Are Noise Cancelling Earbuds Good for Shooting? (Analysis)

Yes, noise cancelling earbuds are great for shooting! They provide excellent hearing protection while keeping you focused.

As someone who loves to shoot, I’ve experienced the challenges of protecting my hearing while still being able to focus and enjoy my time at the range. That’s why I decided to put noise cancelling earbuds to the test.

In this post, I’ll share their benefits and potential drawbacks when used for shooting. Also, explain why are noise cancelling earbuds good for shooting.

You’ll get the inside scoop on how these tiny devices can impact your shooting experience.

Are Noise Cancelling Earbuds Good for Shooting

We’ll dive into,

  • The shooting science of noise cancelling technology with earbuds.
  • Explore how these earbuds stack up against traditional earmuffs.
  • Discuss some of the top brands you might want to consider.

Plus, I’ll share my tips and tricks to help you make the most of these handy devices while you’re at the range.

So, come along as we explore the fascinating world of noise cancelling earbuds and determine if they are the perfect accessory for your shooting adventures. Trust me; your ears will thank you.

The Shooting Science of Noise Cancelling Technology with Earbuds

To understand how noise cancelling earbuds work in a shooting context, it’s essential to grasp the basics of this technology.

Passive Noise Reduction

The first layer of noise reduction in noise cancelling earbuds is passive noise reduction. Which relies on the earbud’s physical design and materials to block out external sounds.

A shooting scenario involves creating a tight seal within the ear canal using ear tips made of silicone, foam, or other materials.

This seal helps to reduce the volume of sudden, high-frequency noises, like gunshots, from reaching the eardrum.

Active Noise Cancellation

The second noise reduction layer is active noise cancellation (ANC). ANC uses advanced electronic technology to counteract ambient noises.

Here’s a step-by-step explanation of how ANC works in the context of shooting:

  1. Microphones pick up ambient sounds: External microphones on the earbuds detect surrounding noises. It Includes low-frequency, continuous sounds like wind or machinery.
  2. Noise inversion: The earbud’s internal circuitry processes the incoming sounds. And generates an “anti-noise” signal, the exact inverse of the detected noise.
  3. Noise cancellation: The earbuds’ speakers then emit the anti-noise signal. Which combines with the external sounds and cancels them out through destructive interference. This results in a significant reduction in perceived noise levels.
  4. Limitations: While ANC technology effectively reduces low-frequency, continuous noises. It may struggle to counteract sudden, high-frequency sounds like gunshots. The technology might not react quickly enough.
It's important to note that ANC is most effective when combined with passive noise reduction. The ear canal's physical seal helps block out high-frequency sounds that the ANC might not handle.

Situational Awareness and Transparency Modes

An additional feature in some noise cancelling earbuds is the ability to maintain situational awareness through transparency or ambient sound modes.

These modes use external microphones to capture important environmental sounds, such as range commands or approaching wildlife, and amplify them.

It allows the user to hear them without sacrificing hearing protection. This feature can be handy for hunters or range users who must be aware of their surroundings while protecting their ears from loud gunshots.

Noise Cancelling Earbuds vs Traditional Hearing Protection

Now that we understand the technology behind noise cancelling earbuds. Let’s compare them to traditional hearing protection options.

Effectiveness in Noise Reduction

  • Noise Cancelling Earbuds: These earbuds combine passive noise reduction and active noise cancellation technology to protect hearing. They’re effective at reducing constant, low-frequency sounds. But may struggle to block sudden, high-frequency noises like gunshots.
  • Traditional Hearing Protection: Over-the-ear earmuffs and foam earplugs rely on passive noise reduction to block out sound. They are generally more effective at protecting your ears from sudden. Also, high-decibel noises, such as gunshots, are compared to noise cancelling earbuds.

Comfort and Fit

  • Noise Cancelling Earbuds: These compact and lightweight earbuds make them more comfortable for extended wear. But their effectiveness depends on getting the right fit and seal in the ear canal. Which can be challenging for some users.
  • Traditional Hearing Protection: Earmuffs can be bulky and uncomfortable during prolonged use, especially in hot weather. Foam earplugs are lightweight, but their comfort depends on proper insertion into the ear canal. It may be difficult for some users to achieve.

Ease of Use

  • Noise Cancelling Earbuds: Bluetooth connectivity makes these earbuds easy to put on and take off. They can be used with other electronic devices, such as smartphones. But they need charging and may have limited battery life. This can be inconvenient during extended shooting sessions.
  • Traditional Hearing Protection: Earmuffs and foam earplugs are straightforward and don’t need any power source. They can be quickly put on or removed, making them a hassle-free option for many shooters.

