Growing up, we didn’t have the technological advancement of electronic hearing protection. The major advantage of having good ear protection in shooting is that protecting your ears can help preserve hearing for years to come. Nobody wants to be that old person in the rocking chair yelling WHAT? at the person talking to them just a foot away. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to be the old person in the rocking chair, in fact it is one of my life goals. But I want to keep my hearing, and that is where the Howard Leight Impact Sport earmuffs come in.

Howard Leight earmuffs in action
Howard Leight earmuffs in action

I have been shooting for years. Ever since I was a girl, I went with my father and brother to the range every Sunday and we would shoot round after round until the sun would go down or my mother would forcibly make us come home for dinner. Does that sound like a middle American Partridge Family-esque situation? That is probably because it was. My childhood was your typical 70s childhood. We took pretty big risks with our bodies and sometimes lives. We went bike riding without a helmet, rode in a car without a seatbelt, and even put salt on our food – I know, I lived a dangerous daredevil life.

One thing that I never took a chance on, though, was my hearing. My father never even let us pick up a gun without proper ear protection, and I have kept to that precaution to this day. Through the years, I have used a variety of different types of ear protection, starting with my childhood days of using the typical noise canceling ear protection for that time: huge thick non-electric earmuffs that worked great for our purposes but did leave us at a bit of a disadvantage.

Today, we have experienced quite an upgrade in products available on the market, and I find the Howard Leight Impact Sport hearing protection to be among the best in the low to mid-price range category. If you have never heard of these, well you know how the saying goes, “better leight than never”. There is a reason why they are a #1 best seller, and here is why.

Always Use Protection

Now before I continue with this review, I want to take a quick minute and explain why protecting your ears when shooting is important. This may seem a bit obvious but my mother has made the same chocolate chip cookies at least 250 times and she still always uses a recipe. Additionally, knowing a practical application of something and knowing how it works are actually two completely different things.

In truth, there are two different ways that our hearing can be damaged. The first is through an accumulation of everyday noises that build up to damage over time, and the second is the very loud noises that can speed up the damage process that much faster. Now we probably aren’t going to wear hearing protection all day every day, but that is why when it comes to very loud noises such as gun shots, we wear hearing protection. Our hearing gets damaged just living our day to day lives, so how much more so when there is an extremely loud sound repeatedly like there is at the shooting range.

When we talk about noise-induced hearing loss, we aren’t talking about conversations simply sounding quieter. That may not sound so bad, but that is also not usually the case. What is more likely to occur is that you actually hear the person as you normally would, but it isn’t clear. High frequency sounds are usually the sounds that are affected when it comes to this type of hearing loss. That mostly includes consonant sounds such as “s” “th” “t” “c” and quite a few others as well. This could be extremely frustrating, especially in instances when you do not know the speaker and have much more trouble filling in the gaps. Even worse, it could lead to some pretty embarrassing miscommunications.

So now that we have a better understanding of why we do not want to damage our hearing and the effects of such damage, let’s look at some hearing protection options. There is non-electric hearing protection which protects your hearing but at the cost of situational awareness. It will block out ALL noise, not just the damaging type. The disadvantage of non-electronic ear protection is that even though you are cancelling out harmful noise, you are also cancelling out other potentially important noise. For example, if someone breaks into your home and you are prepared enough to have both a gun and ear protection, you may think you are at an advantage because you have at your disposal a gun and even noise cancelling headphones to protect your ears. However, you will not be able to hear the intruder’s footsteps, you won’t be able to hear light switches being turned on and off and certainly not from several rooms away. When it comes to a potential face-off with the intruder, this most certainly puts you at a tactical disadvantage.

Howard Leight r-01526 Impact Sport Electronic Earmuffs

This pair of ear muffs both blocks high frequency sounds of 82 decibels or above with a noise reduction rating of 22 NPR, while also amplifying 4X low-level sounds and conversation which is extremely useful whether you are with your buddies at the range or protecting your home from an invasion.

Howard Leight r-01526 Impact Sport
Howard Leight r-01526 Impact Sport

What makes the low level sound amplification so great is that you do not need to compromise your situational awareness for this awesome perk. Because there are microphones on both sides, you get accurate directional sound. Unlike other electronic hearing protection that has the sound amplifying mike on one side, which in turn creates auditory confusion, these well-designed earmuffs do not do that. You will be able to hear the range command officer – or anyone else – with ease.

When it comes to gear, for me, comfort is key. Call me high maintenance, but truthfully it is much more difficult to focus on your target when your gear is irritating you. It should feel as if you do not have anything on at all. You want all your focus and attention on your target, but as humans, our focus is very easily disrupted. These earmuffs do not even feel like they are there; they fit my slightly awkwardly shaped head snuggly and comfortably. One of the reasons for this may be because they are extremely light weight. At 10.5 oz, they do not drag my head down like other such gear can.

I tried the Howard Leight Impact Sport Electronic Earmuffs first with my glock 19 gen 4, and was very impressed with how they drowned out the harmful sounds. The sound was significantly reduced and I experienced no ringing or pain in my ears. I also really appreciated the lower level decibel sound around me. I love that there is a volume control on the side that adjusts just how loudly I hear the low level sound. In some ways, I hear better with these things on than without them.

Savage Ba 110
Savage Ba 110

I then tried them with my huge noisemaker Savage Ba 110. This is a take-no-prisoners sucker that makes itself known not only in the way it shoots, but the way it sounds. These headphones handled that monster like a champ. I heard the conversation around me and not much else. What is also great about these is their slim line design. When I am using a gun such as that, I need the perfect position, and other bulkier sound-suppressing headphone get in the way of that. These are slim enough so that I can position myself perfectly without moving them to where they should not be. Along those same lines, they are also really portable and easy to travel with and store. This pair can be folded into a ball, and you can just stick it in your bag and go.

These take two AAA batteries and have a 350-hour life, and there is an external battery compartment which is easy to get to. What is awesome about this set is that after use, if you are a bit forgetful like I am, you won’t have to worry about wasting the battery because you forgot to turn it off. It automatically shuts off after 4 hours. They come in multiple colors, each costing a bit differently, with hunter green starting at just under 40 dollars, teal at around $45, followed by purple at 50 dollars and lastly this beautiful leaf-like design which the company calls “mossy oak breakup” that is actually quite nice to look at.

The earmuffs also come in a two-pack for about 78 dollars, which is great because I actually like to give these as gifts pretty frequently. These are great for occupational shooters like police and military personnel, or hobbyists like hunters.

When I was thinking about what my favorite feature is on these, as I tend to do in my other reviews, it was pretty hard to decide. I think ultimately what I like best about these is that they are a product that works just as advertised. They cancel out loud harmful sounds while amplifying low level conversation and commands, and they do it in a slim and lightweight design that does not feel cheap – and all this at a great price. Sometimes, getting just what you paid for is the best part of all.

Nate M.

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