Can you use noise canceling headphones for shooting?

With the increasing popularity of noise-canceling headphones in various contexts, many shooting enthusiasts are curious if they can utilize this technology for hearing protection during shooting sessions.

In this article, we will explore the concept of noise-canceling headphones, their benefits, and limitations, and discuss the pros and cons of using them for shooting.

We will also look into alternative options for hearing protection and conclude with a recommendation for shooters to prioritize their safety and adhere to applicable laws and regulations.

Understanding Noise-Cancelling Headphones

Noise canceling headphones are a type of headphones that uses advanced technology to reduce ambient noise and improve sound quality.

They work by analyzing external sounds and generating sound waves that are 180 degrees out of phase with the incoming sounds, effectively canceling them out. There are two types of noise-canceling technologies: passive and active.

Passive noise-canceling headphones work by physically blocking external sounds with cushioning materials and a snug fit over the ears. They are generally less effective in reducing ambient noise compared to active noise-canceling headphones, but they can still provide some level of hearing protection.

Active noise-canceling headphones, on the other hand, use microphones to pick up external sounds and generate sound waves that cancel them out. This technology can provide a more immersive listening experience by reducing external distractions and improving audio clarity.

Considerations for Shooting

Hearing protection is crucial in shooting sports, as exposure to loud gunshots can cause permanent hearing damage.

Many shooters use earmuffs, earplugs, or electronic earmuffs to protect their ears from loud noises.

However, some shooters may wonder if noise-canceling headphones can also be used effectively for this purpose.

It’s important to consider the potential risks of using noise-canceling headphones for shooting.

One of the main concerns is the possibility of not hearing important sounds such as commands, alarms, or warnings.

Noise-canceling technology may block not only the loud gunshots but also other important sounds that shooters need to be aware of in a shooting environment.

Another limitation of noise-canceling headphones is their ability to block sudden loud noises, such as gunshots.

While they can effectively reduce continuous background noise, they may not provide adequate protection against sudden, high-intensity sounds.

This can pose a safety risk for shooters, as they may not be able to react quickly to potential dangers.

It’s also worth noting that the use of noise-canceling headphones for shooting may be subject to legal restrictions in some jurisdictions.

Shooters should familiarize themselves with local laws and regulations regarding hearing protection devices in shooting environments to ensure compliance.

Some of the best headphones for shooting

Howard Leight by Honeywell Impact Sport Sound Amplification Electronic Earmuffs: These earmuffs provide electronic sound amplification, allowing you to hear ambient sounds clearly while still offering noise reduction for loud noises, such as gunshots. They have a slim design and adjustable headband for a comfortable fit.

Walker’s Razor Slim Electronic Hearing Protection Earmuffs: These earmuffs also offer electronic sound amplification and noise reduction features. They have a low-profile design and padded ear cups for comfort. They also have an audio input jack, allowing you to connect external devices for listening to music or communication.

3M PELTOR Sport Tactical 500 Smart Electronic Hearing Protector: These earmuffs offer advanced technology with adjustable sound amplification and noise reduction features. They have a durable design and are Bluetooth-enabled, allowing for wireless communication with compatible devices. They also have a voice-guided menu system for easy control.

Bose QuietComfort 35 II or Sony WH-1000XM4 Noise Cancelling Headphones: If you still prefer noise-canceling headphones, these models are known for their excellent noise-canceling capabilities.

They have comfortable over-ear designs and offer high-quality sound performance. However, it’s important to note that using these headphones for shooting may compromise situational awareness and safety.

Please note that when using any hearing protection for shooting, it’s crucial to follow proper firearm safety protocols, including proper handling, storage, and usage of firearms, and always prioritize safety over convenience.

It’s also essential to check and comply with local laws and regulations regarding hearing protection during shooting activities.

Pros and Cons of Using Noise-Cancelling Headphones for Shooting

As with any technology, there are pros and cons to using noise-canceling headphones for shooting. Let’s take a closer look at both sides of the argument:

Pros of Using Noise-Cancelling Headphones for Shooting

Reduced overall noise exposure: Noise-cancelling headphones can effectively reduce continuous background noise, which can help shooters minimize their overall noise exposure during shooting sessions.

This can be beneficial in protecting their hearing and reducing the risk of hearing damage.
Enhanced focus: By reducing distractions from ambient noise, noise-canceling headphones can help shooters maintain focus on their targets and improve shooting accuracy.

This can be particularly useful in competitive shooting scenarios where concentration is crucial.
Improved comfort: Noise-cancelling headphones are generally comfortable to wear for extended periods of time, as they often come with cushioning materials and adjustable headbands.

This can make shooting sessions more enjoyable and less fatiguing.

Cons of Using Noise-Cancelling Headphones for Shooting

While noise-canceling headphones offer many benefits, there are also several limitations and potential risks to consider when using them for shooting purposes.

It’s essential to be aware of these drawbacks before deciding to rely solely on noise-canceling headphones for hearing protection during shooting activities.

Some of the cons of using noise-canceling headphones for shooting include:

Limited situational awareness: Noise-cancelling headphones are designed to block out ambient noise, including sounds like gunshots.

While this may seem beneficial in reducing overall noise exposure, it can also limit your ability to hear important sounds on the shooting range, such as commands from instructors, alarms, or warnings.

This lack of situational awareness can compromise safety and hinder communication, which is crucial in shooting sports.

