Bionic Ears Provide Combat Advantage, Hearing Protection for the Warfighter

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FBI Tactical team deployed to Boston, 2012. Team members' kits include the C4OPS, to offer clear communications and hearing protection on assault operations.
FBI Tactical team deployed to Boston, 2012. Team members’ kits include the C4OPS, to offer clear communications and hearing protection on assault operations.

Warfighters pay a high price for lack of auditory protection, but often they consider such price justified, for it keeps them sharp to react quickly and effectively, thus staying alive in combat. Beside the long-term effect suffered by the individual, implications of auditory damage effect on the team’s performance are also evident. Stunning effect of noise peaks in excess of 130db, often caused by explosions (friendly or hostile), severely degrade the team’s performance and expose the individuals to unnecessary risks.

Auditory damage caused by blast effect
Auditory damage caused by blast effect

Auditory injuries are often caused by exposure to gunshots or explosions, particularly those experienced in close quarters and built-up areas or by IED blasts. When team members firing nearby, tank gun blasts, or explosive charges going off, warfighters experience excessive noises in combat, in situations they do not expect and therefore, cannot prepare for.

Two Air National Guard Combat Controllers from the 125th Special Tactics Squadron help conduct airfield landings and take offs at Fort Carson, Colo.(Photo: Tech. Sgt. John Hughel, USAF)
Two Air National Guard Combat Controllers wearing different types of helmets – MICH with cropped ear protection (front) and FAST (rear) both are worn with Peltor ComTac II earmuffs (Photo: Tech. Sgt. John Hughel, USAF)

Immediately after an explosion, particularly those coming as a surprise, soldiers experience few seconds of shock, or incapacitation, their ears buzzing. Through this time they are vulnerable and exposed.

According to the US Department of Veteran Affairs, hearing loss is one of the most common type of disability reported by veterans and the second largest segment in compensation payments. The US Government spends over $1.1 billion annually on compensation to veterans with hearing losses caused mostly during service in combat.

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