Electronic earmuffs have been around for a long time, and time has not stood still when it comes to earplugs – custom-made insulating plastics also have electronics.
Jagdpraxis has tested two high-tech devices, a Peltor earmuff with advanced electronics and the brand new Siemens Secure-Ear-System for suitability. We wanted to know whether tiny insulating plastics can replace earmuffs – and which system has advantages when hunting.
Protecting your ears from the bang is extremely important when firing firearms. The human hearing system is particularly sensitive to so-called “impulse noise”, which exposes it to high peak values.
Things get really bad with weapons with a muzzle brake – these useful attachments reduce the recoil and increase the bang considerably.
You get the full charge around your ears since backward-facing holes or slots not only direct powder gases but also bang in the direction of the shooter. Large-bore rifles with a muzzle brake can cause permanent damage to the human Ear with a single shot.
Probably the oldest way to protect your Ear is to use plugs that you insert into the ear canal and thus protect you from the crack of gunfire – simple and quite effective if you use well-fitting plugs.
Such plugs close the ear canal, but the sound is transmitted around the Ear via the skull bone. Therefore, even better protection is provided by earmuffs available from many manufacturers in different price ranges today. Every hunter should have good earmuffs to be well equipped on the shooting range.
The insulating effect of hearing protection depends on its design – the more elaborately the shells are insulated, the better the sound of the gunshot is sealed off from the Ear. However, insulation is not just a question of price; it also increases the volume of the insulation capsule accordingly.
This may not play a role for handgun shooters, but when attacking with a rifle and even more shotgun, thick capsules over the Ear are extremely annoying, at least on the attack side.
Hearing protection during the hunt
The Ear is also exposed to the crack of gunfire when hunting, especially in party hunts, where many shots can be fired or pigeon hunting – if the decoy pigeons are well placed, 200 cartridges can go through the shotgun barrels in a day with good flight.
Just plugging your ears to keep the noise out is of little use to hunters – it may still be possible to hunt pigeons, where you sit alone and work more with your eyes. However, in the area, you want to hear alternating game – and horn signals or calls from fellow hunters during company hunts.
Hear ambient noises and still be protected from bangs – is that possible? No longer a problem today, modern electronic hearing protection can even do more; it amplifies ambient noise many times and improves the hunter’s hearing.
Peltor Sport Tac Work Station
Peter is the leading manufacturer of electronic earmuffs and also supplies the US military. The Sport Tac WS is the latest development from the innovative company. It is much more than just hearing protection, more of a small communication center because it can also make calls or listen to music.
The ambient noise reaches the wearer’s ears via two microphones in the front of the insulation capsules. Small noises are amplified by the electronics. Since there are two microphones (stereo effect), the direction from which the noise is coming can also be localized.
The perception of ambient noise in both insulation capsules can be adjusted via a balanced setting. The amount of amplification of the ambient noise by the electronics can be set using the plus and minus buttons on the right capsule.
While noises with a low sound level are amplified, the electronics react in exactly the opposite way too loud noises. Impulse noises such as the crack of a gunshot are kept away from the Inner Ear. The electronics react in less than four milliseconds.
The volume limit is set to 82 dB (A). A shot bang is not perceived louder than with conventional earmuffs without electronics.
That alone would not be anything special and can now be found on numerous models on the market. Conventional, level-dependent hearing protectors switch off suddenly when a certain sound level is exceeded so that no harmful noises reach the wearer’s ears.
This shutdown can usually be perceived; the re-enabling is also abrupt and is recognized. At the shooting range, where there are constantly bangs, this is a bit uncomfortable in conversation and is often perceived as annoying.
The Sport Tac WS reacts much more gently, and you can hardly tell when it is switched on and off – this is very pleasant during conversations. You have the feeling that the noise level always remains at the same level, although the protection naturally locks when there is a bang.
With the Sport Tac WS, all of the electronics were not built into the capsules from the inside but rather inserted from the outside. So on hot days when you sweat heavily under the capsule, no moisture can get into the electronics and interfere with them.
The electronics are now on the outside and are well protected by the covers. To determine whether this also applies to water, the device was exposed to several showers in the JAGDPRAXIS test.
