I shoot quite a lot, as you might imagine. I’ve also been shooting a heck of a lot of suppressed firearms, which I typically do without hearing protection on/in my ears because I’m often reviewing the performance of the suppressors themselves. While this is usually, in theory, “hearing safe,” that isn’t the case with every gun/ammo/silencer combination, plus repeated and long-term exposure can still cause hearing damage.
As I have warned others, your hearing doesn’t grow back. You aren’t showing toughness by tolerating the discomfort of loud noises, you’re showing a lack of long-term thinking. Damage to your hearing is cumulative and being annoyingly hard of hearing is a lot more frustrating at 55 than 95.
Anyway, with the preachy bit over I’m here to tell you about my visit to the Axil hearing protection booth at the NRA show this year. Axil rapidly became one of the most popular hearing protection companies in the shooting industry over the last few years and I’ve used their ear muffs and a couple versions of their in-ear buds with good results.
With all the shooting I do, though, I figured I should invest in some top quality hearing protection so I’m having Axil make me a set of custom-molded electronic plugs.
The first step, as seen in the lead photo, was an inspection inside of my ears — no cleaning was necessary! My mom would be proud — followed by insertion of a little foam pad with a string attached. That piece of foam went all the way in until it bottomed out. This is to provide a buffer for the molds to come, so that they don’t actually touch my ear drums.
Next, a two-part expanding foam rubber compound was injected down into my ears as well as around the outside of my ear canal. This will be the model Axil will use to create my custom inserts that will fit inside of my ears like a glove. Well, like a reverse glove. That you wear in your ears. Like a custom-molded ear plug, if you will.
Axil has a few options for production ear plugs that will be based off of these molds. Not only materials like silicone or 3D printed plastic, etc., but also what the molds are attached to from nothing (“dumb” hearing protection like your cheapo foam plugs, but custom-fitted) to extremely high-end electronic systems.
With over 60 years of experience in the hearing aid industry, Axil knows ears, knows audiology, and knows hearing protection. So, while I was at their booth, I took advantage of the free hearing tests they were offering.
This was made a bit difficult by the significant amount of background noise generated by thousands of people on a busy trade show floor. Axil graded my test straight, but said that without background noise I would have aced it in the “normal” or better-than-normal range for sure across the board.
I trust their judgement on that but still don’t love seeing my results generally showing up in the slight hearing loss category, so may go get tested around home somewhere to set an official, non-trade-show baseline and then get tested every couple years to make sure I’m doing what I can to protect my hearing despite all the shooting I do. While I’m at it, I intend to get tested to lead exposure, too.
That’s about it! I’ll post an update and review when my custom ear pro is done and I’ve used it for a little while. In the meantime, check out Axil and don’t screw up your hearing! It doesn’t grow back.