Over the years, I’ve received some serious blows to my hearing from less-than-capable hearing protection. This forced me to invest in very high-quality hearing protection that has served me exceptionally well. However, no one thing ever meets all needs.
There are times when we need hearing protection that is discreet. Likewise, a hunter needs to know with absolute accuracy where his quarry is approaching from. So with this in mind, I sought out a smaller, more effective solution than could be found in standard earmuff-type ear protection.
Sometimes a journey begins with a preconceived idea of the end result. In an effort to find smaller hearing protection, I went the non-electronic route. I tried various plugs but didn’t care for them. I then tried a set of HearDefenders-DF from E.A.R. Inc. with great success.
I had my ear molds made at the SHOT Show at the E.A.R. Inc. booth. They sent the HearDefenders-DF shortly thereafter. After wearing them for several training sessions on my range, I was sold.
Unlike typical foam plugs, HearDefenders-DF offer a dual baffle design that’s effective at taking the edge off bangs and booms and bringing them down to a safe level. HearDefenders-DF come in two versions. The first is a conventional type earplug, and the second is embedded into custom ear molds.
There is nothing anyone can do to restore your hearing once it’s gone.
The unique thing about these is that you can remove the outer baffle for less sound attenuation or for connecting an audio tube for radio communications. The U.S. military uses these due to the plugs’ dual capability. The baffles are effective against gunfire, but voice communications
get through relatively well. You will have to say “What?” from time to time, but won’t be rendered deaf as a post like you are with normal earplugs.
Every time you see your favorite NASCAR driver climb out of his car and pull those corded plugs out of his ears, I want you to think of E.A.R. Inc.
Likewise, when you watch a professional singer on stage, take a close look at their ears. What looks like hearing protection are actually high-fidelity audio inputs that feed info from the crew chief to the NASCAR driver and perfectly tuned music and voice monitoring to the singer.
After my favorable experience with the HearDefenders-DF, I requested a sample of what E.A.R. Inc. is really good at—digital hearing aids. E.A.R. Inc. has been in the business of hearing protection for 40 years and offers a wide array of products on their website.
HIDING IN PLAIN SIGHT
E.A.R. Inc. is a pioneer in hearing technology and it shows in the workmanship of the product I received. The E.A.R. Digital Basic hearing protection aids are a huge leap forward in shooting technology. These digital units feature three pre-set memories that are quickly adjustable by a small push button on the faceplate of the earpiece.
The first setting is designed to reproduce sounds with natural clarity.
The second setting reduces background sounds such as wind, rain or other environmental noise.
The third setting is a mute mode that turns all audio off. The battery life on these is an astounding 415 hours using one #13 battery.
The first time I put them on I was surprised at how live the sound felt. When I wear my top-of-the-line digital hearing muffs, I get great sound quality and stereo input that helps me triangulate the source of a sound quickly. However, upon putting in the Digital Basics, I felt as if the sound was not so much being listened to—it was more like living the sound.
For example, it’s a weird sensation to be able to tell that the sound you’re hearing is not only coming from your right but that it’s actually coming from your right and slightly from the rear. You can truly triangulate sound better with these aids as compared to hearing muffs.
The high placement of the microphone in these aids uses the natural contours of the outer ear to shield the mic from ambient noise such as wind and the spatter of rain hitting it. It also physically protects the mics from rain getting into them.
I took the opportunity to wear the Digital Basics Multi-Memory at a rifle class. I found them to be ample against rifle fire right up until I had guys on either side of me blasting away at close range. Then it got a bit painful.
To be clear, there is little you can do to shield yourself from rifle fire three feet on either side of you. While I got a little bit of a pop from the rifle fire, my hearing was unaffected. The recovery rate of the aids was excellent, and the clarity of the sound upon compressing the rifle fire was crisp.
As mentioned, these aids offer three settings. Setting one was more than ample to bring voice communications in clearly. When it began to rain, the second setting did a nice job of muffling the patter of rain on the ground.
I particularly like that these aids come with loops installed for connecting lanyards. I found that in high wind, the lanyard would cause a whistling sound that the aids were able to pick up. It’s actually a bit creepy how good your hearing becomes when you have these in.