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Ear Protection for Trapshooting: Solutions for a Risky Hobby

Choosing the right earplugs for trap shooting can be a tricky business.

It may sound silly, but in fact many shooters don't think about it until after they've shot themselves or their targets in the ear.

To be able to enjoy the sport of clay target shooting without damaging your hearing, you should consider the following three things when selecting a pair of ear plugs.

  1. Noise level
  2. Sound dampening
  3. Comfort

Keep reading to learn more about the best ways to protect your ears.

Choosing the best earplugs for trap shooting

Noise is probably the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about clay target shooting, as it is a popular and very loud recreational activity.

No wonder, since it is recommended that shoot operators include a noise buffer zone between the shooting area and any neighbours that might be affected by the noise.

consider wearing ear protection

If you enjoy trap shooting or clay target shooting in general as a hobby, you may want to consider wearing ear protection for trap shooting, since the noise levels can reach a maximum level similar to other shooting ranges.

I remember reading about an old saying that stuck with me over the years, for it was very telling about how dangerous trap shooting can be for your hearing: “You can tell an old trap shooter, but you can’t tell him much.”

Just as other competitive shooting activities, such as skeet shooting, trap shooting is one of the many loud hobbies that might result in hearing damage, mostly because people are not aware of the importance of ear protection during leisure activities involving firearms.

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noise level of 150 decibels

Trapshooting is typically shot with a 12-gauge shotgun, which can reach a whooping noise level of 150 decibels. This kind of noise is extremely dangerous and even short exposure to sounds between 120 and 150 decibels can cause hearing loss.

Some may use smaller gauge firearms, such as 16, 20 or 28 gauge, but it does not make much of a difference in terms of dangerous noise levels, since a 22 pistol or rifle, for example, can also reach a noise level of 140 decibels, which is close to double the recommended safe noise exposure level of maximum 85 decibels.

If you still do not think you need hearing protection, remember that a normal conversation reaches a humble 60 decibels, and a loud concert usually peaks at 100 decibels, and that is pretty loud even for someone who enjoys live music.

Keeping that in mind, imagine adding 50 more decibels (half of a live music concert) of noise and bring them close to your ears, then repeat that for up to 1400 times, which is how many shots are made during trapshooting competitions.

Do you still think your ears are safe from irreparable damage? And since you can find an ear protector on the market that is both comfortable and allows you to hear everything around you, except the shots, you really have no excuse for not protecting your ears while enjoying your favourite hobby.

Noises When Trapshooting

The following infographic shows a list of the various noises when you are out and about. Any noise over 70-80db over a long period of time may cause damage to your hearing. A noise of over 120dB may cuase immediate harm to your ears

Why You Need Ear Protection for Trap Shooting

If all sounds above 85 decibels expose you to potential ear damage, according to experts, being exposed to only one gunshot without wearing hearing protectors equals one week of working in constructions or other noisy work environments in terms of exposure to dangerous noise levels.

If you are one of the many trap shooting fans that enjoy this sport hobby frequently, you end up being exposed to many shotgun blasts. Many trapshooting enthusiasts report shooting up to as many as 1400 rounds per week during competitions, or a total of 20.000 targets in one year, so you can imagine the damage that it can do to your ears in time.

That damage is multiplied by being close to other trap shooting aficionados that show up at the range.

Luckily, it is a standard practice in any trapshooting club to require wearing eye and ear protection.


What Type of Ear Protection Is Best for Trap Shooting?

You may hear stories about cotton buds being shoved in the shooter’s ears for protection, but the truth is that they bring little to no benefit when it comes to preventing hearing loss from trap shooting.

Responsible trap shooters use either electronic noise reduction muffs, which may be a little uncomfortable if you also want to wear headgear or mouldable earplugs. Of course, you can also opt for disposable foam plugs or earplugs manufactured from other materials, based on your needs. If you choose earmuffs for trap shooting, make sure that the rubber strip attaches to the skin around your ear, so that it acts as a seal against excessive noise.