Insulating cushions and sealing rings can be easily exchanged; this should also be done once or twice a year for hygiene reasons. The capsules have indentations on the underside to allow good contact with the rifle butt.
All of this would be good hearing protection for hunting, but the WS can do even more: It connects to a telephone via Bluetooth (if it is set up for this) and allows comfortable communication.
Once the phone is connected, it is automatically paired each time the hearing protection is switched on, provided the phone is within range. Up to four devices (profiles A2DP, HFP, HSP) can be synchronized with the hearing protection.
The new Top-Peltor also has a voice output that announces every change – after switching on, it sounds like “Connecting Bluetooth” and a few seconds later “Bluetooth connected.”
Even if the volume is turned up / down or the device is switched off completely, an announcement is made – but only in English; it is impossible to switch to other languages. When asked by JAGDPRAXIS, Peltor explained that the storage capacity is not yet sufficient to store multiple languages.
When a phone call comes in, the hearing protection rings, and you can accept the call by briefly pressing the Bluetooth button on the back of the left capsule. Pressing and holding the button will reject the call. The Bluetooth button can also be used to redial by pressing it for two seconds.
Of course, you don’t have to take your mobile phone out of your pocket to make a call – a microphone is integrated into the bottom of the right-hand capsule; it still transmits whispers less than 10 cm from the wearer’s mouth if there are no loud ambient noises, such as when sitting in a hide.
So many electronics also use a lot of electricity – two AAA batteries in the right capsule are used for this. Peltor specifies a running time of 80 hours without and 12 hours with the Bluetooth function switched on.
To save costs, the scope of delivery includes two rechargeable NiMH batteries with a charger. It is practical that you do not have to remove the batteries for charging, but can be charged in the hearing protection.
At the bottom of the right capsule is a socket into which you simply plug the charger cable; eight hours later, the batteries are full again.
If the charging power drops below a certain level, low battery sounds in the headset and the hearing protection must either be connected to the charger or with fresh batteries. Instead of the supplied rechargeable NiMH batteries, any conventional AAA battery (1.2 to 1.5 volts) can be used.
In addition, the WS has two audio inputs with J 22 and 3.5 mm plugs, over which two-way radios or music players can be connected by cable.
The headband made of dirt-repellent plastic has steel wires that guarantee constant pressure. The bracket can also be folded up to save space. At 352 g, the Peltor Sport Tac WS is still in an affordable weight range; the high-end hearing protection costs 379 $.
Siemens Secure Ear
Siemens is a leading manufacturer of hearing aids and uses this know-how for a product that amplifies noise and protects the Ear from harmful noises – in principle; Secure Ear does exactly what electronic earmuffs do.
But the insulating plastics are worn directly in the ear canal like conventional earplugs; every noise that wants to reach the hearing has to pass through Secure Ear. Loud noises such as gunshots are reduced by up to 35 dB, while those relevant to hunting are amplified.
The system acts like an acoustic telescope that can be adjusted to the respective requirements. Each insulating plastic has volume control for this purpose. It takes some time before you can use it in your Ear because simply going to the store and taking the device with you is not an option.
Each pair of Secure Ear hearing protectors has to be made individually; an expert (usually a hearing aid acoustician) makes an impression of the ear canal and sends the two models to Siemens. With the help of 3-D scanners, insulating plastics are made from robust, elastic UV material, and tiny microelectronic components are installed. UV is a bio-compatible material in different transparent or clear colors or skin tones. Bright colors can also be used.
In this way, the optimum insulation effect can be achieved with the smallest possible design. The protection is guaranteed by a double limitation system – the built-in limitation system Peak Clipping reacts without delay to impulse noise like gunshots.
Another system (automatic gain control) reacts to constant high volumes and prevents most distortions. The electronic sound transmission is only completely stopped at a volume of 85 dB or more, and the custom-made plastic works as normal hearing protection.
A four-channel chip with digital processing ensures the best possible sound transmission.
A cerumen (ear wax) filter at the sound output prevents dirt from reaching the electronics. You have to change this filter from time to time so as not to impair the sound quality. This is very easy and inexpensive with the enclosed tool – 15 filters cost around $ 8.
