I use the Peltor 7s over either molded plugs or foam throw aways. Muffs are too hot here in AZ summers though. When I'm hunting, I use my hearing aids with high decibel cut-off switches on both to protect what hearing I have left.
Several tests have demonstrated that the disposable foam, covered with a thin rubber like material offer the best protection. Naked foam plugs were second, followed by well fitting ear muffs, custom molded plugs and poorly fitting ear muffs.
We old dogs have this tedious discussion several times every year but it is important stuff for youngsters, new shooters and anyone not familiar with hearing protection.
There are at least six substantially different types hearing protection products including custom molded plugs, passive muffs, electronic muffs, electronic 'in the ear' plugs, disposable foam plugs, and washable re-usable ringed rubber plugs. Some categories provide more protection than others. Within each category, certain products provide more protection than others. Each category and product has it's proponents.
Within each category, there are a numerous products distinguished one from another by size, shape, other physical properties, and material. There are several dozens of different disposable foam plugs alone.
The various products are commercially available from a long list of local and online sources. Industrial safety supply vendors are a great source for products, pricing, and noise reduction ratings (NRR).
Each product carries a lab tested NRR. These NRRs are predicated on the assumption that the product is used properly. That's a big assumption. Consider that muffs (passive or electronic) aren't effective unless an acoustic seal is created around the ear when worn. Disposable soft foam plugs aren't effective unless they are inserted properly AND are the correct size to fill one's ear canal. But I digress...
The quality of hearing protection isn't determined by opinion. It's the result of physics and confirmed by empirical test results. With all respect to our fellow posters, opinions don't mean diddly. I would suggest you spend a half hour or so checking out the NRR for the products you are considering.
You will find significant variation in NRRs between categories of protection and within the SAME category. Some items are terrific. Some are poor by comparison. You will also find NRR values do NOT correlate with price. Some bargain priced muffs for example, have higher NRRs than some of the high dollar units. Determining the "best" will require a little research on your part.
One final note: some folks swear that damaging noise is transmitted to the inner ear via bone. This is purported to happen outside of and separate from the ear canal. These folks swear that muffs or muffs combined with something else are the only way to protect against this form of damaging noise.
I have looked but have been unable to find research or a credible source to support this position. I'm not saying they're wrong, just saying I've been unable to confirm it.
I've also read that the custom molded are not rated as well as I thought they would be. I used them for many years, but now have switched to disposable foam inserts combined with earmuffs because I decided "best" meant cutting down the noise, not the easiest or most convenient.
My unscientific opinion is that this combination works much, much better than the molded plugs alone. There is a downside that you cannot hear some of the quieter scorers very well. As far as noise reduction, I don't think you will beat this combo if you use a decent pair of earmuffs. Some don't like wearing them because thaey are too hot, hit the comb etc. Hasn't been a big deal for me though.
Remember to use ear protection when you are watching, or visiting near the line, etc. And have your family and friends that watch you wear them, also. It bothers me that I see a lot of people sitting on the side lines without ear plugs.
I use both, either rubber plugs or molded inserts, plus muffs. I hear the arguement that they cannot wear the muffs because of the "hitting of their stock" often. It seems to me that opthalmic surgeons wear gloves when doing delicate procedures around the eyes when having ungloved hands would certainly increase their tactile perceptions. I guess what I am saying is that you can get used to the muffs if you have to. Also, keeps your hat on in the wind and ears warm in the winter. I just bought some MPA muffs, electronic and they seem to work very well (with foam inserts added).
sissy- Nice post. Just for your personal information, the Cochlea (inner ear) is completely encased by the temporal bone (bump behind your ear). Vibrations can be transmitted through this bone into the inner ear. This transmission is very muted and could not cause any damage to the inner ear. The most common (not the only type) type of hearing damage involves the connections between the small bones in the middle ear.