Situational Awareness

  • Noise Cancelling Earbuds: Some noise cancelling earbuds are designed to provide situational awareness by allowing important environmental sounds to pass through while reducing harmful noise levels. This feature can be handy for hunters or range users who must know their surroundings.
  • Traditional Hearing Protection: Passive hearing protection options like earmuffs and foam earplugs may reduce your situational awareness. They block out most sounds, including critical environmental noises.

Why It’s Important to Use Hearing Protection When Shooting

Using hearing protection while shooting is crucial for several reasons, including the following:

1. Prevent Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL)

Gunshots generate incredibly high noise levels, often exceeding 140 dB. Exposure to such loud sounds, even for a short duration, can cause permanent damage to the sensitive hair cells in the inner ear.

This leads to noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). Wearing appropriate hearing protection helps to reduce the volume.

2. Protect Against Tinnitus

Tinnitus is a persistent ringing, buzzing, or hissing sensation in the ears. It can be a symptom of noise-induced hearing damage.

Exposure to loud gunshots without proper hearing protection can cause tinnitus, leading to discomfort and difficulty concentrating.

Using hearing protection while shooting can help prevent the onset or worsening of tinnitus.

3. Avoid Acoustic Trauma

Acoustic trauma refers to immediate hearing damage caused by exposure to a loud sound, like a gunshot.

In some cases, acoustic trauma can result in temporary or permanent hearing loss. It depends on the severity of the damage.

Hearing protection during shooting activities can protect your ears from such traumatic incidents.

4. Maintain Comfort

Repeated exposure to loud noises can cause discomfort and even ear pain. By using hearing protection, you can reduce the volume of gunshots and create a more comfortable shooting experience.

5. Comply with Regulations

Many shooting ranges and clubs need hearing protection as a safety precaution.

By using appropriate hearing protection, you follow these regulations. It helps promote a safe shooting environment for yourself and others.

6. Preserve Communication Abilities

Untreated hearing loss can lead to difficulties in communication, impacting personal and professional relationships.

Protecting your hearing while shooting helps preserve your ability to communicate with others.

How to Properly Use Noise Cancelling Earbuds for Shooting?

To ensure optimal hearing protection when using noise cancelling earbuds for shooting. Follow these steps:

Step 1: Choose the Right Ear Tips

  • Select the Appropriate Size: Noise cancelling earbuds often come with many ear tip sizes to ensure a proper fit for different users. Try out different sizes to find the one. That provides the most secure and comfortable seal in your ear canal.
  • Consider Material Options: Ear tips can be made from various materials, such as silicone or memory foam. Each material has pros and cons of comfort, durability, and noise reduction. Experiment with different materials to find the best option for your needs.

Step 2: Insert the Earbuds Correctly

  • Position the Earbuds: Hold the earbud with the ear tip pointing towards your ear canal. Gently insert the ear tip into the canal, ensuring that it forms a tight seal. You may need to slightly twist or wiggle the earbud to achieve the best fit.
  • Check the Seal: To confirm that the earbuds are correctly inserted and provide adequate noise reduction, perform a quick seal test. Clap your hands or speak out loud – you should notice a significant decrease in sound levels when the earbuds are correctly sealed.

Step 3: Activate Active Noise Cancellation

  • Turn on the ANC Feature: Ensure the ANC feature is enabled on your earbuds before shooting. This will help to reduce low-frequency sounds and provide a more comfortable.
  • Adjust ANC Levels: Some noise cancelling earbuds allow you to adjust the level of ANC. Experiment with different settings to find the most effective and comfortable level.

Step 4: Maintain Situational Awareness

  • Choose Earbuds with Transparency Mode: If situational awareness is essential for your shooting activities, select noise cancelling earbuds that offer a transparency or ambient sound mode. This feature allows you to hear important environmental sounds.
  • Stay Alert: Even with noise cancelling earbuds that allow for situational awareness. It’s crucial to remain vigilant and aware of your surroundings while shooting. Always prioritize safety and follow appropriate shooting range rules and guidelines.

Step 5: Pair with Additional Hearing Protection if Necessary

  • Double Up on Protection: In situations requiring extra hearing protection, such as when shooting high-calibre firearms or in boisterous environments. Consider using noise cancelling earbuds in conjunction with over-the-ear earmuffs. This combination can enhance hearing protection and reduce the risk of noise-induced hearing damage.

