It’s a noisy world. That’s why it’s so important for everyone to protect their ears from dangerous noise and prevent noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). Hearing doesn’t have to diminish completely with age or as an inevitable consequence of military service. In fact, the proactive use of protective measures, such as getting regular screenings and wearing hearing protection devices, can help preserve the ability to hear. In doing so, participation in recreational activities, communicating with others, and serving in your chosen career field are viable options
Traditional earplugs are effective in preventing hazardous noise from entering the ear canal, but they can interfere with mission communication requirements, such as speech communication or low-level combat sounds.
Level-dependent earplugs have a small filter that enables soft noises to be conveyed with full strength while eliminating any high-frequency or impulse noise. This allows a soldier to hear key verbal and combat sounds but provides increased attenuation from dangerous levels of noise such as explosions or machine gun fire. These and other forms of modern-day earplugs can represent an effective solution for protecting a service member’s hearing in a variety of situations.
Ear (or Noise) Muffs
Earmuffs contain two tightly fitted ear cups that cover each ear entirely, thus blocking out sound by creating an airtight barrier around the entire ear.. They are best used for intermittent exposure to noise and provide attenuation as well as durability. Earmuffs are easy to keep track of and are comfortable to wear. Additionally, unlike earplugs, they can be worn in spite of ear infections or impacted earwax.
Studies have suggested that while earmuffs provide greater attenuation than earplugs, they make it harder to pick up softer sounds that may be necessary for verbal communication. The best way to overcome this is to have an electronic communication system in the ear muff so that wearers can communicate clearly with one another.
Noise Attenuating Helmets
Noise attenuating helmets should be used by any military personnel operating an aircraft or combat vehicle. These helmets protect the wearer from hearing loss, crash impact, and eye injuries while also increasing communication ability through a radio communication piece.
Technologically advanced helmets include an active noise reducing technology that monitors the sound energy around the ear and cancels any unwanted noise while preserving verbal communications. A communications earplug serves as a microphone and can be worn in addition to the helmet for high-quality verbal clarity.
Source: Hearing Health magazine, Fall 2012, “A Salute to the Veterans.“; Department of Defense Hearing Center of Excellence.