Our editor Rebecca Green puts these custom-made earplugs from Mercury Hearing to the test, and finds both the plugs and the service to be top notch!

Over the past few months I have been testing some custom-made shooting plugs from Mercury Hearing – the Filtered Sonic Valves and the Hermes Passive. As someone who is already ‘audibly challenged’ I know only too well the importance of protecting your hearing when shooting, but with so many products on the market it can be hard to know which ones to go for.

The first thing I would say about Mercury is that the level of customer service is second to none. The fact that this is a family business, run by people who genuinely care about the service they are offering, really does shine through. Secondly, with over 40 years’ experience providing ear moulds for the NHS, the team at Mercury understand the intricacies behind hearing, hearing loss and hearing protection and can talk through your requirements from a position of expertise. This makes a difference and ensures you get the right product for your needs.

The first part of the process is to have ear moulds taken. This can be done at many of the game fairs around the country, at Mercury’s HQ, or by arrangement at a location convenient for you. It is a quick, easy and painless process and obviously ensures that the plugs fit your own ear dimensions perfectly. Once the moulds are created they are kept by Mercury, so that should you wish to order replacements or new designs at any stage, there is no need to have new moulds made.

The finished silicone plugs felt extremely comfortable and secure and I wore them for long periods of time without discomfort – they are much softer than I had imagined.

They are so comfortable in fact, that, on one occassion, having removed just a single plug momentarily, I got into a panic looking for two plugs to put back in. I spent ages looking for the ‘lost’ one and was convinced I’d dropped it somewhere… only to eventually realise I was still wearing it. What that says about the wearer, the less said the better, but it certainly proves their comfort factor!

I’ve worn both sets of plugs in a variety of shooting scenarios: walked-up shooting, driven shooting, picking-up, stalking and clay shooting. The Hermes Passive plugs come fitted with a ‘hock’ filter, which allows you to hear ambient sounds up to 70db clearly, but reduces high-frequency noises. The passive module is removable and can easily be upgraded to an electronic one at a later date.

The Filtered Sonic Valves offer slightly more functionality than the Hermes Passive. They react to impulse sound waves and instantly suppress harmful gunshot noise, but allow you to hear normally when the ‘valves’ are not activated. The addition of a filter also helps to reduce noise associated with exposed environments, such as wind or generator noise, and I certainly found this to be true – there was no distortion or unpleasant whistling that you can sometimes get on windy days with other types of ear defenders. Again, they still allowed me to hear most speech and ambient sounds – perfect when game shooting.

For competitive clay shooters Mercury offers the Pro Plug option. This is designed to provide protection and muffle sounds, ideal if you want to block out distractions and stay ‘in the zone’. There are also electronic versions, which suppress gun noise but enhance 
ambient sounds.

Being able to select the colour and glitter combination is a nice touch, but also a practical one – remember: bright, vibrant colours are easier to spot when dropped on the ground!

Other ‘little’ touches that make a difference are the fact that Mercury ensures that the section of the plug that sits inside your ear canal is just the right length to be comfortable, and if you find it isn’t, you just let them know and they will adjust it for you.

The benefit of in-ear plugs is that they don’t interfere with your gun mount and you can just forget about them and concentrate on your shooting. Until you’ve tried a custom-fit option it’s hard to understand what a difference it makes compared to the yellow foam ‘cheapies’, but once you have, at such a reasonable price point, you won’t go back.

RRP: From £100