Howard Leight MAX Earplugs
Back in the dark ages when the army trained me
to use an M1911-A1 pistol, I remember a sergeant inserting a fired .45 ACP case in each
ear. These guns are loud enough to permanently damage your hearing, he said.
You need something to block the noise.
He was dead-on about hearing damage, but
placing empty casings in our ears was worse than useless advice. The casings did little to
block muzzle blast, but led you to believe you were protecting your hearing.
A wiser shooter later introduced me to real
hearing protection sound-deadening muffs that cover the entire ear and soft
earplugs specifically designed to block gunshot noise.
Commercial hearing-protection devices are
laboratory tested, then assigned a Noise Reduction Rating (NRR). The rating reflects the
amount of protection, in decibels (dB) the device offers. Decibels are measured
logarithmically. A sound registering 20 dB is nearly 10 times as intense as a 10 dB noise.
Adding 3 dB to the blast doubles the intensity.
Even .22 rifles generate peak sound pressures
of 145 dB. Anything louder than 85 dB can temporarily impair hearing. Firing a 12-gauge
shotgun creates 155 dB of harmful noise, while a .44 magnum revolver produces 170 dB. A
.223 varmint rifle generates 160 dB. Every exposure to sounds over 100 dB in intensity
causes a tiny amount of permanent term hearing loss, which may not become apparent for
To figure out how much noise reaches your
eardrums when you wear earmuffs or plugs, subtract the devices NRR rating from the
decibel level youre exposed to. Most shooting muffs or disposable ear plugs carry an
NRR rating of 23 to 29 dB. These ratings can be misleading. Industrial hearing protection
devices are tested for long-term exposure to loud noises, while shooters are exposed to
high-intensity blasts that last no more than 1/250 second. Because of this, shooters
actually receive greater protection than the NRR indicates a 25 dB-rated earplug
probably offers muzzle-blast protection somewhere in the 40 dB range.
Howard Leight Industries now offers a new,
improved version of its MAX Earplug. The new earplug sports a modified design and new,
softer material that makes the plug easier to insert and more comfortable to wear. The new
MAX is slightly longer than the original, and its flange more closely follows the contour
of the ear canal entrance. The new earplug is easier to insert and remove and is less
likely to back out of the ear once in place. The version Ive been using sports a plastic cord connecting a pair of the
earplugs, which keeps them together and makes them harder to lose.
Like the original MAX, the new earplug has an
NRR of 33 dB, making it the most effective earplug on the market. Ive pointed out
that decibel ratings are logarithmic. The MAXs 33 dB rating means this earplug
delivers more than twice the protection a 29 dB device offers.
The improved MAX earplug is now available in
sporting goods stores. For more information, contact: Howard Leight Industries, Dept. HL, 7828
Waterville Road, San Diego CA 92154; call toll-free: 1-800-327-1110; or visit online at: www.howardleight.com.