Saturday, December 18, 2010

Ear protection Review: Peltor muffs and Earplugs

Hey Ferfal,

I'm a bit behind on reading your blog, but I think I can help out a bit with your review of ear protection.  I am in Afghanistan as a forward air controller - a job that requires us to be able to hear radio comms, maintain situational awareness, and not go deaf when shooting.  We use both Peltor products mentioned in your previous post - both the headsets and the earplugs (or similar military versions).

Lots of guys love the Peltor headsets.  They have external microphones on both sides to maintain stereo hearing.  They protect your ears well.  You can get them with a mic/speaker so you hear radio traffic inside the headset.  The major downside, and the reason they mostly sit in my tent, is that they're uncomfortable.  Your ears sweat, get sticky, get dusty, and after a while they just plain hurt from the gentle squeezing pressure on your head.  This leads to spending more time worrying about your headset than your job.  I've seen lots of guys constantly fidgeting or readjusting to reposition them, or worse, removing the headsets and their helmets at every opportunity.  They also use batteries so there's a major failure point.  You need to turn them on and may need to adjust the volume.  In a home defense situation where you need them to work right now, there's a good chance they will require some fidgeting to become an asset rather than a liability.  It's not the time to be changing batteries, adjusting volume, or trying to find the 'on' switch.  For missions where you set them up, put in fresh batteries, adjust them, ops check them, and then go out into the world, they're fine.  For quick response, like home defense, they have their limitations.

Because of these shortcomings, I keep a set of those yellow/green Peltor earplugs handy.  You can get a little hard case designed for them that clips wherever convenient.  I keep one set on my body armor and another set in my ruck.  The key advantage is that they're always there, and they always work.  When there's a situation, and the last thing on your mind is ear protection -- they're right there but out of the way.  When a .50 cal starts shooting 4 feet away and suddenly ear protection becomes a priority, they're right there. 

As far as hearing protection goes, the earplugs are effective.  I've put thousands of rounds of 5.56 and 9mm ammo through weapons while wearing them, and my hearing is still fine (annual hearing test).  A .50 cal is loud no matter what ear protection you're wearing, but with these the noise is not a huge factor.  The earplugs are also fine for long wear.  I've worn them for hours at a time while running around, crawling and shooting and they stay in place well.  They do stick out because they're double sided, and can get dislodged by the straps on a helmet if you put the earplugs in first and then put the helmet on.  You can't really see it in pictures, but the yellow side of the earplug has a little hole through the center that allows you to hear conversations and ambient noises.  The other side is solid to block more noise, but either way they do a good job against loud, sharp noises like gunshots.  In training I'll generally pop one out between shooting to hear the instructor better, but it probably isn't necessary and you can still hear range commands and tactical comms just fine when they're in, even using the solid/green side of them. 

Anyways, I highly recommend the Peltor earplugs.  For $10-15 order a set; the only downside will be the day you inevitably lose one and have to get more.  They're far more tactically useful than regular foamy earplugs, but still compact and simple.  If you're only going to fire a few shots, like a home defense situation, you probably won't even think about hearing protection.  For any longer engagement, after the first few shots, you will be thinking "crap that was loud I wish I had some ear pro" and in those situations these earplugs are the way to go.  They're always there, and, tactically speaking, they're far better than going deaf or sticking your fingers in your ears.

Hope that's useful for you.


PS - btw, hope you can make it back to Texas sometime soon.  You're welcome to try mine if you do. :-)

Peltor 97079 Combat Arms Earplugs
Peltor 97079 Combat Arms Earplugs

Thanks a lot Tim for your review. Sounds like Peltor Combat Arms earplugs are a good choice. They seem to do all right based on what you say and the reviews in Amazon.
According to Peltor, the olive end is used for ordinary indoor range shooting, and the yellow end is used outdoors for noise-activated protection up to NRR 22dB.


1 comment:

Da Lucche said...

Tim is absolutely right. I have a pair of these plugs and they are a dream.