The Pro Ears company recently launched their diminutive Stealth Elite electronic hearing protection, that can basically be used in any environment above water, and they can protect your hearing across all sorts of loud jobs. Shooting was one of the driving factors to the creation of the Stealth Elite model in Pro Ears’ lineup, and they were happy to let TFB have a go with a pair to see how they hold up. I got to spend some quality time with the Stealth Elite electronic buds of protection during my shooting sessions, as well as some yard work and projects around the house.
PRO EARS STEALTH ELITE ELECTRONIC HEARING PROTECTION
Over the last several years, I’ve been patiently waiting for the electronic hearing protection market to start minimizing the technology with shooters in mind. Naturally, hearing aids have been around for decades, but it’s the noise canceling feature that shooters require, and should, preferably, come in WELL under the price of hearing aids. Enter the Pro Ears Stealth Elite.
There are several ways that the Stealth Elite hearing protection buds shine over traditional electronic over-the-ear ear-pro. The biggest advantage is that the Stealth Elite can be used comfortably while shooting shoulder fired guns, which I’ve always had a problem doing confidently with earmuffs, which would sometimes get pushed up when shouldering my rifles or shotguns, sometimes I’d lose the seal over my ear completely. Another advantage is that the Stealth Elite buds can be worn under my helmet without having to adjust pads, buy a dedicated set of ear-pro just for the helmet, or buy extra mounting gear. Wearing a boonie hat or hood during inclement weather can also be another advantage over traditional style hearing protection. However, there are a couple downsides I noticed with the Stealth Elite, but more on that shortly.
INITIAL IMPRESSIONS AND SETUP
Right off the bat, I was pleased to see the Stealth Elite came with a sturdy, smart looking carrying case that can easily fit into a pocket or range bag without fear of crushing the earbuds. The Stealth Elite buds were on display through the box’s window, as was the Bluetooth lanyard, but the carrying case held the remainder of the supplies and the instructions. Four batteries (two of which are spares) and all the necessary bits came in ample supply and sizes to match the best fit to the user’s ear holes.
The housing of the electronics are plastic, but they don’t feel cheap. The directions for set up are straight forward and simple to follow. Getting started with the Stealth Elite buds begins with choosing the right “hook” that fits in the fossa of the ear. The hook seems to add a bit more stability and should also prevent the buds from being pushed further into the ear than intended.
Next stop, find the tips that fit best, which according to Pro Ears, should be the largest tips that fit comfortably. The black foam tips are used for maximum protection, while the clear silicone tips are more for amplification purposes. Since this is The Firearm Blog, amplification wasn’t the primary goal, so I went with the pliable foam tips. One nice thing about the foam tips is that the inner hole is wide enough to use a cotton swab to clean out, but I’ll spare you a photo of that.
Once the exterior parts are set to your liking, grab two of the supplied A10 sized batteries, then open the battery compartment door on each of the Stealth Elite earbuds. The instructions warn about forcing the battery door closed, lest you break it and void the warranty. However, the battery door design is so obvious as to which direction the battery goes that even the backward-bullet HK photographer could figure it out.
USING THE PRO EARS STEALTH ELITE EARBUDS
Compress the black foam tips, then place them in your ear canal and wait for the foam to expand. There are three settings on each earbud. “0” is off, and should have a Noise Reduction Rating of 28. Mode “I” allows ambient sounds to pass through while canceling out loud sounds such as gunfire and other impulse noises. Position “II” amplifies ambient sounds by 5 times according to Pro Ears’ specs.
I was pleased to find that while in the off, or “isolation” mode, the protection seemed to cut out just as much noise as my over-the-ear muffs that I usually use for everything. In the first, or “pass through” mode, I found that impulse noises like gunshots were perfectly cut out compared to the other ambient noise. However, things like hammering didn’t seem quite as canceled out, but it wasn’t amplified either. Turning the Stealth Elite earbuds “off” again seemed to give the best protection from hammering, lawnmowers, and chainsaws, but if you need to talk to others in between tasks, the buds can be switched to the first or second position to hear them better without having to remove your hearing protection.
Position “II” is meant for sound amplification and is not supposed to have noise cancelation. I tried it while hammering and didn’t notice any cutout, so I opted not to test it with shooting. During a windy day, the amplification mode was difficult to use, so kicking it down a notch to the passive mode helped, while still allowing noises around me to be heard. The wind could still be heard, but not near as much.
The Pro Ears Stealth Elite earbuds also come with a Bluetooth capable MMCX lanyard that attaches to each earbud. I didn’t have any problems connecting with my “dumb” phone and making calls which I could hear through the earbuds.
One of the downsides to the Stealth Elite is that the pickup in ambient noise in passive mode seems to be directional, thus even hearing my own voice didn’t seem as “natural” compared to electronic over-the-ear hearing protection that I’ve used.
The Pro Ears’ Stealth Elite electronic hearing protection worked great for me and allowed a wider range of head covering due to the compact size of the earbuds. The small size of the Stealth Elite also allowed me to shoulder rifles and shotguns without being interfered with by the stocks. The MSRP of $159.99 comes in at around half of other similarly sized models I’ve priced over the last couple of years. Even though I don’t personally have much need for the Bluetooth capability, it’s one more feature that adds to the Stealth Elite’s versatility.
What do you think about the Pro Ears Stealth Elite electronic hearing protection? If you’ve used a pair or are intrigued by them, let us know in the comment section below.
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