Hearing Protection During Indoor Self Defense


The sound from a gunshot will deafen you without hearing protection. Hearing damage is cumulative, permanent, and could even be instant.

One question is, have you ever thought about the boom of a gun INDOORS in the event that you ever had to fire a shot in self defense?

How many of you keep a firearm by your bedside? While the likelihood of ever having to use it for self defense at home is statistically extremely low, what if you were the unlucky statistic?

While priority-1 under this condition is self preservation of you and your family, have you considered the repercussions of the gunshot blast while indoors?

Not that it’s much safer for the ears outdoors, but an indoor boom could conceivably cause permanent hearing loss. Are there precautions that you might consider ahead of time? Yes…

First though, lets look at the noise level of a gunshot. But before that, lets get some reference…

The decibel (dB) is a logarithmic unit (not linear) and can be a complicated subject.
To keep it simple though, and in the context of perceived loudness,

A 10 dB increase will sound about twice as loud.
A 20 dB increase will sound four times as loud as the original reference.

0 dB (Volume Loudness 1)
10 dB (Volume Loudness 2 – double)
20 dB (Volume Loudness 4)
30 dB (Volume Loudness 8)
40 dB (Volume Loudness 16)
50 dB (Volume Loudness 32)
60 dB (Volume Loudness 64)

Sound (Sound Pressure Level) is measured in decibels (dB).

0 dB Complete silence
10 dB Barely audible – breathing
30 dB A quiet whisper at 6-feet
40 dB A quiet library
50 dB A typical home
60 dB Normal conversation at 3-feet
70 dB Vacuum cleaner at 6-feet
80 dB Curbside of busy road at 15-feet
90 dB Diesel truck at 30-feet
100 dB Outboard motor, Power lawn mower
110 dB Beginning threshold of pain, Car horn at 3-feet, Live rock music
120 dB Close thunderclap, Chainsaw at 3-feet
130 dB Painful, Military jet take-off from aircraft carrier with afterburner at 50-feet
140 dB Very painful, Aircraft carrier deck
150 dB Jet takeoff at 75-feet, Potential eardrum rupture



Dr. Krammer, Ph.D., Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana has documented the following sound pressure levels.



.410 Bore 28″ barrel, 150 dB
.410 Bore 26″ barrel, 150 dB
.410 Bore 18″ barrel, 156 dB
20 Gauge 28″ barrel, 152 dB
20 Gauge 22″ barrel, 155 dB
12 Gauge 28″ barrel, 152 dB
12 Gauge 26″ barrel, 156 dB
12 Gauge 18″ barrel, 162 dB



.223, 55GR. Commercial load 18″ barrel, 156 dB
.243 in 22″ barrel, 156 dB
.30-30 in 20″ barrel, 156 dB
7mm Magnum in 20″ barrel, 158 dB
.308 in 24″ barrel, 156 dB
.30-06 in 24″ barrel, 159 dB
.30-06 in 18″ barrel, 163 dB
.375 — 18″ barrel with muzzle brake, 170 dB



.25 ACP, 155 dB
.32 LONG, 152 dB
.32 ACP, 154 dB
.380, 158 dB
9mm, 160 dB
.38 S&W, 154 dB
.38 Spl, 156 dB
.357 Magnum, 164 dB
.41 Magnum, 163 dB
.44 Spl, 156 dB
.45 ACP, 157 dB
.45 COLT, 155 dB

As you can see, ALL gunshots are damagingly LOUD !

EVERY shot taken without hearing protection WILL cause permanent damage in varying degrees. All hearing damage accumulates over time. The damage is not reparable. The louder the sound pressure level, the less time that it takes to cause permanent damage.

So back to the original thought… What about the self defense scenario, inside your home, say… at night, where you are awakened by the sounds of an intruder in the home.

Here’s a suggestion… In addition to the firearm that is kept near your bedside (in a proper quick-access safe?), you might also keep nearby a set of electronic ear-muffs – perhaps hanging on the bed-post.

