Every big war has provoked significant changes and innovations in offensive and defensive technologies. In the 21st century, a soldier can count on protecting the body, limbs, head, and senses, including hearing. Hearing protection and how to choose the right active military headphones for shooting are the topic of this article.
We have natural safety equipment for the eyes – the eyelids. Unfortunately, the hearing organs do not have similar protection measures since extremely loud sounds are not so common in nature. But a loud sound can not only disorientate but also seriously damage the hearing organs or cause hearing loss.
When it comes to sound, we measure it in decibels (dB). Normal sound to the human ear fluctuates between 0 dB and 100 dB. In fact, 100 dB is even too much, but it will not cause serious harm to the ears. However, anything above 100 dB can damage your hearing. And when the sound exceeds 140 dB, it can cause permanent damage to your ears. A gunshot produces over 150 dB and can easily hurt your ears. Thus, since most firearms exceed safe hearing levels, ear protection can and should be used whenever you fire a gun.
Farther in the article, you will learn everything about the selection of military headsets, which headphones are available, how they work, which ones are suitable for combat missions, and which ones are better not to take.
To understand how tactical noise cancelling headphones work, you must know how different sound levels affect the human ear. Exceeding noise above 100 dB for a hearing organ is considered dangerous, and 130 dB is already a pain threshold. Gunshot produces a sound pressure in the barrel that instantly reaches 150 dB. In the ear – 140 dB. This value can cause a concussion.
|60||Conversational Speech, Electric shaver|
|85||Garbage Disposal, Busy Hotel Lobby|
|100||Blender, Factory Noise|
|110||Power Saw, Heavy Truck, Power Mower|
|115||Uncomfortable Feeling Starts|
|120||Disco, Loud Bar Music, Shotgun|
|130||Cymbal Crash, Air Raid Siren|
|140||Rock Concert Front Row, Jet|
|190||Loudest Possible Sound|
Active headphones work on the principle of sound regulation and equalization. The built-in electronic device catches and amplifies the sounds of speech and the surrounding nature received through the microphone. At the same time reduces the sound pressure from the shot. As a result, the average level of noise entering the auricle does not exceed 82 dB.
No matter how good intentions and desires to help the Armed Forces of Ukraine soldiers, there is a great chance to buy something useless instead of something that can give an advantage on the battlefield. You should be careful when choosing tactical earmuffs and avoid the following categories.
The principle of operation of noise-canceling headphones is somewhat similar. ANC (Active Noise Control) headphones aim to minimize ambient noise that interferes with enjoying music or your thoughts. The headphones we need, on the contrary, allow us to better hear the world around us, thereby giving a tactical advantage. In addition, well-known headphones brands (Sony, Sennheiser, Koss, etc.) can cost more than specialized ones, as they provide much better music sound, which is useless on the battlefield.
It is a fairly effective tool for personal hearing protection, but it has several disadvantages in our case. For hygiene reasons, foam earplugs are disposable, which would mean carrying a dozen or more additional packs with you in field conditions.
Silicone reusable earplugs seem to be a better option, and even some specialized companies produce similar ones, but they are not exactly what we are looking for. These earplugs protect against external noises but are more suitable for peacetime, shooting ranges, or training exercises. That is why simple limiting hearing can be a problem in conditions where you must control the situation and localize every sound around precisely.
Such headphones are used on construction sites and industrial facilities when working with noisy equipment or at airports. If the first option is an analog of earplugs but in the form of full-size headphones, then “air headphones” have a slightly different purpose.
As a rule, aircraft headphones have very large bowls to protect against the noise of aircraft engines and are poorly adapted to work with helmets and gun shooting.
Red, purple or blue earmuffs are perfectly acceptable in sports competitions, at a shooting range or airsoft, but not during military operations. Bright headphones don’t fit protective ammunition but also unmask the soldier, even if they protect his ears.
Active headphones do not have to be very voluminous. Large headphones can slide down or fly off with a sharp turn of the head or more acrobatic movements. Also, the massive design of the headphones will interfere with shoulder aiming.
Premium protection is certainly worth it, but for the cost of such headphones, you can buy 3-5 good ones and provide more people with good defense.
Buying rare headphones or those not officially imported to your country is a bad idea. Headphones that are not popular in the market are more difficult to repair and more difficult to find a spare headband or ear pads for them. Also, connectors may not be compatible with your equipment.
There are several important points to pay attention to when buying active headphones. Following these recommendations, you can choose a device that perfectly protects your hearing, is comfortable under any conditions, and is not expensive.
Most hearing protectors meet one of these standards:
Both standards describe sound absorption characteristics but do so in slightly different ways. The principle is very simple; the indicated value means how much peak noise the military headphones absorb or how much volume they will cut off during operation.
For example, to protect your hearing when firing small-caliber weapons, you will need headphones with an NRR 20. Large caliber weapons require an NRR 25 or better. For a large-caliber gun or shotgun, you need the highest rating, at least NRR 33.
Thanks to microphones, active headphones transmit and amplify ambient sounds, such as footsteps, speech, etc. For professional models, it is required to have two microphones spaced apart on both sides. Two microphones allow you to create a complete stereo image and help accurately localize sound. Some models are also equipped with a flexible gooseneck microphone.
This parameter shows how quickly the electronics will work at peak load. The shorter the attack time, the less you will be cut off from surrounding sounds when noise reduction is turned on. Attack time also affects latency, i.e., how fast the microphones transmit sound to the speaker in the earpiece.
A large volume range always adds convenience and variability. It is also worth paying attention to the type of volume control and its accessibility. It can be an adjustment wheel or buttons. The volume controls should be large enough and spaced apart to make the adjustment convenient, even with gloves.
As an additional option for the headphones, it may be possible to configure each earpiece separately. In some situations, this can be useful if one ear has poor hearing or one earphone has become quieter.
Most military headphones are quite variable in fine-tuning and fit to the head size or ears, used with headgear or helmet. Some models allow you to detach the headband and attach each earpiece to a tactical helmet or put a fixing bow on the back of the head. The more customization options the headphones have, the easier it is to suit them to specific needs. Also, the headphones must be folded together for easy transportation.
First, you should pay attention to popular brands with an official guarantee, a wide range of models, and the availability of normal after-sales service. Among these companies:
From the additional features from the middle and top segment of active headphones, you can get the following:
Tactical active headphones must withstand rough operating conditions, so they are made from impact-resistant materials. Also, hunting or military headphones are also used in different weather conditions, so protection from dust, moisture, and rain are highly desirable.
If you choose headphones for yourself, this is one of the most important parameters. If the headphones rub, fly off, or skip sounds, then fancy electronics will not fix this. Moreover, it would be best if you matched the headphones you chose with your devices and equipment.
Given the requirements for active tactical headphones, the average price for such a model can fluctuate around $100-150. For a lower price, headphones will lack valuable functionality like stereo microphones, a 3.5 jack, or moisture protection.
The upper price threshold for active headphones can reach $ 800-1000 for top models used in the US Army or elite units. The truth is that the premium segment does not provide anything extraordinary. For more money, you get an increase in quality or an extended set, namely:
All these features certainly make headphones more convenient, but they are not critical. $100 headphones will honestly do their job.
Unfortunately, the development of personal protective equipment is still far from complete, as are global conflicts. But we have the means to protect against bullets, shrapnel, loud noises, bright flashes, and poisonous substances.
Personal hearing protection is as important as feet and hands defense, and active headphones are as necessary as body armor or a helmet. It is in our power to help the soldiers of the Armed Forces of Ukraine defeat and expel the occupier and return to their families healthy.