Impact and Impulse Earplugs
How do they work?
If you're a shooter, a mechanic working with a ratchet gun and pneumatic tools, a barista, a chef in a noisy kitchen, or a racer with blowback pipes, impact earplugs should be part of your toolkit.
"Earplugs? No way. How can I hear my surroundings then?"
See, unlike the standard earplugs that you find at a hardware store, impact (or impulse) earplugs have specialised filters that provide low attenuation at lower volumes, so you can still hear your surroundings with crystal clarity.
The moment you encounter short durations of high level sounds, however, these patented filters exponentially restrict the transmission of sound into the ear. The greater the peak sound level, the higher the attenuation!
White Cat Impulse earplugs, for example, were originally developed for military use and is widely adopted by the British Military and Defense force today. They have also proven to be fantastic not only for shooting, but for other situations where impulse noises occur. Think of a workshop situation - it doesn't make sense to wear Class 5 earplugs when you're only using, say, your drill, ratchet gun, or band saw intermittently. Or your kitchen hand might accidentally drop a metal tray on the ground. If you're out hunting, you want to maintain situational awareness at all times, but fumbling with earplugs when your partner signals they're about to take the shot is difficult.
Remember, ANY exposure to 140 decibels causes INSTANT hearing loss. Your ear's hair cells are permanently damaged, and they never recover.
Passive impact earplugs generally have a base attenuation level. For example, White Cat Impact Earplugs come in 3 different levels - 9dB, 12dB and 19dB. This means that when you wear them, you'll have i.e. 12dB of attenuation at all times. This is great when you're working in a cafe. With high-fidelity acoustic filters, you'll find that the hustle and bustle becomes more manageable, while you're still able to hear your customers' orders clearly. In fact, you might find that your work day is less exhausting, since your ears aren't working so hard to focus on the things that matter.
Fit is important too. A poorly fitted or improperly worn earplug reduces your attenuation to just 5 or 10dB, the equivalent of nothing when you're exposed to a 140dB gunshot. So make sure that your impulse earplugs come with a range of eartip sizes so you have a comfortable, snug fit. Many people resort to custom impact earplugs because most earplugs only come in two sizes - Large and larger.
Which is why all White Cat Earplugs come in 4 different eartip sizes, catering to a wide range of ears without costing you a pretty penny.
What about electronic shooting earplugs? Electronic "level-dependent" impulse earplugs use microelectronics to maintain, and in some cases enhance, hearing ability when sound levels are low. They have inbuilt microphones that pick up the environmental sound, and sometimes boost low levels of sound while limiting dangerous levels of sound. They are great, especially if you already have some form of hearing loss. However, they come at a price, easily doubling the cost of passive impulse earplugs (for earmuffs), and easily reaching $700 a pop for a decent pair of electronic impulse plugs. They also require charging, which means they're completely useless if you've accidentally left them unplugged. They also often come in "one-size-fits-all" eartips, which really, don't fit all. For the little extra they give, we generally haven't found it worth the price tag.
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