The way that electronic ear-muffs work is they let through conversation level sounds (and can even amplify them if you need), while muting loud sounds. Basically, your ears are protected by the sound-deadening of the ear-muff itself, while there is a small speaker in each ear-muff attached to an electronic circuit with a microphone which amplifies low level sounds. The circuit automatically shuts off at a certain threshold of louder sounds (a gun shot). It happens instantly… within 1 or 2 milliseconds.

Consider electronic ear-muffs that are stereo. This means that each ear is independent and will enable you to ascertain direction from sounds, whereas mono ear-muffs will not enable a sense of direction. This is very important when identifying the location of a threat.

Here is one example of electronic ear-muffs made by Peltor. Do your research and discover your options as there are a number of manufacturers and suppliers of these. As usual, you get what you pay for… meaning a cheap set is just that – cheap.

While only you can judge at the time of intrusion whether or not you feel you have time to put on your electronic hearing protection – and to turn it on… but it’s something to consider for that “just in case” scenario.

What are your thoughts on this?

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  1. My only thought would be if you were hunkered down in your bedroom and you needed to use the phone to call 911 at the same time. Scenario: You are on the phone with 911. Bad guy is trying to come in the door. What about the time it takes to throw the phone down, put on your ears, and then take the shot if the intruder is coming in?

    That would be my only concern. Obviously, you may have enough time, but maybe the better option so you wouldn’t have to worry as much would be to invest in a silencer. Too bad it’s such a pain in the rear to get one.

    1. I must say that the 911 call when you have an intruder inside your home or very close could be a deadly mistake. The operator giving bad advise asking things making you talk instead of listening 1. You give away your position and make a reason for the criminal to take you out before cops are called or descriptions given or just because your getting them busted. 2. Cops are notorious for shooting people by mistake, missing their target and friendly fire particularly if your holding a weapon. They are scared too and do not suffer the wrath of the law when killing someone by mistake. Hell even on purpose these days. Your most important advantage is surprise and stealth knowing your home. A cop would take all that from you even put down your gun giving the advantage to the criminal.

  2. Great info here. There is no doubt shooting without ear protection, even for practice at an outdoor range, is foolish.

    I recently bought a home defense shotgun and have been making a plan for how I would get to, load, position, and react to a break-in. Until I started researching for my plan I didn’t realize I would be doing damage. Electronic earmuffs would be a great choice to have alongside my shotgun!

  3. I own both electronic muffs and plain muffs. At the range, I like the electronic pair because i can have a conversation with my daughter while folks are shooting and not have to yell. I hope I never have to find out if I have enough time to don them before shooting an intruder though. I have accidentally fired my .223 at the range after going from “cold range” to “hot range” and forgetting to pull the muffs back down, and I’ll tell you that my ears rang for two hours afterward. I cannot imagine the damage that could be done from shooting a weapon indoors without hearing protection, but if forced to choose between my hearing and my life, I will certainly choose my life and my family rather than elect not to shoot. The point however, is well taken, and since Mrs. Ancona snores quite loudly, I keep a pair on the nightstand anyhow, and sometimes I am even wearing them while I [try to] sleep.

    Mother Bear is a very light sleeper and will wake me up from time to time whenever she hears something. Half the time it’s my little buddy Rocky Raccoon stealing the cat food on the porch.

  4. Good information, Ken. I wish someone had told me about ear protection when I was young. We are a hunting family, and no one ever gave a second thought to hearing loss. So, now I’ve lost about 25% of my hearing. My husband’s hearing loss is even greater, he spent too long in the boiler of the Navy ships, and then too long in Vietnam when he was in the Army, those huge packs they had to carry didn’t include ear protection.

    1. Unfortunately it has been fairly recent whereby there is more overall awareness on this subject. Having worked in the sound industry most of my career, I am very aware of the issues… I hope that this post will at least inspire one person to put on hearing protection!

  5. Hearing protection is a good idea.
    I would rather lose some hearing than lose a loved one or lose myself
    Time is of the essence in a survival situation

    1. I agree that it is a unique decision based on the time that one feels they have… I too would trade loss of hearing for saving a loved one if that is the situation.

      If one feels that there is not an imminent deadly threat – within the time necessary to put on electronic ear-muffs, it may be prudent before proceeding with counter-measures.

