If you have ever shot a 12 gauge shotgun, .50 caliber revolver, or even a .38 revolver, you notice a few things with the first trigger pull. Aside from the recoil, the sound without protection can be detrimental without ear protection.
Revolvers, with an exterior hammer and a wider cylinder gap than pistols, tend to be much louder. Shotguns, meanwhile, have a much different action and ammunition than rifles. Though shotgun velocity isn’t near that of a rifle, because of the different mechanics and shot explosion, they are much louder. Still, because of the farther distance a shotgun muzzle explosion is from your ear than handguns- especially revolvers- revolvers can be much more detrimental to your hearing.
You are over 2 feet closer to the muzzle of any handgun- revolver or pistol- than to any long gun- shotgun or rifle. With this in mind, when firing handguns you have to pay special attention to protecting your ears for the longevity of your hearing. Gunshots are on more the extreme end of the spectrum as far as ear-damaging noises go. If you have ever waited for a subway without ear protection, 30dBs less than the 130dBs average gunfire emits, you have experienced some hearing damage.
Even a small .22-caliber rifle can make noise of around 140 dB while big-bore rifles and pistols can easily break the 175dB barrier. With some revolvers and shotguns emitting an explosive 175dBs, magnified at indoor shooting ranges, you can do some permanent damage in a single shot. Protecting your ears from this kind of explosions will require more than the traditional noise-deadening headset.
Electronic noise protection is some of the best you could get. Yes these options are a little more expensive than traditional deadening sets, but this difference will come through when you aren’t deaf by the time you’re 40. Many of the electronic protection solutions also include custom fitting and smart technology to maintain natural sounds detection, especially important for hunters and soldiers or security in combat.
The only exposures with a higher decibel velocity humans face conventionally are the sound of jet plane engines. Because it is your hearing, taking the best means possible to protect your hearing when shooting is always advised. You were born with it, it has to last you the rest of your life, and should be protected as such.