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My dad is a gun instructor and spends many hours weekly at the range; he knows just how important ear protection is, especially for those that spend a significant amount of time there. Each and every exposure to dangerous level sounds can permanently damages your hearing, a little bit more each time you're exposed to the unsafe sound levels. It is a accumulative effect, and you never get your hearing back, as there is presently no surgical procedure available to restore your hearing. Therefore, if any of your daily activities include exposure to any hazardous noise levels, it really becomes imperative that you procure the very best ear protection possible. My father constantly reminds the family and each student he trains of this!
My Dad himself started off with foam earplugs, eventually moved up to full ear muffs, and then finally upgraded to electronic ear muffs in order to better communicate on the range without having to shout (and lose his voice) and constantly lift his ear muffs and ask “what did you say?” Foam earplugs are decent, though many people find them to be uncomfortable. You can get custom fit earplugs that get the job done, but then you can’t hear anything when you’re wearing them. Passive ear muffs, like my dad wore for a couple of years, also work really well, but like earplugs, you’re essentially deaf to what’s going on around you. Enter electronic hearing protection, which takes noise canceling to the next level. Electronic shooting earmuffs provide the ability to hear low level sounds occurring around the shooter better while wearing the earmuffs than that shooter would normally hear without any ear protection. With the ear muffs in place, the shooter's hearing is enhanced through a built-in amplifier. When a loud noise such as a gunshot hits the microphone in the ear cup, the internal amplifier immediately shuts down to provide you with the full rated protection of the ear muffs.
Howard Leight Impact Pro Review
About a year ago, my dad began using the Howard Leight Impact Pro Sound Amplification Electronic Earmuff (R-01902) by Honeywell, and since then, that has become the gold standard in my family. The Impact Pro amplifies ambient sound so you can properly hear conversations and range commands, and it automatically and electronically reduces gunfire or any loud noise to help protect your hearing. There are many avid hunters and marksmen (and women) in my family, and we all now use the Howard Leight ear muffs, though some of the women in my family do prefer the Impact Sport model (which I'll touch upon more below).
Howard Leight Impact Pro Specs
The specs on the Howard Leight Impact Pro earmuffs are pretty impressive. At just 1.15 pounds, they are lightweight but still powerful. With a noise reduction rating of 30, which is one of the highest noise attenuations on the market, they easily block harmful noises over 82 decibels, making it perfect for shooting even high-caliber firearms. The built-in stereo microphones in each ear-cup clarify and amplify four times low level sounds like regular human voices or branches breaking, allowing quiet sounds to penetrate the thick barrier of noise reduction, and letting the user communicate and react to their surroundings. The separate microphones in each ear allow the wearer to maintain a sense of direction. This makes this ear protection headset just as good indoors at a range as it is outdoors on a hunt. For whatever reason, some companies manufacture electronic ear muffs without separate microphones, but this leads to auditory confusion, as the wearer cannot determine which way the sounds are coming from, making them especially useless on a hunt.
Howard Leight Impact Pro Features
Many electronic ear muffs have a knob on each side that protrudes from the ear muff. If you turn the knob past a click and it goes on, and you keep turning it to increase the volume. What often happens when you put away this style of ear muff into your shooting bag is that they can inadvertently get turned on because the knobs are exposed. The batteries run dry, and unless you have replacement batteries on you, they are reduced to passive ear muffs. The Impact Pro has an excellent feature to simply and cleverly deal with this issue: a single on/off and sound level dial that is recessed into only one side. The recessed dial on the Impact Pro, which is only on one side to control both muffs, makes it very difficult for it to be accidentally turned on, and if you do somehow manage to leave them on, they’ll turn off after four hours automatically. You’ll still have plenty of the 350 hour battery life left, and with all of this using just two AAA batteries.
Another really great feature is that the battery compartment is accessible from the outside. Other electronic ear protection headsets have the battery compartment under foam panels inside of the ear muff itself. This means the ear cups can get all sweaty when it is warm, and with other electronic ear muffs models I have needed to remove batteries and prop open the foam covers to keep them from corroding. However since the battery compartment of the Howard Leight Impact Pro is not exposed to the interior, where things get sweaty, I don’t have to perform any annoying post-shooting drying maintenance. Plus, you can even replace the batteries while still wearing the headset!
The Impact Pro also has a 3.5mm stereo audio jack and input connection cord which allows you to connect your smartphone, scanner radio, or mp3 to these muffs. I think that the Impact Pro does a pretty good job in reproducing music. It won't be replacing any high-end music headphones anytime soon, but for a shooting environment requiring ear protection, I found the sound reproduction to be very good. As someone who likes to listen to music while on the range, this is without a doubt a stellar improvement over having my music player earbuds in and then passive muffs over the top of them.
Howard Leight Impact Pro Comfort and Fit
As for comfort and fit, these Howard Leight ear muffs feature an aggressive, tactical styling where the rugged ear-cups are made of durable rubber, and the padded headband is adjustable for a more customized fit. The rubberized pressure points prevent gun stocks from getting scratched, making the headset really fuss free. I've worn them for several hours at a time and found them to be fine, though they do eventually start to pinch, so if you're on a long hunt, I have no doubt that you'll want to take breaks to let your ears rest a bit.
Howard Leight Impact Pro vs Impact Sport Mode
The Impact Sport is a lighter, slimmer version that has a lower noise reduction rating of 22 decibels, which is usually fine for shooting outdoors. Unlike the plain black Impact Pro, The Impact Sport model is available in a wider variety of colors: Green, Mossy Oak Camo or Teal. They too amplify ambient sounds, like conversation, but only up to three times normal level. That is still better than no amplification, but not as good as the four times of the Impact Pro.
The primary goal of the otherwise pretty similar Impact Sport model is to maintain a lower profile. Meant specifically for shotgun and rifle shooting, the thinner profile helps keep the ear muffs out of the way when you squeeze your face against a rifle or shotgun stock. For me, perhaps with my larger/longer head, I can use shotguns and rifles just as easily with the Impact Pro as I do with an AR, and I get better noise protection, so I stick with it for all type of shooting.
Howard Leight Impact Pro Discontinued?
There have been rumors about Howard Leight discontinuing the Impact Pro model, but thus far they have been proven to be wholly unfounded. While it is reasonable for Howard Leight fans to speculate and fear based on the outrageous discontinuation of the excellent Howard Leight Leightning-31 Earmuffs, it seems that consumers have nothing to fear. The Howard Leight Impact Pro is here, and here to stay.
I've fired everything from shotguns to 45's ACP pistols, from AR-15's to hunting rifles while wearing these as ear protectors and I've not been let down. The Howard Leight Impact Pro Sound Amplification Electronic Earmuffs (R-01902) by Honeywell are comfortable, amplify in stereo in extremely high quality and offer top of the line noise attenuation. I can hear what I need to, and I am more than adequately blocked from what can be harmful. Add to this a reasonable price, and I find these muffs to be a very good value. They take a moment to kick in, are a bit bulkier than I might like (The Sports model is better in this regards, but I won't sacrifice the higher noise reduction value), and have no light indication that they are turned on (just a personal pet-peeve), but my family and I still love them. Regardless of if you're shooting at an indoor range, or heading out on a hunt, the Impact Pro electronic ear muffs are an excellent choice for your ear protection. Whether you're using a shotgun like the Kel-Tec KSG or a handgun like the SIG Sauer P228, the Impact pro can get the job done for you!