When looking for the best ear protectors for trap shooting, make sure you verify the product’s NRR or Noise Reduction Rating, which will tell you if the earmuffs or earplugs are right for your hobby. Figuring out how much noise reduction you need is simple.

Start by subtracting 85, which is the recommended safe noise exposure level, from 150 (this is the noise level registered when using a 12-gauge shotgun). The result will show you by how many decibels should the noise level be reduced to avoid hearing damage during trap shooting sessions.

As a rule of thumb, a bigger Noise Reduction Rating is better for environments with a higher noise level. Effective earmuffs should have an NRR of around 30, while earplugs can reach a Noise Reduction Rating of 33.

If you feel that trapshooting is still too loud, remember that you can use both earmuffs and earplugs to get additional noise protection. Two pairs of hearing protectors with a high NRR can raise the noise reduction level with up to 10 decibels.

Benefits of Wearing Ear Protection for Trap shooting

Besides helping you avoid ear damage and hearing loss, wearing protection for trap shooting also helps you block out the surrounding noise and concentrate on the targets when you shoot.

There is also the option of using electronic amplifying earplugs that suppress the sound of a shot, but allow the shooter to hear other sounds, such as people talking around them, or understanding what the scores are during shooting. This way, if you worry about not being able to carry on normal conversations while protecting your hearing, wearing amplified earplugs whenever you are close to the shooting line is a convenient option.

Besides avoiding long term hearing loss from practising trap shooting, wearing ear protection can protect you from tinnitus, an auditory issue that gives you the impression that you are hearing a phantom noise when, in fact, there is no external sound source generating it.

Trapshooting Ear Protection

It is a common practice for shooters to wear ear protection while shooting traps. Earplugs or earmuffs can significantly reduce the noise level within your ears and therefore may protect your hearing.

Earplugs are inserted into the outer ear canal, while some models also seal around the edge of the head to offer greater protection against sound waves entering from different angles. Earmuffs cover most of the outer ear and seal against the head over one or both ears, blocking sound from entering through gaps in clothing. These devices are typically less expensive than other types of hearing protection devices and they do not require ongoing maintenance such as replacing foam pads after prolonged use.

Choosing the right protection

While it is generally accepted that earplugs and earmuffs offer some protection against hearing loss, how much protection they provide is not certain. Manufacturers of these products have yet to develop standards in terms of measuring their ability to reduce noise levels.

Consequently, when using earplugs or earmuffs, you have no way of knowing for sure how much noise reduction you will actually achieve. Some products are known to provide at least 20-30 dB of noise reduction-which means about a 50% reduction in noise level.

How to choose the best product

We suggest you wear both ear plugs and ear muffs when shooting traps. Ear plugs are better for casual use, while ear muffs are more suitable for long-term use. This is because earplugs fit too tightly in the ears to be comfortable over long periods with constant re-insertion of the same type of product. Also, when used over several days, these products tend to become less effective over time. On the other hand, some manufacturers have developed earmuffs that allow easy adjustment of the degree of protection by simply adjusting two small springs which hold the earmuff against your head while shooting traps (see image below).

How to maintain ear protection

Although earmuffs are relatively easy to clean and maintain, ear plugs usually require some cleaning and maintenance. These types of products can become clogged with dirt and debris from the range which may reduce their effective noise reduction.

The best way to clean these products is to twist off the outer shell and brush out the inside with a pin brush. If necessary, you may also need to soak it in disinfectant before re-inserting it into your ears.

When not to wear ear protection

It is reasonable for shooters not wearing ear protection during shooting practice or at sporting events such as trap competitions. However, at least one research study has demonstrated that exposure to the sound of gunshots can be harmful to your hearing even if the sound level is below 100 dB.

Additional research is needed to provide more conclusive evidence regarding this risk. It will be important for shooters not wearing ear protection during competitive events to wear them when they are shooting alone at the range if they are concerned about their hearing.

