Hearing protection isn’t the sexiest topic. Yet almost all of us use it. And if you’re serious about practicing with live ammunition, you should have serious hearing protection. It is becoming a highly specialized field. Pro-Ears Predator ear muffs, for example, seem perfectly suited for hunters.
The Predator Gold electronic ear muffs are rated at 26 decibels of noise reduction. While this isn’t the highest noise rating offered by Pro-Ears, it is certainly sufficient. Like all ear protection, the Pro-Ears Predators are meant to keep out loud sounds. But there is an added element that makes them really incredible—the quality of the sound they let in.
For starters, let me preface the conversation by taking a moment to talk about the basic philosophy of active noise reducing ear protection. From a technical perspective, the concept is complicated. Microphones on the outside of the earmuffs pick up sounds that are transmitted through speakers inside the protective cups. Sounds below a certain decibel rating are allowed through. Sounds above that point—loud sounds like gunshots—are transmitted, but not as loudly.
I’ve used other electronic hearing protection. A friend of mine has two pairs of Peltor electronic earmuffs. I like them quite a bit. We can still talk while we are shooting without the annoying difficulty of taking out earplugs. They amplify sounds, but it almost always sounds like you are listening to sound coming through speakers—there is just enough buzz.
The Pro-Ears Predators have a leg up on the Peltors. The speaker quality is superb. As a result, the sound inside the ear muffs is much less artificial. Gunshots still sound like they might in a movie theater—and they are louder than other sounds—but they aren’t deafening or dangerous.
But other sounds are surprisingly lifelike. While I was shooting out in the middle of a huge open field, an airplane flew over. The sound would have been quiet enough with the earmuffs off. But the plane wasn’t loud enough to trigger the noise elimination. For a brief moment, I thought the plane was coming down right on top of me.
Conversation, though, is so clear. I can hardly tell the difference between having them on or off. There are volume knobs for each ear. This is perfect for people like me who have better hearing in one ear than the other. I can’t hear much from my right ear. Through the magic of transistors or resistors or whatever, my auditory shortcomings are easily equalized.
Another interesting aspect of these protectors is the profile of the cups. The convex bubble of the outer shell has a convex scoop on the lower half. While this cuts down on the volume of empty air inside the cups, the cut-outs make it easier to secure a solid cheek-weld on a rifle or shotgun.
I haven’t yet used these for hunting. I’m looking forward to that. The microphones are very sensitive. And let’s be honest—I’m not the only one with bad hearing. As a species, we all are deficient. As hunters, humans rely on tactics and tools—not our senses of smell or hearing.
Think of these as binoculars for your ears—only they keep you from seeing anything bad. Never mind—the metaphor breaks down. But you get what I’m saying. While they keep out the bad sounds, they are capable of amplifying what you want to hear.
The Pro-Ears Predator Golds are ideal for the hunt. You don’t want passive ear protection cutting out all sound—that could make hunting complex, or even dangerous. And you won’t have that many shots to block. But instead of going naked, you can have a serious tool that will increase your abilities.
Check out Pro-Ears, if you haven’t already. At $339 they aren’t cheap—but what they offer, in terms of protection and amplification, is worth the investment.