Each plastic has a battery compartment – the Siemens 312, which is also used in conventional hearing aids, provides energy for 230 hours.
Siemens offers Secure Ear in two skin tones, tan or beige, or red and blue, with red always standing for right and blue for left. The skin-colored devices have a small print on the left. And right for the respective page. We decided on the colored variant because it is much easier to assign.
The price for the tiny high-end hearing protectors is not the same, as Siemens does not give a recommended retail price – our test devices come from Horgerate Reinke (Hamm), where the impressions of the ear canals were made. They cost $ 595, and you can find a hearing aid acoustician in the vicinity on the Siemens website www.siemens.com, which lists all dealers who offer Secure Ear.
The price comparison and a little further travel can be worthwhile – according to our research; there is a north-south divide – in the
In the north of the republic, the prices were cheaper than in the south, where up to 700 $ were charged. However, it is important to have the auditory canal impressions carried out by a specialist in any case – this is the only way to ensure that the system will fit properly later.
The systems in practice
Both systems were tested on the hide, several driven hunts, and the shooting range – the Peltor Sport Tac WS hearing protection was used by five testers. Secure Ear provided two individually adapted systems used by hunters who also use the Peltor WS tested for comparison.
The handling of the Peltor was astonishingly easy – once set, the memory function ensures that everything works as desired when it is switched on. The Bluetooth connection (iPhones and Samsung cell phones were used) is less than 20 seconds after switching.
Telephoning works perfectly; the sound quality of music transmissions from the cell phone is excellent. During a long flight, the hearing protection was used as headphones and also served well. When the shot bangs, the Peltor regulates reliably – so gently that you don’t even notice that your Ear is being protected from harmful noises.
It is very comfortable to wear, and it is easy to forget to wear hearing protection – a criterion by which you can recognize good hearing protection. Even those who wear glasses get along well with it; the temples of the visual aid are not painfully pressed against the head.
The running time of the rechargeable batteries or batteries is a bit problematic – the Peltor has to block the bang of the shot on the shooting range. If the Bluetooth function is active, it consumes a lot of electricity.
The manufacturer’s specification of 12 hours is too optimistic – in the JAGDPRAXIS test, it sounded “low battery” after 7 to 8 hours. But that’s enough for a day at the shooting range, and the hearing protection can be recharged overnight.
You also have to be careful with the Peltor when it rains heavily – the capsules are splash-proof but not waterproof. However, in heavy rain, hunting activities are usually stopped, and the hearing protection can be stowed dry. When folded, it fits in the outside pocket of most hunting jackets.
There were different opinions of the testers when hunting for the localization of noises: The amplification of the ambient noise is very good, and the volume setting is not a problem. If there is wind or rustling of leaves, you turn it down until the noises are pleasant to the Ear again.
Most testers, however, had a problem with determining the exact direction from which a sound was coming, for example, when a pack of sows exchanged during a driven hunt. The microphones are directed towards the front, so when there are noises from behind, it can be difficult to determine the exact direction.
When shooting with the hearing protection, there were hardly any problems due to the bulges on the underside; only the hunter in the test team was not entirely satisfied because she occasionally hit the hearing protection with the stock while shooting with the shotgun and then shifted it.
However, with her, the distance from the lower edge of the insulation capsule to the shoulder was significantly smaller than with the men.
Therefore, petite hunters are advised to make a few strokes with the shotgun beforehand when buying hearing protection to check the distance – but those were the only criticisms of the Peltor.
The Siemens Secure Ear System was impressed with its excellent wearing comfort. Naturally, there are no problems with pressing arms or stopping problems when shooting with shotguns because the device sits in the ear canal. It is well protected from rain, which would have to come almost horizontally from the side to do something.
The sound transmission is first class; you quickly forget that Secure Ear is in your ear canal. Only when you remove it again, do you notice that your hearing suddenly becomes worse?
Emotionally, your hearing ability is doubled
There are also no problems with the exact localization of the noises since the system sits in your ears – a significant advantage of in-ear hearing protection.
