Between the fact that hearing loss, once suffered, is permanent and irreversible, and that loud, potentially destructive sound waves are part and parcel of firearm use, quality hearing protection should be an indispensable piece of every shooter’s kit. Unfortunately, given how rare it is to encounter an elderly shooter who still has his or her hearing intact, this is a realization that comes too late in life for far too many of us. This is doubly tragic, as technological advances have given rise to modern, “smart” electronic hearing protection that is far more effective and multifunctional than the orange foam plugs and cheap muffs of yesteryear.
Axil’s Ghost Stryke (GS) Digital (goaxil.com) earbuds are a great example of a hearing-protection system that does much more than just present a physical buffer to sound waves entering the ear—which, of course, it also does. Not only do the inside-the-ear-canal buds feature digital sound suppression that automatically blocks sudden noise impulses of 85 dBs or louder (such as gunfire) from reaching the wearer’s eardrum, but they simultaneously also offer amplification technology that allows the user to better hear low-volume noises occurring in the near proximity.
Each GS Digital earbud weighs just 0.1 oz. with a single 10A hearing-aid battery (140-hour runtime) installed, and the unit fits unobtrusively within the ear canal, giving the wearer the option of doubling-up with over-the-ear hearing protection as well, if desired. The buds are clearly marked with either “L” or “R” for easy identification, and a volume-control wheel located in the center of its housing allows the user to independently turn each component of the set on/off and to adjust the noise-amplification level.
The digital earbuds come with two sets of black foam tips of differing sizes, as well as two sets of translucent white silicone tips. The denser foam inserts have a noise reduction rating of 29 dBs, while the softer silicone option can cut the noise level by 18 dBs. Also included in the GS Digital’s padded carrying case is a removable lanyard that allows the buds to be tethered to one another and worn around the user’s neck for a measure of retention. Alternately, a set of included SecurFIT concha extenders can be clipped onto the rear of each device to help keep the buds secured in place for ear shapes that may require it. The GS Digital’s plastic housing is available in Black, Natural (tan), Red or Pink.
A sample set of GS Digital earbuds was sent in to American Rifleman for evaluation, and, over the course of several months, they were used on multiple range trips, as well as a four-day West Texas hunt. During this use, they were repeatedly worn for extended periods of time with no discomfort.
The sound-suppression technology worked well to greatly muffle the report from discharging firearms, and this feature, of course, has numerous other applications outside of the range—protecting against construction noise, engine roar, etc. The GS Digital’s sound-enhancement abilities were also readily observed, as small noises were clearly amplified. Electronic hearing protection also greatly improves the capacity for communication on the range, as it allows regular-volume speech to be easily heard and understood—an advantage not only of convenience but also from a safety standpoint.
In our experience, electronic hearing protection so improves the range experience that shooters’ first exposure to it is often an eye-opening encounter that permanently ruins “dumb” plugs and muffs for them. And keeping an extra set on the nightstand that can be quickly donned in case a home-defense scenario arises also isn’t a bad idea.
Tinnitus and hearing loss do not need to be foregone conclusions; an ounce of prevention now can help keep the stereocilia inside your ears from suffering damage in the first place. At an MSRP of $499, Axil’s Ghost Stryke Digital is not inexpensive, but high-quality electronic hearing protection is a worthwhile investment in your health that pays off big in the long run.