This article was originally published in AIM Magazine, the official publication of Shooting Federation of Canada, Issue No.47, 1996.

In the old days some people used to just stick two empty cartridge cases into their ears and hoped that would protect themselves from the blasting noise from firearms during shooting sessions.

Nowadays very few people still do that. Shooters now are more aware of their well-being and know more about eye and hearing protection. With the advancement of technology things have changed significantly. For example, a pair of ear-muffs ten years ago can no longer provide the protection you need now. Yes, you could still put them on and have your ears covered up, but is it still performing the way it was 10 years ago and protecting you adequately? Maybe not.

Without going into physics, mathematics and equations, here is a simple layman's version of how ear-muffs work for you. Ear-muffs basically work by breaking up sound waves in such a way that when sound waves reach your ears they are out of synchronization and become much weaker, thus causing less damage to your ear-drums.

In order for your ear-muffs to perform optimally, your ears and the surrounding skull area must be completely enased by the ear-muffs. Two very important points must be mentioned here: 1. There should be no cracks or holes on the domes of the ear-muffs, and 2. There must be a perfect fit between the cushioning of the ear-muffs and your head. If there were any cracks or gaps, sound waves will get through to your inner ear and the whole purpose of wearing ear-muffs is defeated.

It is easy to detect physical damage to the ear-muffs such as cracks or holes. In such case most people would be willing to get a new pair, or at least have them repaired. Many more people are not aware of the importance of the second point, the perfect fit . It is not unusual to see on the firing line ear-muffs with stiff and cracking cushions. These ear-muffs will not provide proper hearing protection simply because the cannot provide a tight seal between the cushions and the shooter's head. Wearing them is more form than function. But replacing the whole pair of ear-muffs just because the cushions are wearing out is too costly. There is a solution. Just replace the cushions.

Peltor is the leading manufacturer for hearing protection equipment from Sweden. They have an extensive line of ear-muffs for every application, from workers in heavy industry to airport workers, to S.W.A.T. Team tactical unit members, to, of course, shooters of all disciplines. For every model of Peltor ear-muffs there is a specifically designed personal hygiene kit. The kit consists of a pair of cushions ( foam or liquid/foam, depending on the model ) and a pair of foam inserts to replace the old ones. This kit is only a fraction of the cost of a new pair of ear-muffs, and yet it revitalizes your old ear-muffs by extending its life and instantly improves its ability of hearing protection. For extremely heavy use, such as wearing it 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, 52 weeks a year, you should replace the kit twice a year.

Hate to shoot in the summer because you sweat so much and your ear-muffs are wet and sticky and make you uncomfortable? Peltor has cushion liners to help summer shooting more enjoyable. These disposable liners are made of high absorbancy paper. They come in pairs on wax paper. Application is simple: you peel them off the wax paper, apply the adhesive side on the cleaned ear cushions just like ordinary stickers, and you are ready. The paper liners make you feel dry instead of wet and sticky. Change them as often as you like. Sound insulation will not be affected by their used. A dollar or so buys you good, clean feelings. Worth it?

Peltor has recently introduced a new model, the Ultimate 10. The most distinguishing feature on this model is the twin-cup design. There are two cups on each side, one nestled in the other. Each cup is slightly different in shape and thickness, and they are separated by a layer of compressed foam. This design provides maximum sound attenuation and has a noise reduction rating ( NRR ) of 29 dB.

Another proven success is the Peltor Tactical 7 electronic stereo ear-muff. There are individual balance controls in each cup for people who needs hearing adjustments, as well as one extenal on-off-volume, which is all you will need for simple operation once the initial balancing setup is completed.You can hear all normal conversations and range commands, but any noise over 85 dB will be cut within milliseconds. The NRR is 24 dB. This set is strongly recommanded for range officers, coaches and their students during training sessions, and shooters in general shooting situations. Certain competitions may not allow this set because of its electronic nature.

The top-of-the-line electronic ear-muffs is the new Sound Trap. It is small, lightweight, and is foldable. It works basically the same as Tactical 7, but in addition has separate on-off-volume control, an audio input jack for connection of 2 way radios, cassette or CD players etc., and a folding headband. It weighs a mere 250 grams and has tapered cups similar to the Peltor Bulls-Eye Shotgunner. Its NRR is 19 db. This is the ultimate ear-muffs for hunters, and it comes in hunter green.

In order to suit shooters of all discipline and different personal preference, there are many other designs. Some are foldable and compact, some have neckbands instead of headbands, some are shaped to accomodate rifle or shotgun stocks, and some offer higher NRR for high power or indoor shooting. You will find one that suits your needs easily.

This is your sport, your ears and your health. Take good care of them.