      It’s food for thought.

  6. I in no way condone shooting without ear protection. I have suffered gradual hearing loss in my 46 years from shooting and from my job. I had a strange conversation with my wife a few months ago. I asked her what she hears when there is no sound. You have to understand that my wife and I moved from the city out into the middle of no-where. Anyway boy did I get a odd look! I had to rephrase the question. I told her that I hear a ringing and that got us to talking about tinnitus. I found a web site that would allow you to tune the sound to the pitch that I hear and then adjust the volume so others could hear what I hear. She said that it would drive her crazy. It has come on so slowly that I didn’t realize how bad it was so it really doesn’t bother me. I can however understand how it would drive someone crazy if it just suddenly happened and didn’t go away. Don’t get me wrong, people don’t have to scream at me so I can hear them. It’s just not what it used to be.
    On the subject of firing a weapon indoors. I have had the occasion to shoot a handgun indoors without ear protection (accidental discharge). I didn’t have any ringing in my ears after it happened. The fact is I don’t remember hearing the gun go off. Also when I’ve been hunting for deer with a high powered rifle (.243 Winchester) I was so jacked up on adrenaline (buck fever) that the shot didn’t bother me at all. So after all this typing, my theory is that in the stress of the moment I think you probably never remember hearing the shot. Will that give you hearing loss? Does the body help keep itself from having hearing damage? Is it like not having the memory of the car crash you just went through? Am I crazy? Probably so!!

    1. I have read similar accounts of people not having ‘heard’ the shot under those conditions given the adrenaline rush of the situation. There is apparently truth to that. I do suspect though that they have nevertheless suffered some permanent damage because of it – which all accumulates over time.

      Thanks for your comment.

    2. We had a lightning detector at work that would send an audible tone alert when lightning was nearby. The tone it emitted was the same frequency as the tone that is constant in my head from tinnitus so as a result I would never hear it when it went off. People would come into my work area and say to me ‘What’s that noise?’ Of course I’d reply ‘I don’t hear anything.’ but later on I would just say ‘must be the lightning detector.’

  7. I too have ringing in ears from shooting too much without hear protection and high noise frequencies from work. I’m now looking into the electronic hearing muffs. Yes I still hunt without muffs, but I think that will change this fall. Someplace I’ve read that the L.A. police have went to the sound suppressor on their AR’s because of this same problem. The ar 223 creates a whole lot more noise and muzzle blast than their 9 mm did. Whether they are using electronic muffs now, I don’t know, not having read anything about that. I’m wearing hearing aids almost 24/7 now, or at lest 12/7 anyway.

  8. And I shot a 9mm without protection (accidentally) at an indoor range. It was like an explosion went off, was deaf for a minute or so. Then ears rang (worse than usual) for a couple of days. So, I am really concerned about discharging a firearm inside a house. Not just for me but for the loved ones that I may be trying to defend. Seriously, I don’t wish tinnitus on anyone.

  9. The hearing protection is fine as a workaround and because we have no other, legal options, but the ideal answer here for the home self-defense situation is to use a proper/tuned supressor. Eliminate the source of the problem vs. add time, complexity and an extra step for an already stressful situation.

    It’s a shame they’re illegal and that homemade solutions aren’t quite up to the task.

  10. if time permits corded 33db foam plugs under electonic muffs kept near flashlite and gun…..wake the dog.. let bg come to you if possible…alarm systems can have one button police contact(alarm pad in bedroom)… claymore as perimeter defense JOKE …AS TO MUFFS AND PLUG COMBO…will provide approx. 37 to 42db ear pro

  11. Better to be deaf than dead. The added time spent on getting your ear muffs on could be the end of you, particularly since a home invader almost always has the element of surprise on their side.

  12. I have had that thought many times about the defanging and disorienting blast of a weapon in a self defense situation. And that’s the main reason I went and filed for a suppressor. Get a suppressor and your self defense weapon for home with a threaded barrel.

  13. Super, i worked around jet engines, c5 aircraft 50 years, used hearing protection, hearing tested every year and got better, you explain

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