INFO: Hearing loss and hearing protection (for shooters)


I hope my comments here are of assistance. I apologize for it being long winded but it is difficult to reduce it much further & still include al the info. Many people ignore hearing protection and regret it during their retirement. (particularly young men) Ignoring it will effect the quality of life during your later years.

According to the current Australian OHS/WHS regulations exposing employees to noise levels over a peak of 140db or to noise at or above an average of 85dB(A)leq for the period of an 8hr shift.
It is the “peak” of 140db that applies to shooters.

Some examples for shooters of noise levels are: (I took these measurements so they are reliable)
22Lr 132.6 dB peak
12g 151.5 dB peak
3006 158 dB peak

So every time you fire a rifle (without hearing protection) you are doing a little damage to your hearing and the damage compounds throughout your life. The loss of hearing will not become noticeable until later in life and by then it will be too late.

And when measuring noise you must remember that an increase of 3dB is double the sound power. So an increase of just 2 dB is very significant. Immediate irreversible damage is likely to occur at 140dB.

In Australia hearing protection is sold in 5 classes that are laid down in Australian Standard 1270. Class 1 being the lowest level of protection class 5 the best. Below is the minimum reduction (the technical term is attenuation) in dB required of each class of hearing protection, Muff or plug at the ear.

  1. 10 - 13
  2. 14 - 17
  3. 18 – 21
  4. 22 - 25
  5. 26 or greater
    The above are SLC80 rated.
    Muffs & Ear plugs perform differently at various frequencies further complicating which muffs to purchase. The above is essentially an average at various frequencies.

So if the noise level of a 3006 is 160dB you can expect a Class 5 muff to reduce the exposure to the ear down to at least 134dB, but perhaps not all frequencies. So the wearing of anything less than a Class 5 would be fairly useless to shooters. Even the class 5 may not completely prevent hearing loss. However it will certainly go a long way in reducing hearing loss. Continued and regular exposure to gun fire of say 130 db will still damage hearing over time.

Many retailers such as Bunnings sell ear muffs but you get what you pay for and often it is not clear what “class” they are on the packaging. As mentioned above, this is important. In addition cheaper muffs generally wear out very quickly, significantly reducing the level of protection provided and the wearer is usually unaware that they now have reduced hearing protection. So you start off with say a class 3 and a yr later it is a class 1 muff for example.

Ear muffs, both standard and electronic provide the best protection and I would recommend class 5 for shooting. The down side of standard ear muffs is the effect they will have on communication and possibly not being able to hear other hazards nearby, e.g a truck heading in your direction.
Ear plugs, I cannot recommend the use of off the shelf ear plugs I rarely see them worn correctly. However if worn correctly and they fine, very effective and convenient to wear in the field. Personally fitted plugs should be a better option for most users if you prefer plugs check what the expected attenuation will be before purchasing.
NOTE: NRR class 5 is roughly equal to an SLC80 class 4

As mentioned earlier electronic muffs are great and fitted with a microphone and amplifiers that automatically switches off at 85dB. This allows you to hear normal sounds and your ears are protected from loud sounds. However quality ones are expensive & you get what you pay for.

If you are shopping around for a pair of muffs I suggest you visit a safety specialist retailer such as protector alsafe or safety equip. In my experience the staff generally know about the products they sell and will steer you in the right direction. And they also sell muffs of the less expensive brands. Stick to well known brands is always good advice. Avoid overseas purchases on ebay etc as you may not get the level of protection you need.

Here is a couple of links for two very good videos. If links do not work copy & past the line below into your browser address bar.

Here is a link to a general video about sound and hearing protection that all shooters should watch, about 18 minutes.

Here is a link to a 70 second video showing how to fit ear plugs correctly.

I hope this helps people to better understand the importance of looking after their hearing and how to do just that.


Peltor SportTac will do me.

Peltor do make quality muffs

They are very good but you have to pay for quality.

