Okay – the results are in! These things are fantastic! Duck seasoned opened for me in early September. It was for duck and goose hunting precisely that I wanted to invest in a high-end technology like the SoundGear Phantoms.
Let's address why the Phantoms piqued my interest. First, duck and goose hunting is inherently a buddy sport – meaning multiple hunters are shooting all at once close to each other. The muzzle blast from an uncontrolled barrel of your hunting partner, albeit accidental and in no way dangerous, can cause in-the-moment severe hearing damage. We call it 'ringing' in the waterfowl world, which is undoubtedly a duck-blind sin. It's probably one of the few party fouls that will get you 'uninvited' from all future hunts.
A shooter will erode their hearing slowly over a lifetime of shot gunning. Usually, hearing impairment will start in the ear opposite where the gun is shouldered. That is to say, a righthanded shooter will experience hearing loss initially in their left ear because ear shadow from the head tilt provides some dB relief. Audiologists refer to this asymmetry as the "shooter's ear." When a gun blast goes off over your head, it can do damage instantly and is the chief reason you should always wear hearing protection when hunting ducks and geese with buddies.
Honestly, I think it's wildly inconsiderate when blind buddies don't wear hearing protection because it takes away the potential of 'ringing' your buddy. If everyone in a blind is wearing hearing protection, you don't need to worry about damaging someone's hearing. Getting 'rung' can be nauseating and ruin a good hunt. For that reason alone, I've been religiously wearing some form of hearing protection while duck hunting since Day 1.
After outlining why hearing protection is essential while duck and goose hunting, let's get to why every other product I have tried has been deficient. When you plug or cover your ears, sounds you make, be it singing or duck calling, sound different to you. So, when you blow a duck or goose call, you don't quite get the feedback you're used to without your ears on, and you invariably begin to wonder if you sound good. It's led me to lift my earmuffs, almost until the point of no return for the birds, before sliding them back down over my ears in time to protect them from the cacophony of shotgun blasts about to erupt. Largely, it's a pain in the arse, but at least I'm protected, although invariably, they don't always find their way back on, and I would rather avoid that.
So primarily, I wondered if a product existed that allowed me to 'hear myself as I do when not wearing hearing protection. When I put the Phantoms to the test with my duck call, it was hands-down the best' feedback quality I've ever experienced! Almost as good as without them. With them in, although perhaps a slightly affected sound, you can be sure you're calling sounds as you expect. Nothing will ever be as clean and clear to the ear as not wearing anything, but this is as close as it can get and tenable. I didn't take them out to call, talk to blind buddies, or when I went on retrieves in a windy marsh. And it was somewhere well into the first hunt that I realized just how comfortable they are relative to the alternatives. I mean, I never really thought the earmuffs were uncomfortable, that is, until I went several hours with the Phantoms, after which I realized just how superior they are in function and fit.
These things work flat out! I'd bet the farm these are game-changers for you and your hearing protection regime. Unfortunately, or maybe, fortunately, I left the Phantoms on the charger in my room after five days of hunting without recharging them. Luckily, I did have a pair of my old hearing protectors in my blind bag, which served as a good reminder of just how much more comfortable and superior this product is.
The price is a little steep for some to wrap their minds around, but let me give you a modicum of financial advice. Some years back, I was in a relationship with an audiologist – I learned a bit about hearing loss and more about the hearing aid industry. If you think these are expensive, they pale compared to a new pair of hearing aids that can easily run upwards of $5000. If you believe your hunting endevours might lead to hearing loss, spend the money now to save a lot more later. In the process, you'll also get a cutting-edge piece of technology that is as much 'gear' as it is a protective device.
My final rating: five glowing stars!