It is a common practice for shooters to wear ear protection while shooting traps. Earplugs or earmuffs can significantly reduce the noise level within your ears and therefore may protect your hearing.

How to wear ear protection

Even if the noise level around the shooting range is relatively low, wearing ear protection will prevent damaging sounds from reaching your ears and that will preserve your hearing abilities for years. Even if you start wearing earmuffs or earplugs and find it more comfortable, eventually, you may want to try out different types of products to determine which works better for you.

Other options for shooting sports noise protection

Sport shooters can also consider purchasing hearing protectors such as custom-fitted ear muffs or "sound cannons" with loud sound generators built into them. These devices are designed to cancel both sound waves and harmful noise frequencies that hurt the ears but do not necessarily cancel all sounds around the shooter.

While earmuffs and ear plugs are reasonably effective, they do not offer the same degree of protection as sport shooter devices. These devices also require more adjustment, cost more money and require annual maintenance to keep them working well.

However, many shooters prefer these types of hearing protectors because they typically fit over their ears better than other products and because they can amplify external sounds that are important to the shooter (like range commands). Also, some shooters feel uncomfortable wearing ear plugs in their ears with other hearing protection in place. The key to choosing which product is best for you is to practice with a variety of products and find out what works for you best.

Future developments

It is a common practice for shooters not wearing ear protection during shooting practice or at sporting events such as trap competitions. However, at least one research study has demonstrated that exposure to the sound of gunshots can be harmful to your hearing even if the sound level is below 100 dB.

Additional research is needed to provide more conclusive evidence regarding this risk. It will be important for shooters not wearing ear protection during competitive events to wear them when they are shooting alone at the range if they are concerned about their hearing.

It will be important for shooters not wearing ear protection during competitive events to wear them when they are shooting alone at the range if they are concerned about their hearing.


Hearing protection is a must for trap shooters and competitors in shooting sports. The use of hearing protection is not only safe, it can provide excellent protection for your hearing and help you preserve it for years without hearing impairment. However, sport shooters should also learn how to avoid damaging sounds while shooting.

This can be done by using earplugs when shooting at the range and after practice or by wearing ear muffs during competition if their ears tend to be more sensitive to loud sounds.

Please Note: Just because an ear defender is marked, for example, "Gunshot" - it will still cover other things, like "explosions"

