Nobody wants to go deaf, yet many hunters go afield every year without hearing protection. Any loud, sharp noise over 140 decibels (dB) can damage hearing yet most guns 22 calibers and larger exceed that limit. Large, hunting calibers can even top 175dB! The good news is that hunters now have plenty of options on the market that provide a good noise reduction rating (NRR) for the ears while being unobtrusive.

To protect your hearing, I’ve found the best 5 solutions that are out there on the market and they won’t get in the way of your shot.

Best Hearing ProtectionCategory
Walker’s Razor Slim Electronic Quad MuffsBest Overall Solution
EP3 Sonic DefenderCompact Solution
Howard Leight Quiet BandBig Game Solution
Waterfowl AlphaShieldShotgun Solution
Razor Slim PassiveBackup Solution

The Best Solution

The best hearing protection for new hunters is Walker’s Razor Slim Electronic Quad Muffs. These affordable muffs have an NRR rating of 23dB with a compression time of only 0.02 seconds. The Quad also features Realtree Xtra paint and four Omni-directional microphones for 360 degrees sound.

Walker Quad Muffs provide a quality product tailored specifically to hunters for an MSRP of $89.99. While hearing through electronic microphones and speakers is never going to feel as natural as fully exposed ears, the microphones working in tandem do a great job of capturing sound from every direction.

I’ll be purchasing the Razor quad for my own use when hunting, but this muff is by no means the only hearing protection on the market geared toward hunters. Here are four other unobtrusive solutions for different shooting needs.

The Compact Solution

For hunters wanting good protection in a small package, Surefire offers their EP3 Sonic Defender earplugs with an MSRP of only $13.95.

The plugs nestle in the concha, preventing the plugs from falling out and getting lost. The EP3 earplugs offer two levels of protection. When completely closed with the color-coded caps, the plugs have an NRR of 24dB. However, the plugs can also be partially opened via a small tube that runs down the middle of each plug. This small opening lets in lower frequency sounds while blocking out higher frequency noises such as gunshots.

The Sonic Defenders are easy to clean and can be reused many times in the field.

Other nice touches include the compact carrying case that easily fits in a pocket and the option to get different-sized plugs for a better fit. Finally, the EP3 plugs are cheap enough that losing them isn’t a big loss, but the quality is still there to outshine any disposable foam earplug.

The Big Game Solution

Some people will inevitably feel uncomfortable wearing electronic devices over their ears when out in the woods hunting big game. Fortunately, most big game hunting is done at a slow enough pace that there’s often plenty of time to don hearing protection just before lining up the shot. In such situations, electronic ear muffs and fancy earplugs aren’t really needed.

Big game hunters should take a look at the Howard Leight Quiet Band by Honeywell.

These plugs retail for only about $8 and are about as low tech as hearing protection comes. The plugs are attached with a blaze-orange band that wraps around the back of the neck. The device is only 1.2 ounces yet has an NRR of 25dB! When scouting for game, hunters simply wear the band around their necks allowing full use of natural hearing. Once a game animal has been located, simply pop the earplugs in and the user is ready to shoot.

The downside to the Quiet Band earplugs is that it is easy to forget about putting them in before taking the shot. Since many hunters already have a habit of not wearing hearing protection, remembering to use the Quiet Band regularly might take a bit of time to form a new, positive habit.

The Shotgun Solution

While a deer hunter might use a box or two of ammo in a season, a bird hunter often uses several boxes in a day. Each shot from a shotgun is like a small cannon, and often multiple people are shooting at once. This can be very damaging to the ears, but being able to communicate during a field drive or in the duck stand is important for a successful, safe hunt. So a special solution is needed..

Introducing the TETRA Waterfowl AlphaShield earplugs.

These plugs retail at $699 for their “60-level” model, but the price is worth it. These earplugs use modern hearing aid technology that has been adapted specifically for hunters. The founders, Bill Dickinson, Au.D., and David Gnewikow, Ph.D, aren’t just doctors but also bird hunters and they call this tech Specialized Target Optimization (STO).

The AlphaShield earplugs use an advanced type of filtering and sound isolation. The idea is that certain sounds, like the human voice, can be isolated from harmful sounds like loud duck calling and gunshots. By isolating the sounds, the harmful noises can be independently brought down to safe levels while leaving other noises be.

Besides being made in the USA, the AlphaShield plugs have been named “Technology of the Year” by Guns & Ammo and “Gear of the Year” in the NRA’s American Hunter. Add in the 30-day return guarantee and that’s a lot of weight being thrown behind this product from gun industry publications and TETRA.

The Backup Solution

It’s wise to have a second set of hearing protection available as a backup. The product should be cheap, comfortable, adaptable to different head sizes, and stored in a vehicle or shooting gear.

While there are several good options for a compact passive ear muff, Walker comes in again with a great, low-profile, inexpensive earmuff. The Razor Slim Passive has an NRR of 27 dB and retails for only $29.99.

There’s not much to discuss other than the Razor Slim provides great hearing protection and can be worn by almost anyone, from children to adults. The muffs fold down into a very compact package that can easily be stashed in a nook or thrown in with hunting gear.

There are plenty of great options on the market, but these five are some of the most unobtrusive. With products to fit every situation, hunters have no excuse to go without hearing protection.