Explore The NRA Universe Of Websites

Are Ear Plugs Better Than a Suppressor?

Friday, March 17, 2017

Are Ear Plugs Better Than a Suppressor?

On March 13, the gun control group, Americans for Responsible Solutions, posted a tweet claiming:  “FACT:  Silencers do not protect your hearing.”  An infographic accompanied the tweet with the additional claim “You know what protects your ears better than a silencer? Ear plugs.” 

For an organization with “Responsible” in its name, ARS clearly has no concern over responsible reporting of “facts.”  For starters, firearm suppressors without question protect the hearing of shooters and hunters.  You don’t have to take our word for it; according to the Center for Disease Control (who isn’t known for being particularly friendly to firearm owners) “The only potentially effective noise control method to reduce students’ or instructors’ noise exposure from gunfire is through the use of noise suppressors that can be attached to the end of the gun barrel.”  

This conclusion from CDC is unsurprising to anyone who has, unlike ARS, actually used a firearm equipped with a suppressor.  Firearm suppressors reduce the report of a firearm by about 20-35 decibels, and, unlike other forms of hearing protection, are not susceptible to user error that substantially limits their effectiveness.

Many people do not realize that ear plugs (and ear muffs) must be used correctly in order to achieve their stated Noise Reduction Rating (“NRR”).  ARS’s Twitter graphic, which was meant to show the superiority of earplugs compared to suppressors, is a perfect illustration of the improper way to use earplugs and the reason that many people still receive hearing damage while using earplugs.  

The NRR for hearing protectors is based on laboratory testing, but the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has found that these ratings are likely unrealistic for real world use.  To account for this difference, NIOSH has developed a “derating” formula.  “NIOSH recommends derating the NRR by a multiplicative factor of 75% for earmuffs, 50% for slow-recovery foam earplugs and custom earplugs, and 30% for all other earplugs. This variable derating scheme considers the real world performance of most different types of hearing protector.”

While foam earplugs with an NRR of 32 might seem to perform similarly to a suppressor, using the NIOSH formula gives earplugs a real world expected NRR of only 16, which makes them unsuitable for use alone with all but the quietest unsuppressed firearms.  

Misinformation on suppressors seems to be running rampant at ARS.  The same day that ARS posted the inaccurate tweets, their senior policy advisor, David Chipman, was quoted as saying “Anyone who has worked in law enforcement for as long as I have will tell you that silencers were not designed to protect hearing, they were designed to make it difficult for people to identify the sound of gunfire and locate active shooters.”

Unfortunately for Mr. Chipman, Hiram Percy Maxim, the designer of the firearm suppressor, made his design intent perfectly clear.  Maxim wrote “The Maxim Silencer was developed to meet my personal desire to enjoy target practice without creating a disturbance . . . I have always loved to shoot, but I never thoroughly enjoyed it when I knew that the noise was annoying other people. It occurred to me one day that there was no need for the noise. Why not do away with it and shoot quietly?”

This quote from Maxim also points out one of the biggest benefits of suppressors over other hearing protectors; they reduce sound at the source instead of relying on every person within earshot using earplugs or muffs.  As Maxim pointed out, in addition to acting as hearing protection, suppressors reduce noise pollution generally and make shooting a more neighborly endeavor.  

To answer the question posed in the title, no, earplugs are not better than a suppressor.  While they may appear to offer similar amounts of noise reduction, suppressors aren’t susceptible to imperfect application like other hearing protectors.  Suppressors also reduce sound at the source, allow hunters and shooters to be safer by maintaining their situational awareness, and reduce perceived recoil and muzzle blast. 

Please make sure your U.S. senators and congressional representative hear from you on the Hearing Protection Act to protect Second Amendment rights and the health of the American gun owner. It is long past time to discard America’s antiquated and unsupported approach to suppressor regulation.

You can contact your member of Congress via our Write Your Reps tool by clicking HERE or use the Congressional switchboard at (202) 224-3121.

TRENDING NOW
Gun Control May be Wasting Away, But Not Because of COVID

News  

Monday, October 19, 2020

Gun Control May be Wasting Away, But Not Because of COVID

A recent article on a gun control news site laments that the COVID-19 pandemic has thwarted ballot initiatives to expand gun bans and restrictions. Initiatives in Florida, Oklahoma, Ohio and Oregon have stalled, allegedly due to the ...

Anti-Gun Organization Prepared to Launch National Group of Gun Owners Who Apparently Don’t Like Guns

News  

Monday, October 19, 2020

Anti-Gun Organization Prepared to Launch National Group of Gun Owners Who Apparently Don’t Like Guns

Yes, that title doesn’t make much sense, but neither does a group that promotes banning firearms starting a national organization called Gun Owners for Safety. Nonetheless, The Hill recently reported that the anti-gun group Giffords is doing just ...

Anti-gun Politicians Seek to Tax Your Second Amendment Rights Into Oblivion

News  

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Anti-gun Politicians Seek to Tax Your Second Amendment Rights Into Oblivion

In 1819, Chief Justice John Marshall of the U.S. Supreme Court famously wrote:  “the power to tax involves the power to destroy ….”

Law Professors Make Case for Second Amendment Rights in Uncertain Times

News  

Monday, October 19, 2020

Law Professors Make Case for Second Amendment Rights in Uncertain Times

Americans have made clear that they value their Second Amendment rights, especially during uncertain times. Faced with the COVID-19 pandemic and then widespread civil unrest, Americans have bought firearms in record numbers. Through September, the FBI ...

Montana: Californian-funded Fake Hunting Group Lies About Steve Bullock’s Anti-gun Record

News  

Monday, October 12, 2020

Montana: Californian-funded Fake Hunting Group Lies About Steve Bullock’s Anti-gun Record

Montana gun owners have been subjected to an abundance of lies this election season. Leading the misinformation campaign is fake hunting group Montana Hunters & Anglers Leadership Fund. Bankrolled by a wealthy San Francisco Bay ...

Guide To The Interstate Transportation Of Firearms

Gun Laws  

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Guide To The Interstate Transportation Of Firearms

CAUTION: Federal and state firearms laws are subject to frequent change. This summary is not to be considered as legal advice or a restatement of law.

Joe Biden Told Voters the Second Amendment DOES NOT Protect an Individual Right

News  

Monday, September 21, 2020

Joe Biden Told Voters the Second Amendment DOES NOT Protect an Individual Right

During a September 2019 “townhall” hosted by New Hampshire ABC affiliate WMUR, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden made clear that he does not believe the Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms and ...

NRA Victory in Washington

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

NRA Victory in Washington

It’s rare that gun owners have something to celebrate in the Emerald City. But on Monday, the Washington Court of Appeals ruled in favor of an NRA suit on behalf of Seattle gun owners. 

Please Urge the Department of Justice to Rein in ATF's Arbitrary Determination on "Honey Badger" Pistol

News  

Monday, October 12, 2020

Please Urge the Department of Justice to Rein in ATF's Arbitrary Determination on "Honey Badger" Pistol

As we reported last week, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (“ATF”) recently informed firearm manufacturer Q, LLC that, in ATF’s view, Q’s “Honey Badger” pistol with stabilizing brace is actually a short-barreled rifle and ...

Judge Barrett Picks Second Amendment Case as Her “Most Significant” Ruling

News  

Monday, October 12, 2020

Judge Barrett Picks Second Amendment Case as Her “Most Significant” Ruling

The confirmation hearings of Judge Amy Coney Barrett, President Trump’s nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, are due to begin on October 12th before the Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC).

MORE TRENDING +
LESS TRENDING -

More Like This From Around The NRA

NRA ILA

Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.