SureFire EP4 Sonic Defenders Plus filtered Earplugs, triple flanged design, reusable, Black, Medium
  • 24dB Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) with filter caps inserted, Hear safe sound levels (with filter caps out) as if you weren't wearing ear plugs
  • Soft, adjustable, triple-flanged stems provide secure seals in ear canals and all-day comfort
  • Low-profile design allows you to keep them in place while wearing a mask, helmet, hat, or while using supplemental hearing muffs
  • Patented EarLock retention rings utilize seven contact points to lock earpieces in place and fit the same way every time
  • Made in USA from hypoallergenic, medical-grade polymer that's soft, durable, and long-lasting
Decibullz - Custom Molded Earplugs, 31dB Highest NRR, Comfortable Hearing Protection for Shooting,...
  • CUSTOM MOLDED EARPLUGS: Easily and quickly fitted to the exact shape of your ear. This creates a perfect fitting earplug that will never hurt, never fall out and provide superior noise isolation.
  • EASY SHAPE SYSTEM: Simply heat the Decibullz thermoplastic molds in boiling water, let them cool for a bit, and shape them to your ears. That's it, and If you don't get the perfect fit the first time Decibullz are the only custom earplugs that are re-moldable.
  • PERFECT FOR ANY SITUATION: Decibullz are perfect for shooting, traveling, working, loud concerts, and safety.
  • INCLUDED WITH PURCHASE: Two Decibullz Thermoplastic Custom Molds, Three Sets of Triple Flange Tips S, M, L, One Set of Max Protect MEDIUM Foam Tips, Earplug Carrying Pouch with Decibullz Logo
  • HEAT SHAPE REMOLD : Get superior sound quality and noise reduction with custom ear pieces for radio. Simply heat the earpiece mold in a cup of boiling water, cool, then insert into your ear. It shapes around your own ear as it cools. Reheat and remold these reusable ear pieces whenever you need to.
Loop Quiet Ear Plugs for Noise Reduction – Super Soft, Reusable Hearing Protection in Flexible...
  • NOISE REDUCTION - Loop Quiet earplugs are reusable and durable hearing protection, made from soft silicone. They reduce most noise and help you to get in your bubble. They have a noise reduction rating (SNR) of 26 decibels, NRR of 14 and come in 6 stylish colors.
  • OPTIMAL COMFORT - These noise reducing earplugs come in 4 different sizes, so you can always find the perfect fit. The iconic round shape of Loop Quiet sits perfectly in your ears, making it a fashionable accessory that protects your hearing.
  • MULTI-PURPOSE - Loop Quiet are versatile earplugs that offer protection from loud noises and background noise in many situations. They are great for sleeping and can help you to focus or to concentrate while studying, working or reading. And of course, they are a must have while traveling or commuting.
  • EASY TO USE - These earplugs are easy to insert and when you wear them correctly, they don't stick out of your ears. They come in 4 sizes (XS - L), if your ears hurt, it is best to take a smaller size. If the earplugs do not reduce sound sufficiently or fall out, it is best to try on a size larger.
  • IN THE BOX - In Loop Quiet's eco-friendly packaging, there is 1 set of Loop Quiet earplugs, 4 sizes of soft silicone ear tips (XS-L) and 1 handy carry case. Our earplugs are reusable and washable, providing a sustainable solution to disposable plugs.

Last update on 2023-11-17 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Other Questions

Do you need ear protection for shooting?

Yes, for shooting you do need ear protection. It is important to wear ear protection while shooting because the weapons can create noise louder than 170dB that could end up damaging your ears.

For human ears, the tolerable noise level is 70dB. Anything over 85dB is too noisy and can lead to hearing loss or other difficulties with the hearing.

There are now several different forms of hearing aid available on the market that are specially made for shooters, such as earplugs, earmuffs, and earmolds. Ear protection suppresses the noise level and also reduced the echo produced by firearms making it safe for your ears.

Are earplugs or earmuffs better for shooting?

Both earplugs and earmuffs help provide ear protection. In order to achieve the optimal result, earplugs and earmuffs can be used together when shooting, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

Earplugs, however, offer greater protection than earmuffs, since earplugs are able to seal the ear canal entirely, resulting in improved hearing protection.

Silicon and foam earplugs are considered a safe option for hunters or police officers, among the various available types of earplugs.

What hearing protection do professional shooters use?

There are many kinds of ear protection available in the market and shooters choose the hearing protection depending upon the kind of noise level they are being exposed to.

Earplugs are generally more comfortable and easy to use because they are made of foam and silicon. Earmuffs can be electronic and passive.

Passive earmuffs have foam and other material in the ear cup which blocks the sound while electronic earmuffs have microphones in them which pick up quieter sounds and the amplifier which makes it easier to hear the low sounds in your surroundings.

References - Trapshooting

If you require more information, please check these references

Sound Attenuation Performance of Fiber-reinforced Polymer Composite Circumaural Hearing Protection Devices , article, "scholarcommons.usf.edu", retrieved on, Mon 16-November-2020

Shooting Sporting Clays , article, "books.google.co.uk", retrieved on, Mon 16-November-2020

Learning to Shoot , article, "www.jstor.org", retrieved on, Mon 16-November-2020


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Nick Le Page

Experience : Hi, I am Nick, and I have suffered with ear problems my whole life, mainly tinnitus. I have tried a lot of products to help protect my ears over this period, and several devices to block out the constant ringing

“Are you having problems hearing? If so, those around you already know it. Hearing loss is no laughing matter, so don’t be a punchline.”

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