By following these steps, you can ensure that you’re using noise cancelling earbuds effectively and safely during shooting activities. It maximizes their benefits while protecting your hearing.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Noise Cancelling Earbuds for Shooting

As with any hearing protection option, noise cancelling earbuds have pros and cons.


  • Compact and lightweight design
  • It can be used in conjunction with other hearing protection.
  • It can reduce low-frequency noise, making for a more enjoyable shooting experience.
  • May offer additional features, such as Bluetooth connectivity and built-in microphones


  • It may not provide enough protection for very high-decibel firearms.
  • Reliance on battery power.
  • It can be more expensive than traditional hearing protection options.
  • Fit and comfort can vary, affecting effectiveness.

Top Noise Cancelling Earbuds for Shooting

If you’re considering noise cancelling earbuds for shooting, choosing a pair that combines passive noise reduction and active noise cancellation is essential for the best protection.

Remember that not all noise cancelling earbuds are designed for shooting environments. Here are some factors to consider when choosing the right pair:

Factors to Consider When Choosing Earbuds

  • Noise Reduction Rating (NRR): Look for earbuds with a high NRR, indicating their effectiveness in blocking loud noises. For shooting purposes, an NRR of at least 25 decibels is recommended.
  • Fit and Comfort: Your earbuds should fit snugly in your ears and provide a comfortable seal. Poorly fitting earbuds won’t provide adequate protection. Also may be uncomfortable during extended use.
  • Battery Life: As ANC technology requires power, it’s essential to consider battery life when selecting earbuds. Look for models that offer at least 8 hours of continuous use to avoid running out of power during shooting sessions.
  • Durability and Weather Resistance: Choose earbuds that are built to withstand the rigors of shooting.

How Much NRR Do You Need for Shooting?

The Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) is a measurement that indicates the effectiveness of hearing protection devices in reducing noise exposure.

The higher the NRR, the greater the noise reduction the device provides.

When it comes to shooting sports and activities, the level of noise reduction required depends on factors such as:

  • The type of firearm being used.
  • The shooting environment (indoor or outdoor).
  • The duration of exposure to loud noises.

Here are some general guidelines to help you determine how much NRR you might need for shooting:

Small Caliber Firearms

For smaller calibre firearms, such as .22 calibre rimfire rifles or pistols, noise levels can range from 120 to 140 dB. Hearing protection with an NRR of at least 25 dB is recommended.

Standard Caliber Firearms

For standard calibre firearms, such as 9mm pistols or .223 calibre rifles, noise levels can range from 140 to 155 dB. Hearing protection with an NRR of at least 30 dB is recommended.

Large Caliber Firearms

For larger calibre firearms, such as shotguns or high-calibre rifles, noise levels can exceed 160 dB. Hearing protection with an NRR of at least 33 dB is recommended in these cases.

Double up on hearing protection by using earplugs and earmuffs for increased noise reduction.

Indoor vs Outdoor Shooting

Indoor shooting ranges often have higher noise levels due to sound reverberations and the proximity of other shooters.

In these environments, it’s crucial to use hearing protection with a higher NRR above 30 dB. Outdoor shooting ranges typically have lower noise levels.

But it’s still essential to use appropriate hearing protection based on the firearm used.


Can you use noise cancelling earbuds for shooting?

Yes, you can use noise cancelling earbuds for shooting. But it’s essential to choose earbuds explicitly designed for shooting sports. Or those with a suitable Noise Reduction Rating (NRR).

Noise cancelling earbuds typically combine passive noise reduction with active noise cancellation to reduce noise exposure during shooting activities.

Can noise cancelling earbuds eliminate gunshot noise?

No, noise cancelling earbuds cannot eliminate gunshot noise. They are designed to reduce ambient noise levels. But cannot entirely block out sudden, high-frequency sounds like gunshots.

For optimal hearing protection, choose earbuds with a high NRR. Also, consider using them with over-the-ear earmuffs if necessary.

Are there any safety concerns with using noise cancelling earbuds for shooting?

Some users may be concerned about situational awareness when using noise cancelling earbuds during shooting sessions. Choosing earbuds that maintain awareness of your surroundings while providing adequate hearing protection is essential.

How do I clean and maintain my noise cancelling earbuds?

To keep your noise cancelling earbuds in optimal condition, clean them regularly with a soft, damp cloth. Additionally, store them in a protective case when not in use. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning and maintenance to ensure the longevity of your earbuds.