@Oldbloke Thanks for that, it is a very informative and well written article. :sunglasses::star_struck:

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I have the Peltor tac 500 very good As in the quality of sound is excellent when being spoken too you would never know you had them on. In the bush it makes your hearing better the sounds are amplified still in stereo so you have direction sensing. down side is that the head band is an uncovered plastic hat is not very comfortable and they are very tight squeezing your ears together. I have contacted Peltor once as have many others they only reply with a phone number to ring so not much good outside the US.

All class 5 muffs are fairly tight. This ensures a good seal which is required to achieve the class 5.rating.

Yeah my boy has got a big head and he always ends up complaining that his head hurts after a while.

I use moulded ear plugs and then ear muffs on top when I’m at the range.

I pretty much use hearing protection every time I shoot these days. Sometimes in a hunting situation there were times where I’ve taken a shot without hearing protection.

I pretty much wear my electronic earmuffs all the time when I walk around hunting. It actually improves your hearing and you can hear bird alarm calls and other noises in the bush you wouldn’t normally hear.

A few weeks ago I had the volume turn up nearly to full. It was like super sonic hearing. I took a shot using my 6.5 Grendel and I must have got an echo off the hill. My ears were ringing for the rest of the weekend. A very unpleasant experience. But other than that I have been very happy with my electronic ear muffs.


I’m a little unclear on a couple of things. First, what’s a safe dB level?

For example, at a shooting range, average noise is well above 85dB and making a day of it, how would you reduce it to below average 85dB? Specifically, you say that 30-06 is around 158dB and class 5 hearing protection will reduce it to (-26dB) 132dB. Isn’t that still a no go?

…or does it mean that reduction of 26dB is calculated differently to simple subtraction?

I would always use class 5 for all shooting sports. Any noise exposure above about 140dB will cause at least some permanent hearing damage.

@Oldbloke do you have any experience with these molded earplugs

Radians DIY Custom Molded Earplugs


Peltor SportTac, class 4 will do me. With a .204 and .30-06 with a muzzle brake they are just fine.

Unfortunately, too many people think that “it’s not too bad” or something like that. One thing is for sure; ANY hearing loss is permanent. You simply can not get it back.
After a few years shooting as a military cadet, in an era when a bit of cotton wool or very rudimentary ear plugs were dished out, my hearing was stuffed from a very early age. I learned the hard way.
Now, and after many years of employment in what are very noisy industries, I use both soft ear plugs AND noise cancelling ear muffs. And I do that on the range as well.
I know that my hearing is not the best, but I’m damned if I’m going to lose any more.
And, when time comes to get your hearing corrected as best it can be, you’ll be in for some serious cost with hearing aides. Protect your hearing now, and use the money you’ll save on more guns/ammo.


To be clear, I always wear hearing pro. Question is not whether it’s required, I’m trying to understand the numbers…

Any centre fire requires hearing protection…and so do .22.

OK. 30-06 peak 158dB. Class 4 protection 22 - 25dB. 125 minus 25 (at best) = 133dB. Still too bloody loud.
That’s why WHS figure that 85dB, over the day, is the limit.
How long do you spend at the range subjecting yourself to the noise?
And, be assured that it only takes ONE shot to damage the organ of Corti (look it up). When the tiny hair-like cells are damaged, that’s it. Gone, never to come back. Little by little you lose more and more, if you choose not to protect what’s left. Then you start asking people to speak up, or the rest of the family asks why you have the TV turned up so bloody loud.

Never go to a rifle range. I live out in the bush. I can virtually shoot anywhere I like around here. I can assure you it’s not loud even with a muzzle brake. I would take 1 shot with a .30-06 aimed at animals. .204 a bit more. My hearing is just fine. Just keep fresh batteries on hand in the Peltors.

I generally wear Howard Leigh electronic hearing pro. Unless I’m with the rest of the awesome crowd, i.e. muzzle break section, then I double up with ear plugs and electronic ear muffs. Handgun range - electronic… For 22s or large open spaces I go with electronic or ear plugs, but ear plugs are rolled and inserted deep in the ear canal, not just on the surface (that’s what OB was talking about).

@oldAG 6-7 hours once every few weeks, in warmer months :slight_smile: