WESTWOOD, Mass. (March 23, 2020) – Electronic earmuffs are a popular form of hearing protection for shooting sports enthusiasts. All models of Howard LeightTM electronic earmuffs have an amplification feature that allows wearers to easily conduct conversation and hear range commands. There’s a single control dial on the side that turns the external microphones and internal speakers on. After they turn on, the further the dial is advanced, the greater the amplification. Depending on the specific Howard Leight model, ambient sound can be amplified up to 4x or 5x at the maximum setting.
Most people refer to this as the “volume adjustment”, but electronics and audio enthusiasts may be interested to know that while ambient sound does increase in volume as the dial is advanced, the dial adjustment is actually controlling gain. In other words, as the dial is turned up, it is not increasing the output of the speakers inside the ear cups, it is actually increasing sound input through the external microphones, allowing the wearer to better hear sounds that are farther away.
So, if these things actually amplify sound, how do they protect your ears from dangerous gunfire?
That’s a common question, and the answer begins with the understanding that electronic earmuffs protect hearing through passive attenuation. That means they provide the same amount of protection whether they are turned off or turned on. The electronic circuitry is the second part to the answer. Regardless of what the amplification is set to, anytime the electronics detect a sound louder than 82 decibels coming into the external microphones, they quickly turn the amplification to the speakers inside the ear cups down. During this brief period, the sound amplification is much lower. When the external noise level drops below 82dB again, the amplification circuit resumes the set volume level.
So, since amplification has no impact on the muff’s hearing protection, the amplification or gain setting is strictly a matter of personal preference. The setting should be dictated by the wearer’s environment and how much they want or need to hear what’s happening around them.
Competitive shooting sports athlete and Howard Leight Shooting Sports Pro Ambassador, Travis Gibson, explains.