I’m losing my hearing. It’s not all gone, and I don’t know how much more I might lose, but I’ve definitely lost a significant portion of it. The combination of shooting, rock concerts and sirens from the old job have conspired to rob me of more than I would have liked to have lost. As you might expect, I have become somewhat particular about making sure I protect my remaining hearing.
Recently, I had the chance to test the SensGard SG31 ear pro. The SensGard company offers hearing protection products with various noise reduction ratings, including some past 30 dB. Further, the company claims that the products do this without impacting your ability to hear normal conversations, and without an amplification circuit.
I was intrigued, so I gave them a try.
Hearing protection is extremely important for shooters. Repeated shooting can cause permanent hearing damage, so it is essential that people use the best protection they can afford.
Typical hearing protection falls into one of two general categories: plugs or muffs. Plugs insert into the ear canal and provide a physical barrier to sound waves. Muffs cover the ears and also provide a physical barrier to the sound. Both kinds of products do a good job of blocking loud noises. The problem is they also block the sounds you want to hear, such as conversations with your friends and range commands.
Some plugs and muffs use electronic circuitry to amplify “normal” sounds, and then shut off when a loud noise is encountered. I have reviewed electronic ear muffs in the past from Howard Leight and Caldwell, and find them to be good at what they do.
The SensGard products claim to protect hearing, yet still allow you to “hear normal speech without distortion,” and without using any kind of amplification circuit. This was going to be something I had to hear to believe. After talking with a representative of SensGard, I received two of their products: the SG26 and the SG31.
How They Work
Both models of SensGard protectors work in the same manner. Lightweight tubes are attached to the earpieces and go up the side of your head as part of the headband. These tubes essentially draw in sound, so that as loud noise starts to enter the ear, the sound waves flow into the tubes. In the tubes, the sound waves expend their energy and the damaging loudness is attenuated.
The SG26, which provides 26 dB of attenuation, and has smaller tubes than the SG31. The SG31 is rated at 31 dB of sound dampening. The tubes on the larger SG31 are not unwieldy, and take up less space than most standard muffs. If you compare the noise reduction ratings to traditional muffs, you find that few muffs are rated at or above 30 dB.
The key to the SensGard’s ability to attenuate noise is the proper insertion of the earpieces into your ears. If I followed the directions on the package, they seemed to work very well. To get the best protection from this unit, I did this:
- pulled the headband open to the widest position;
- inserted the foam ear pieces into my ears with the headband over the top of my head;
- with the foam pieces still in my ears, I rotated the headband forward to about eye level;
- rotated the headband back up so that it was over my head; and
- close the headband to a normal size so it rested on the top of my head.
On the Range
I took the SensGard SG31 with me on a recent range trip with Randall of ThinBlueFlorida. We were going to be testing a variety of firearms in 9mm and .45 ACP, including the very loud, short-barreled DoubleTap pistol. The range where we were shooting is outdoor, but the shooting positions are covered. As I was in the last lane against a concrete block wall, I had a lot of the shooting noise reflected back at me.
The SG31 did an admirable job at attenuating the repeated blasts from all of the handgun rounds. I’m always skeptical about marketing claims, and having never tried any kind of noise reduction quite like this, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Fortunately, the sound reduction was remarkably good. It would be tough for me to compare it to another kind of protection and say which was better, but the SensGard SG31 was certainly one of the better sets of hearing protection I have tried.
Conversations are not crystal clear when the SensGard are in place. The volume is noticeably reduced, and somewhat muffled. When compared to electronic hearing protection, a good set of electronic ear pro will give you much clearer conversations that the SG31 will. However, I found the SG31 to be better at allowing you to hear speech than traditional plugs or muffs that do not have an electronic amplifier.
One thing I did not like about the SensGard ear pro was the tendency of the headband to slide forward and off of my head. With normal movement, the top part of the headband would creep forward. If I didn’t move the band back onto the top of my head, it would slide off. This was understandably annoying.
To be fair to SensGard, years of marriage, police work and genetics have left me follicly challenged. Shooting on a Florida afternoon tends to be sweaty work, so balding head + perspiration = less than ideal conditions for the SendGard ear pro. A rep for SensGard said the company has prototypes in development that will be better at keeping the hearing protection fixed on top of the head.
For a passive system of reducing the damaging noise of gunshots, the SensGard SG31 and SG26 ear pro are great packages. They don’t use batteries, they fold up for easy carrying, and do an admirable job at attenuating noise. For the money, I would prefer to use the SG31 for the better protection it represents. For non-shooting activities, such as mowing the lawn or sleeping during a flight, I think the SG26 might be the better pick.