charging Methods and Portability

Modern earbuds are rechargeable portably and wirelessly, making use in the field much more convenient and longer-lasting. The Axil XCOR, for example, uses a charging case that can provide hours of additional charge to your earbuds without having access to an electrical outlet or large power source. So not only do you have four to twelve hours of use from the buds themselves, but you can completely recharge them in the field away from civilization, multiple times.

The confidence provided by this benefit of well-made modern earbuds for shooters and hunters can’t be overstated. Not having access to electricity for extended amounts of time is an accepted reality for hunters and is very common even for those in shooting sports. This charging technology alleviates and even eliminates this issue in most cases.


Comparison of Wired vs Wireless Earbuds

Pros and Cons

There is a lot to consider when deciding on wired versus wireless shooting ear protection. One of the main concerns would be comfort. Many new shooters have never spent an extended amount of time with anything inserted in their ear canal. Customizable and easily stored adjustable foam tips, like what the XCOR uses, are a great way to ease a new user into the feeling of wearing wireless earbuds.

Durability would be another concern, especially when moving fast or over unpredictable terrain. If the user takes a fall or makes quick head movements, can wireless earbuds be dislodged and fall to the ground? Versus wired, which has an attachment to the user. The benefit of wireless would be more free movement without the potential constriction of a wire; the con would be the potential for being dislodged and lost on the ground.

Removal of earbuds is also a different process than a traditional muff or wired set in that the bud must be removed individually from the ear, versus one sweeping motion to take off. A smaller consideration, but still relevant, especially when considering that the user might be carrying a large rifle or other equipment.

Wired Earbuds can also be harder to misplace due to being more conspicuous, versus a smaller bud with no wire.

Situational Preferences

One of the best benefits of wireless shooting ear protection is that it’s the closest a shooter can get to being able to use firearms without wearing any type of protection. Many longtime shooters only have experience with clunky, large outdated muffs and feel a sense of relief the first time they can shoot with earbuds. Even something as simple as being able to shoulder a rifle or turn your head quickly to execute after-action drills becomes simpler. Buds do not interfere with eye protection either, or vice versa. On a gun range, communication, peripheral vision, and fast movements all become less obtrusive and smoother to execute. Overall, in training and real life, advanced high-quality earbuds improve situational awareness, which is arguably the most critical aspect of firearms training.

Alternatives to Earbuds: Exploring the Best Hearing Protection Options

Many options for earbuds are available, including electronic earmuffs. Electronic muffs, such as the Axil Trackr series, can be the best option for beginner shooters who aren’t completely comfortable on the range. Any situation where large blocks of time will be spent without wearing hearing protection can be good for electronic muffs as well. For instance, half an hour in the classroom and discussion during a firearms course, and fifteen minutes on the range for live fire. The transition between the range and a classroom environment for a beginner, allowing them to easily remove and put on their hearing protection comfortably.

Axil designed the Trackr series to be low profile, meaning slimmer, to allow easier shoulder movement, for instance, when raising a rifle to aim, or presenting a pistol from the holster. Earmuffs take up more space but are less intensive and easier to put on and take off. The cost of the simplicity is that they are less customizable and take up more space.

Versatile Protection with Axil’s Ear Plugs

In-ear design hearing protection, such as reusable foam or silicone earplugs, has become a common staple at ranges around the country. Excellent for beginners not used to the loud sound of a gun range, they are great protection by themselves but can provide an additional level of protection when paired with a set of Trackr earmuffs. Disposable and inexpensive, foam earplugs are a great option and should be carried by all gun owners in a range bag, as a fast, cheap, and simple method of hearing protection.

With vast improvements in noise reduction and hearing protection, hearing enhancement, comfort, durability, connectivity, and ergonomics, earbuds are and have been the best choice for shooters and hunters of the future. And Trackr earmuffs and in-ear design earplugs all have their pros and cons for different shooting scenarios. A beginner would likely benefit most from a low-profile set of earmuffs, whereas a seasoned hunter might lean towards a high-tech set of earbuds with Bluetooth connectivity and extended battery life. In any scenario, the best hearing protection is the one that keeps you safe and confident in any situation.


  • What are the key features to look for in the best shooting earbuds?

    The best shooting earbuds offer specialized features such as superior noise reduction with high Noise Reduction Ratings (NRR), ambient sound enhancement to balance protection with the ability to hear essential sounds, wireless connectivity for convenience, and durability and comfort for extended use at the shooting range.

  • How important is the Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) in shooting earbuds?

    NRR is crucial in shooting earbuds as it measures their effectiveness in protecting hearing against gunfire noise. A higher NRR indicates better protection against the risk of hearing loss or damage caused by exposure to loud noises, making it an essential factor to consider.

  • What are the benefits of wireless technology in shooting earbuds?

    Wireless technology in shooting earbuds, such as Bluetooth connectivity, offers the dual benefits of enhancing the shooting experience by allowing shooters to pair devices without the hassle of wires, while still prioritizing safety and maintaining essential situational awareness.

  • Why are comfort and durability important in shooting earbuds?

    Comfort and durability are vital in shooting earbuds to ensure they can be worn for extended periods without discomfort, especially during active use. Durable materials and ergonomic designs ensure longevity and a secure fit, making them suitable for frequent use at the shooting range.

  • How do wired and wireless shooting earbuds compare?

    Wired and wireless shooting earbuds each have their advantages and disadvantages. Wireless earbuds offer convenience and freedom of movement without the risk of tangled wires, making them ideal for dynamic shooting activities. Wired earbuds, however, do not require battery power and can provide a reliable connection, making them suitable for long sessions at the gun range. The choice between wired and wireless depends on the shooter's specific needs and activity type.

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