A question for those who haved used in-ear electronic hearing protection

mike935

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Jun 27, 2020
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I'm considering buying myself some in-the-canal electronic hearing protection (e.g. Westone, SoundGear, OTTO, Etymotic)

I've used electronic ear muffs before. They're great at the range, but I find they really hinder your ability to hear naturally when hunting. I'm sure you know what I mean. If I'm hunting for deer/pig or whatever I often hear something in the distance long before I see it. With the electronic muffs (even the pricier ones) I've found it messes with your ability to distinguish the distance of the sound, and it's direction.

Can anyone comment on how these in-ear models compare to electronic ear muffs....for hunting?

The manufacturers claim that your directional hearing is not compromised, because your ears aren't covered by the muffs. For those who've used them, how true is this? And is it anywhere close to the experience of using your bare ears?....or just a bit better than muffs?

And what about distinguishing near/far sounds? Again, do these devices come close to what it is like wearing nothing in your ears at all?
 

westonadkins

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Nov 21, 2018
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Mayo Clinic cochlear implant audiologist here. We localize sound using interaural (between ear) time differences (below 1 kHz) and interaural level differences (above 1 kHz). So being able to tell where sound is coming from is a two ear task. A lot of the electronic muffs use one microphone two speakers since that's cheaper to manufacture. You will not get any localization from this set up. Some of them use two totally independent microphone/circuitry/speakers. This is better but not perfect because the microphone placement isn't correct. In the ear options are always independent circuitry and the microphones are close to the natural place (preserving pinna effects), so as long as you get your level set equivocally between your ears, you'll be mostly good for localization. Determining distance is going to be a level cue which again comes back to getting your volume set correctly.

Science aside, I've had good luck with my custom SoundGear and recommend them. I believe they are the most cost effective option, though that may have changed since I got mine a few years ago. Know that the non-custom options may or may not work for you depending on your ear canals.
My biggest complaint is that getting the volume set correctly can be a chore, and they have a "tinny" sound quality. Walking through grass is more noisy than it is to me naturally, for example. I have used mine on pheasant and goose hunts without a problem.

Good on you for wanting to protect your hearing. I have patients come though all the time who have significant hearing loss from shooting with ears unprotected "only a couple times a year while hunting." You're smart to prevent hearing loss in the first place. If you can swing it, get custom. You'll get a better fit and better sound attenuation, though I understand it can be quite pricey.

Hopefully that helps! Let me know if you have more questions.


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TheGDog

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Jun 12, 2020
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OC, CA
The in-the-ear ones... will the batteries last for sitting on your set all-day with them in your ears and on?

I have hearing loss in one ear from a trauma about 25+ years ago. The high sounds are severely diminished on that side, so as you can imagine I'm nervy to protect the good side I do still have.

However where I've been hunting at, it's sitting in ambush, within 25-40 yds of where two trails criss-cross, and a gulch runs by just in front at 25yds, with leafy-suit and just waiting it out all day. Hearing the foot-steps is essential, as it gives me more time to be paying attention and locate where the buck is coming in from! I have to wait until they pass-by one of a few trees before I can raise my weapon. Once I do hear them, they are usually close enough by that I will likely not have the time/opportunity to reach-up and slap-on hearing protection.

Also... on the sit I'm wearing a full leafy mesh facemask and leafy boonie hat to, so realistically I can't get at my ears with any rapidity. Soo far between the leafy facemask and the leafy boonie pulled-down on-purpose over the good ear, seems fine with rounds like .30-30, .223 Rem and .17 HMR. I also purposefully don't use a muzzle brake so less pressure waves coming back at me. ...BUT... The .308 Win is dang loud and does cause some temporary ringing. And... I have an AR in .223 I want to start using for Coyotes, but it does have a muzzle brake on it. So for those two scenarios (and possibly trying to do it with pistol later) I'd like to get the in-ears that enhance hearing, but prevent hearing damage (cut off at 85dB).

But like the OP, don't want to feel like I'm loosing location detection. That just won't work.
 

Marbles

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May 16, 2020
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Anchorage, AK
I've had good luck with my custom SoundGear and recommend them.
I have been wanting some electrical hearing protection, but was having a hard time figuring out what to get. Just ordered some SoudGear. Could not afford the custom option though.

Their military discount is very good.
 

westonadkins

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Nov 21, 2018
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MN
I have been wanting some electrical hearing protection, but was having a hard time figuring out what to get. Just ordered some SoudGear. Could not afford the custom option though.

Their military discount is very good.
Make sure to try them out and make sure they work for you! I think they have a good return policy too


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westonadkins

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The in-the-ear ones... will the batteries last for sitting on your set all-day with them in your ears and on?

I have hearing loss in one ear from a trauma about 25+ years ago. The high sounds are severely diminished on that side, so as you can imagine I'm nervy to protect the good side I do still have.

