How many times a day do you take off your earmuffs to hear what your mate or client is saying? Worse still, how often do you expose yourself to loud noises on site or in the field, because you need to hear what someone is saying to you? The trade off for any set of passive hearing protection is that you’re closing yourself off to low level sounds such as speech or movement around you. This can be especially frustrating for tradies, mechanics, or other workers operating in loud environments that also need to talk to customers day to day.
There’s a solution: shooting earmuffs.
But why? The main advantage shooting earmuffs have is a feature that you might have heard called ‘selective amplification’ or a ‘level dependent function’. The earmuffs are designed with little speakers that amplify quiet sounds, such as speech or footsteps, and compress/shut off loud noises, such as gunfire, power tools, or the loud noise of machinery.
Say for example you’re running a loud chainsaw, the earmuffs will block out that noise the same as a normal set of hearing protection. But then, when you turn the saw off and your mate is talking to you, the earmuffs will identify and amplify that conversation, sending their voice clearly through to your ears, without requiring you to take off your muffs. This is a huge advantage, allowing your ears to be maximally protected from damaging noises, while also allowing you to remain aware of what’s happening around you and talk without having to remove your muffs.
In this guide we’re going to look at three examples of electronic shooting earmuffs for work, each with slightly different features. But, as a final summary, what are the benefits of electronic shooting earmuffs in a work environment?
- Allows you to have conversations without removing your hearing protection. If you’re working in landscape gardening, cutting trees, in a mechanical setting (or elsewhere) there are times when you might want to talk to a client, customer or co-worker without having to take off your hearing protection. A set of electronic earmuffs will allow you to hear them clearly, while still ensuring your ears are protected in the process.
- Maximises safety. If you’re using dangerous tools like saws or woodchippers, the capacity to hear while wearing hearing protection can be a game changer. It makes you more aware of your surroundings and better able to communicate, particularly with pedestrians or people outside of your sightlines.
- Avoids situations where your hands are full and you have to remove your earmuffs. No more doing a shuffle with both hands to down tools, remove the muffs, have a chat, and then replace. The earmuffs monitor your surroundings and amplify or compress sound as necessary.
SLC80 24DB | CLASS 4
A great introductory shooter’s muff that’s got a good level of protection for work, the Impact Sport is a Class 4 earmuff under the AU/NZ standard, blocking about 24 decibels of sound. It’s a slimline earmuff, so it’s not going to have too much bulk or weight to it over a long day of work.
Its selective amplification works up to 82dB, the safe-listening limit. This means that sounds below 82dB are amplified by up to four times, but not such that they would go past that safe listening limit. You’ll be able to hear conversations and remain aware of your surroundings with these on. Once a sound goes past 82dB, for example the whir of a power tool or the loud sound of an engine, these will revert to ‘passive hearing protection’. That’s a fancy way of saying they become a regular pair of earmuffs once it gets too loud, blocking out sound as normal and deactivating the amplification.
As an added bonus, the Impact Sport has an AUX input, which lets you listen to MP3 players, radio scanners, etc. It’s controlled by a single-knob for power and volume and comes with batteries included.
However, you might be someone who actually wants to hear a little bit of what you’re doing when it’s loud. In fact, this amount of hearing might actually make your work safer, for you I would consider the next muff.
SLC80 31DB | CLASS 5
The Impact Pro is the next step upgrade over the Impact Sport, it’s a Class 5 earmuff under the AU/NZ standard, so the highest level of sound protection available blocking up to 31dB of sound when worn. In contrast to the Impact Sport, it clips dangerous sounds by 50%, bringing them within the 82dB safe listening limit. This means, you’ll still hear the saw or the woodchipper, but at a much quieter level. This maximises awareness and also helps you troubleshoot on the fly: you can hear more clearly if something’s not working correctly or what’s happening around you. The clipping’s delay is only 10 milliseconds too, so there’s going to be almost no break between switching back to amplification when the sound level lowers.
Like the Impact Sport, it includes a stereo input for connecting to phones or hand-held FMRS radios. If you have an appropriate hand held radio, you will be able to take calls through the earmuffs, a really cheap two-way radio solution for loud environments. It’s a bulkier unit than the Impact Sport, with wider earcups, but they’re adjustable and padded, ensuring comfort over long work days. It’s simple to operate with a single switch controlling power and volume, and the included pair of AAA batteries will provide up to 350 hours of continued use.
The Impact Pro is the best electronic earmuff solution for the loudest working environments. Like the Tactical Sport, it retains the 82dB safe listening limit, with the clipping function giving you more versatility and awareness on site.
The next upgrade is a really premium solution and combines the best features of both the Impact series muffs.
SLC80 24DB | CLASS 4
The SportTac is considered a best of both worlds premium shooter’s earmuff and is a great upgrade over the previous two models shown. The main thing to note is, this is still only a Class 4 hearing protection unit, if you’re dealing with the loudest work environments, the Impact Pro is going to provide the highest degree of safety.
The main advantage the SportTac has over the preceding muffs is its level dependent function, this basically means that the transition between levels of sound will be far smoother than the abrupt cut-off you get with the Impact Sport. Like the Impact Sport it is a slimmer solution than the Impact Pro, meaning this is a light set of muffs that’s going to perform well over the work day. Angled speakers give superior direction perception over the other two muffs listed and it’s extremely battery efficient: up to 600 hours on a single pair of AAAs.
The water resistant exterior, designed for hunting in inclement weather, is also great for outdoor work situations. They’re a collapsible set of earmuffs that store in a very small amount of space, with a sweat resistant exterior designed to protect the electronics when worn. Like the preceding muffs, they include an input jack for connection to appropriate 2-way radios.
A good set of shooter’s earmuffs is a novel solution to work, that allows you to remain aware of your surroundings while also protecting your ears from damaging environmental noise.
Our pick of the bunch?
The Impact Pro provides the right balance of high level hearing protection (Class 5) and sound amplification/compression to be the most effective solution for the widest range of work situations. Priced competitively against the Impact Sport, if compact muffs is not an issue it’s a great and economical solution for your ears.