On the other hand, the maximum insulation effect is somewhat worse than with good earmuffs surrounding the ear and cover parts of the skull.
This was not noticeable during the hunt and at the clay pigeon stand. Still, when shooting with large-caliber handguns in a closed stand, the difference became clear – for longer stays with lots of very loud shooting noises, earmuffs are superior.
Summary and scoring
The two hearing protection systems are structured completely differently and cannot be assessed together; each is therefore assessed separately.
This test should mainly show what is possible with hunting hearing protection today and what high-end devices offer.
The result is impressive; Peltors Sportac WS combines modern, highly effective electronic earmuffs with a communication system that allows you to make phone calls or listen to music via hearing protection – at a time when the cell phone is everywhere, which is certainly a starting point for many Hunter is interesting.
All must decide for themselves whether or not they should be bothered when hunting by their cell phone. Switching off is sometimes better, but on the other hand, drivers, riflemen, or the hunt manager can be safely reached in an emergency via radio or mobile phone.
A vibrating phone in the pocket is often not noticed when wearing thick winter clothing. The Siemens Secure Ear System is also a high-end product, but not designed for additional functions but maximum comfort.
The small insulating plastics are superior to any earmuffs – nothing bothers you when you hit it, and several hours of wear are no problem. The bang of the shot is reliably blocked, and ambient noise can be amplified.
The direction of noises can be localized much better than with electronic earmuffs. When it comes to hunting, the Secure Ear System has a clear advantage.
Only in loud noises over a longer period is earmuffs preferable because of the better insulation performance.
The JAGDPRAXIS comparison test of the new hearing protection systems from Peltor and Siemens shows what technically possible today is and that hunters can get much more than just protecting their hearing from the crack of a gunshot. That alone could also be achieved with inexpensive earmuffs.
Modern devices even amplify ambient noise and equip hunters with better hearing, making a big difference when hunting.
Evaluation of the Peltor Sport Tac WS
The testers gave the Sport Tac 12 out of 15 points; it is good but not top class. When evaluating the electronics, there was three points deduction for excessive battery consumption, 12 points.
The transmission of ambient noise is excellent and easy to regulate; problems can only arise when the direction is precisely localized. Therefore 2 points were deducted, and 13 points were given. There was a full 15 points for wearing comfort; the WS is very comfortable to wear.
The operation is neat and not too difficult to handle. However, the buttons could be slightly bigger; with gloves, it is hardly possible to regulate the volume. It got 7 out of 10 points. The equipment is more than lavish and should make the WS a reference model in this regard; the full 10 points were awarded here.
There were only 5 for protection against environmental influences – the Peltor is well protected against splash water but not waterproof.
The test team agreed on 7 out of 10 points for the price-performance ratio. The Peltor Sport Tac WS offers many special functions and is very well made, but $ 379 is also a proud sum for hearing protection. Overall, the new Peltor scores 81 out of 100 points and can now be adorned with 3 Jagdpraxis magnifying glasses.
Assessment Siemens Secure Ear
When assessing the maximum insulation performance, full points are awarded. The plastics completely seal the ear canal and are as good as conventional earplugs without electronics.
There were no defects in the electronics either; the system reliably and quickly seals off gunshot noise, its battery consumption is low – a full 20 points.
There is also no point deduction for the transmission of ambient noise. Secure Ear transmits them (if desired) with significant amplification. It’s also not difficult to figure out which way the sounds are coming from.
Comfort and handling are first-class. The testers gave it a full 15 points because it was extremely comfortable to wear and easy to insert and remove.
There are, however, deductions for operation; the small adjusting wheels for the volume, which are also used to switch the electronics on and off, can only be turned with a fingernail and are extremely delicate.
In practice, the switch was made to switch the device off by opening the battery compartment and again by closing it – this was much easier than turning the small cogs. There are only 11 out of 15 points for this.
The full score of 15 was also not possible for the price-performance ratio. Almost $ 600 is a lot of money, even if it is made to measure and microelectronics at its best. For this, the testers also gave 11 out of 15 points.
With a total of 92 points, the Siemens Secure Ear System leaped the reference class and received 4 JAGDPRAXIS magnifying glasses.