Potential safety risks: In shooting sports, safety is of paramount importance. Not being able to hear important cues or warnings due to noise-canceling headphones can pose a potential safety risk.

For instance, you may miss hearing someone shouting to stop shooting due to the noise cancellation, leading to accidental firing or unsafe actions.

It’s vital to prioritize safety and carefully evaluate the risks associated with using noise-canceling headphones in a shooting environment.

Legal concerns: Some jurisdictions may have specific regulations or laws regarding the use of noise-canceling headphones for shooting.

It’s essential to familiarize yourself with the legal requirements in your area before using noise-canceling headphones for shooting.

Violating any legal restrictions can have serious consequences, including fines or other legal repercussions.

Limited protection against sudden loud noises: While noise-canceling headphones can effectively reduce ambient noise, they may not provide adequate protection against sudden loud noises, such as gunshots.

Some noise-canceling technologies may have a slight delay in canceling out loud noises, which could still result in exposure to harmful noise levels.

It’s crucial to consider the effectiveness of noise-cancelling headphones in blocking sudden loud noises when using them for shooting.

Comfort and fit: Comfort and fit are essential factors to consider when using any type of hearing protection, including noise-cancelling headphones.

Ill-fitting or uncomfortable headphones may cause discomfort or distract you during shooting activities, affecting your overall performance.

It’s important to find noise-cancelling headphones that fit well and provide maximum comfort for extended periods of use.

Alternatives to Noise-Cancelling Headphones

Earplugs: Traditional foam or silicone earplugs are affordable, readily available, and provide excellent noise reduction.

They are also low-profile, allowing for better situational awareness and communication.

There are various types of earplugs available, including disposable foam plugs, reusable silicone plugs, and custom-molded plugs, which offer different levels of comfort and protection.

Electronic earmuffs: Electronic earmuffs are designed to amplify low-level sounds while protecting against loud noises.

They usually have built-in microphones that pick up ambient sounds and amplify them, allowing for better situational awareness.

When a loud noise, such as a gunshot, occurs, the earmuffs automatically block the sound to protect your hearing.

They also typically have adjustable volume controls, allowing you to customize the amplification to your preference.

Passive earmuffs: Passive earmuffs are traditional earmuffs that do not have electronic components.

They rely on their physical design and materials to provide noise reduction.

While they may not offer the same level of situational awareness as electronic earmuffs, they can still provide effective protection against loud noises.

Combination of earmuffs and earplugs: For maximum hearing protection, you can also consider using a combination of earmuffs and earplugs.

This dual-layered approach can provide an additional layer of noise reduction and is commonly used in high-noise environments.

Open-ear electronic hearing protection: Some newer technologies, such as open-ear electronic hearing protection, offer an alternative to traditional earmuffs or earplugs.

These devices are designed to protect your ears while still allowing you to hear ambient sounds clearly.

They use advanced technology to selectively amplify low-level sounds and block loud noises, providing both protection and situational awareness.


While noise-cancelling headphones can provide benefits in certain situations, there are also alternatives such as earplugs, electronic earmuffs, passive earmuffs, combination protection, and open-ear electronic hearing protection that may be more suitable for shooting activities.

It’s crucial to carefully consider the pros and cons of each option and prioritize safety when choosing the right hearing protection for shooting.

What type of hearing protection is best for shooting?

The best type of hearing protection for shooting is typically earmuffs or earplugs that are specifically designed for shooting activities. Electronic earmuffs or earplugs with sound amplification features, which allow you to hear ambient sounds clearly while still providing noise reduction for loud gunshots, are often recommended.

Are noise-canceling headphones safe in a workshop?

Noise-canceling headphones can provide some level of protection against loud noises in a workshop, but they may not be the best option. In a workshop, it’s important to prioritize safety and use hearing protection that is specifically designed for industrial or workshop environments, such as earmuffs or earplugs with proper noise reduction ratings (NRR) that meet safety standards.

How do I record audio with noise cancellation?

To record audio with noise cancellation, you will typically need a microphone that has noise-cancelling capabilities.

These microphones use built-in technology to filter out or reduce background noise, resulting in clearer audio recordings.

You can connect such microphones to recording devices or use them with compatible software or apps on your recording device.

Can you use AirPods while shooting?

Using AirPods or any other type of earbuds or headphones while shooting is generally not recommended due to safety concerns.

Wearing headphones can significantly reduce situational awareness, making it difficult to hear important safety instructions or warnings on the shooting range.

It’s important to prioritize safety and follow proper firearm safety protocols, which typically involve using dedicated hearing protection designed for shooting activities.

Is 25 dB noise cancellation good?

The effectiveness of noise cancellation is typically measured in decibels (dB), with higher values indicating higher levels of noise reduction.

A noise cancellation rating of 25 dB is generally considered to be good, as it can provide a significant reduction in ambient noise.

However, the effectiveness of noise cancellation may vary depending on the specific environment, type of headphones or earmuffs, and other factors.

It’s important to consider the specific requirements of your intended use and choose hearing protection that meets appropriate safety standards and regulations.

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Krishanu Dhali is the founder of Headphoneidea and a passionate audio expert. Through in-depth reviews and comprehensive guides on the latest headphone models, he shares extensive knowledge with audiophiles and newcomers alike. His blog is a valuable resource for staying up-to-date on all things audio.