I have only been hunting for about 5 years or so and one of the things that I’ve learned about hunters is that tradition means a lot to many of the men and women I know. I’ve never thought hearing pro would be one of those things that people are so serious about, but many of my friends and family that hunt will never use electronic hearing protection for hunting. I’ve asked as many people as I could and often, traditional hunters view it as cheating the laws of nature.
It makes a lot of sense because most hunters learned from their dad or grandfather and hunting is a very spiritual, animalistic activity to take part in. It’s a little different for me because I’m self-taught with a little help from guys like Steve Rinella, Randy Newberg, the Hunting Public. Regardless of where you stand on the apparent controversy, let me tell you the best electronic hearing protection for hunting in the forests of our great nation.
How Loud is a Gunshot?
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), any noise with a decibel higher than 140 dB will cause injury and pain to your ears and hearing. Most veterans I know have at least minor hearing loss from our time in service. Whether it’s jets flying around you on a Flightline or engaging enemies in active combat, the noise level we’ve been exposed to has damaged much of our hearing.
For many soldiers or LEOs, it’s not like we had time to stop what we’re doing to put in ear pro before a firefight. If you didn’t have it in for whatever reason, you just deal with it, and unfortunately, it’s cost me a lot of hearing and pain in my ears. This is important to consider when buying an ear pro for hunting or shooting at the range because not all hearing protection will work for the guns you may be using.
Weapon of Choice
Noise in dB for Gunshot
Glock 17 (unsuppressed)
30-06, .308 Remington 700
AR 15 (unsuppressed)
Walther P22 (unsuppressed)
12 Gauge Shotgun
What is Electronic Hearing Protection?
Electronic hearing protection is a very unique technology that was first used by the military, especially our elite soldiers fighting away from the protection of a larger force. Electronic hearing protection works by amplifying the sound around you with any noise below 85 decibels. For example, movement in the bushes, wind blowing, leaves cracking in the forests, and any animal sound, will all be amplified.
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Is electronic Hearing Protection Safe for Hunting?
It really depends on what gun you’re using because shooting a rifle chambered in a 30-06 or .308 caliber is incredibly loud and most electronic hearing protection won’t prevent enough noise to prevent potential damage to your hearing. For example, the most common noise reduction rating is between 23dB-33 dB, which means a rifle chambered in .308 or 30-06 will still be above 140dB for most electronic hearing protection.
There are a couple of ways to use electronic hearing protection to hunt whitetail or mule deer that will still keep you protected from the noise level. First, I often use earplugs with a 33dB rating and put my electronic earmuffs over the plugs to provide me with a more than 50dB noise reduction rating. The best thing about this is you can earplugs very cheap and they don’t have to be reusable for very long. I use Mack’s Ultra Soft Foam earplugs in conjunction with my electronic hearing protection.
The second thing you can do is wear a balaclava or gator around your neck and slide it over your electronic hearing protection. I’ve done this for a few years now and it does provide me with enough help to prevent any pain or ringing in my ears when I shoot.
Why I Use Electronic Hearing Protection for Hunting
The coolest thing about hearing protection is the clarity in your hearing ability and the advantage that it gives you in the woods. For example, As I was sitting in my tree stand these past couple of days, I was able to hear a branch break through the dense trees at almost 250 yards with clarity. Even if I didn’t have minor hearing loss, I would have never been able to hear a twig break through the trees at more than 100 yards.
I’ve found that the best use of electronic hearing protection is when I’m in a sedentary hunting position, such as a tree stand or ground blind. How many people have lost shot opportunities due to a deer walking right behind you in a stand or blind? Before I started using my Caldwell Low-Profile E-Max hearing protection, I’ve lost multiple opportunities from simply not hearing a deer approach from my peripherals or behind me. I can now hear well beyond my normal range of hearing with incredible clarity.
When Would I Not Recommend Electronic Hearing Protection?
Personally, I don’t think you need electronic hearing protection at an indoor range. I would much rather have some very strong noise reduction earmuffs with at least a 33dB reduction. Communication isn’t as big of a factor in an indoor range because the environment is more controlled and less likely to not hear commands.
I’ve had the Caldwell Low-Profile E-Max hearing protection for a few weeks now and have hunted with them multiple times so far. Many of the pictures you see are taken from one of my tree stands while hunting with the Caldwell Low-Profile E-Max hearing protection.
The most important features for me are the comfort, noise amplification, Mossy Oak pattern, and the added protection of automatically shutting off at noises above 85dB. I’ve worn these headphones for 11 hours last Saturday and I didn’t feel uncomfortable at all.
If you’re just hunting for whitetail the camo pattern might not be the biggest deal for you, but if you like to hunt turkey the Caldwell E-Max hearing pro blends in great to the fall woodland colors.
The most important part about the E-Max headphones is the way they amplify sound at safe decibels and turn off sound at unsafe, potentially damaging sound. For example, if the sound is softer than a leaf blower or lawnmower, the E-Max headphones amplify the sound to make it clearer, louder, and more pronounced than your naked ear. However, the headphones will turn off if it’s any higher than a gas-powered lawnmower.
The E-Max Low-Profile headphones will prevent up to 23dB of noise once the noise level gets past 85dB. For example, if you shoot a Glock 17 or the Glock 43X, you will be able to bring the noise of the 2 pistols down from 162 to 139, which is below the threshold of pain.
Noise Reduction Rating
2 AAA Batteries
Mossy Oak Break-up
Sound Amplification Level
The Mossy Oak is perfect for fall woodlands and forests
It’s a great holiday gift for hunters with bad hearing
So far my 2 AAA batteries have lasted 2 weeks with multi-day hunts
Provides the tactical advantage of hearing an animal before it ever hears or smells you
The level of clarity that the E-Max provides is enough for me to know from 200 yards away, with no clear vision I heard was a squirrel, bird, or deer
Has an input jack to plug in headphones with the ability to listen to music while you’re in between hunting and traveling
I’ve noticed if I try to use my phone while the headphones are turned on, I get a lot of static. However, I normally put my phone in Airplane mode anyway, which eliminates the static.
Would I Buy the E-Max Electronic Hearing Protection Again?
Absolutely, yes! So far I’ve enjoyed the Caldwell hearing protection and I will continue to use and update my review when hunting season is over. The sound is stereo quality that picks up sound that I could never hear by myself. The E-Max gets its Low-Profile name from the compact nature of the headphones with the flexible band that conforms to your head size without being bulky.
How Do I Use My E-Max Electronic Hearing Protection?
I have sensitive ears that have been bludgeoned with Air Force jets and gunfire, so my ears can’t take the sound of a rifle very well. Maybe you have better hearing, but I use the Mack’s Ultra Soft Ear Plugs inside my electronic hearing pro.
Putting electronic hearing electronic headphones over the earplugs makes up for the loss that you get with the earplugs. For me, it’s like having the best of both worlds, great protection, and advanced hearing. Until proven otherwise, I think the Caldwell E-Max Low-Profile Electronic hearing protection headphones are the best for the money, versatility, and amplification capabilities.
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