However where I've been hunting at, it's sitting in ambush, within 25-40 yds of where two trails criss-cross, and a gulch runs by just in front at 25yds, with leafy-suit and just waiting it out all day. Hearing the foot-steps is essential, as it gives me more time to be paying attention and locate where the buck is coming in from! I have to wait until they pass-by one of a few trees before I can raise my weapon. Once I do hear them, they are usually close enough by that I will likely not have the time/opportunity to reach-up and slap-on hearing protection.

Also... on the sit I'm wearing a full leafy mesh facemask and leafy boonie hat to, so realistically I can't get at my ears with any rapidity. Soo far between the leafy facemask and the leafy boonie pulled-down on-purpose over the good ear, seems fine with rounds like .30-30, .223 Rem and .17 HMR. I also purposefully don't use a muzzle brake so less pressure waves coming back at me. ...BUT... The .308 Win is dang loud and does cause some temporary ringing. And... I have an AR in .223 I want to start using for Coyotes, but it does have a muzzle brake on it. So for those two scenarios (and possibly trying to do it with pistol later) I'd like to get the in-ears that enhance hearing, but prevent hearing damage (cut off at 85dB).

But like the OP, don't want to feel like I'm loosing location detection. That just won't work.
They'll definitely last all day. Mine run on size 13 hearing aid batteries and they last like a week. Others that use size 10 batteries will probably get you a few days.

Zinc air batteries are draining no matter if you're using your devices or not, so the timer starts when you pull the sticker off the battery.


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sandhillhunter

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Aug 4, 2012
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314
Thanks for the detailed info Weston.

I have the standard Soundgear in-the-ear industrial plugs.

I think you can hear direction reasonably well. If your hearing is damaged on one side already, I don’t know that they will improve that much though.

I don’t like wearing them much when I’m walking because even with them amplified I get a dull thud sound from my footsteps just like when wearing regular ear plugs.

But for sitting they are effective.

I wish I would have had them a few years ago before I damaged my hearing.

Soundgear has been very good to deal with- very good customer support for me.


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sandhillhunter

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Aug 4, 2012
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The in-the-ear ones... will the batteries last for sitting on your set all-day with them in your ears and on?
Yes- the batteries will last 5-7 days once activated. They are the same as regular hearing aid batteries.


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MULEPACKHUNTER

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Jan 23, 2014
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AZ
I can speak from in field use on this as we tested several options last year with me and the kids. I cannot stand having these things in any style in use while hunting. The best use for all 4 of our testers using in ear, ear muffs, and ear plugs corded style protection was to have it ready to go until we needed it then it was really nice to have any of the options. My son used muffs, I used corded plug style and my daughter used in ear and we were able to whisper communications between the three of us which was far superior to old school pro. I will continue to use all three where applicable but I cant see using any of them all the time, the sounds are way off and direction is terrible. The only thing they seemed good for was realizing how much noise you really make while moving through country, its crazy how loud you are when you amplify it up. walkers was the brand we used but I cant recommend anything since these were all a first for me, they all did well and battery life was just fine since we didn't use them full time.
 

tdot

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Aug 18, 2014
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BC
I've been using Etymotics for a little over a year now. Overall I'm happy with them. Batteries last about 6 days, if I open the battery compartment at night. I have a fairly aggressive brake on my 22" 338ss and I can shoot it comfortably in the woods. They are not effective enough to use at the shooting range.

I was still hunting in the snow last fall, it was actively melting so big drops of water falling and some snow off the limbs. I had the sound amplification on high and was able to hear a buck walking up a small gully behind the gully that I was in. No way I would have heard him otherwise, as I was born with about a 25% hearing defict.

My only beef with them is they seem fragile. I dropped them on the floor of my van at night and I put my bare foot on one, didn't step on it hard, as I stopped the moment I felt my foot touch it. But it hasnt worked since.
 

TheGDog

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OC, CA
My thought with in-the-ear would be amp-up volume on right ear, because of with damage to the high sounds it has, then on my "good ear" the left one leave volume normal, and enjoy the benefits of decibel cutoff.

I think the big thing that might happen for me would be that I'd be better able to hear and locate things approaching on that right side without having to turn my head as much.

Currently if there is a sound I hear, in order to know or get an idea of its location, I have to turn my head until the increase in volume when that other ear is oriented pointing more directly at it, clues me in to its location.

To better describe my hearing loss... if you take the tips of the pads of your thumb and middle finger... and hold it near your ear... and ever-so-lightly rub the pads of those fingers together I can hear that fine in great rich detail on my left.... but I don't really hear it on my right. That's what I mean when I say my highs are damaged.
 

sandhillhunter

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My thought with in-the-ear would be amp-up volume on right ear, because of with damage to the high sounds it has, then on my "good ear" the left one leave volume normal, and enjoy the benefits of decibel cutoff.
I don’t know about the other brands or the newer models, but the Soundgear plugs I have are not volume adjustable. They are either on (battery in and working) or off (no battery or dead battery).


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Sam Colt

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Jun 27, 2020
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I run 2 in-ear solutions depending on the situation.

For upland and hyper-focused hunts I have a pair of 3M Peltor TEP-100 tactical earplugs. These are all-day plugs that I have run for 12 hours straight. They have an assortment of replaceable tips that vary in size and protection. I generally use the flanged plastic tips, but the foam are quieter. They have a case that holds 3 AA batteries and recharges the plugs in about 90 minutes. Only 2 settings - high and low volume - but the high frequency is great and they provide good directional cues. They don't like wind, but are my go-to plugs for upland and spot and stalk.

The other set is for the yard work and sit-still blind hunting in Texas. These are the Walkers Silencer Bluetooth plugs. Unlike the Peltors, these have a companion app that lets you set the listening mode, device volume, and ambient volume. Use them independently and you can amplify voice, high frequency, or both while setting the volume to your preference. Pair with a Bluetooth device and you can quietly listen to podcasts or music while you work or wait to reduce boredom. Battery time is noticeably shorter than the Peltors at 4-6 hours but the USB rechargeable case charges the ear buds in about an hour. Less susceptible to wind, but not immune.

Both provide good protection from gunfire and loud ambient niose, but the Walkers let me dim the ambient and push the music for lawn mowing or tractor work.

If I had to choose 1 for hunting it would be the Peltor based on battery life, ruggedness, comfort, and utility,

Look for OEM, not vendor links for details and specifications. Shop around; prices vary quite a bit and deals can be had.
 
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mike935

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Jun 27, 2020
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Thanks for all the replies so far folks, I really appreciate it.

I will continue to use all three where applicable but I cant see using any of them all the time, the sounds are way off and direction is terrible.
I don’t like wearing them much when I’m walking because even with them amplified I get a dull thud sound from my footsteps just like when wearing regular ear plugs.
This is what I'm getting at I think. I should have said the style of hunting I usually do involves mostly walking through the forest. My experience with electronic ear muffs has been that it gets really confusing hearing the sounds of grass/leaves crunching under your feet, and also picking up the sound of distant quarry. Even if I stop walking for a moment to listen, I usually end up removing them so I can get a clearer idea of what sound I am hearing, where it is coming from, and approximately how distant it is.

I guess I am just trying to get an idea as to whether the in-ear style is much better in this scenario, or whether I'll probably find myself ripping them out of my ears for the same reason.
 

seawolfxix

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Jan 18, 2019
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Kansas City
I’ve been using the Westone DefendEar since 2016, and they work pretty well for a non-custom. The directional hearing and distance is not perfect, but it’s pretty good.

I will probably upgrade to a custom set in the next 1 - 2 years, and I’ve been looking at WildEar.
 

Rich M

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Jun 14, 2017
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Orlando
I have real hearing aids $5,000-$6,000 in my ears most of the time.

The do cut off loud noises from kids squealing to gun blasts but I prefer electronic muffs for that.

Hearing stuff has never been my strong point so I depend on vision. Sounds are audible sometimes but no way for me to tell where and I start looking around, too much movement...
 

ryjack70ss

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Jan 19, 2020
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I am an otolaryngologist and picked up westones and could not be happier with everything but the price. They are quality and made specifically for your ear. I shoot 50 shots of trap every week on a league and I can shoot my weatherby 30-378 with a brake without any issues.

My hunting buddy also has them and loves them.

I have used really nice electronic muffs that cost about $300 15 years ago. Those worked well but were bulky and I couldn’t wear a beanie over them for long cold tree stand hunts. I much prefer the westones as I will always have them inserted and don’t have to fumble with the muffs.

I hope that helps.

Ryan


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TheGDog

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I am an otolaryngologist and picked up westones and could not be happier with everything but the price. They are quality and made specifically for your ear. I shoot 50 shots of trap every week on a league and I can shoot my weatherby 30-378 with a brake without any issues.

My hunting buddy also has them and loves them.

I have used really nice electronic muffs that cost about $300 15 years ago. Those worked well but were bulky and I couldn’t wear a beanie over them for long cold tree stand hunts. I much prefer the westones as I will always have them inserted and don’t have to fumble with the muffs.

I hope that helps.

Ryan


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Price bracket on those westones?

And when you guys say "custom" ones... what does that mean when you say "custom"? I'm assuming that means you have to do into some type of hearing specialists office so they can measure stuff about your ear canal? Is that it? What is it, that makes them "custom"?

P.S. Big thank you to the folks in the biz who are stepping up with info!
 
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