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Creare is actively developing technologies to improve the hearing protection available to military personnel. In addition to noise protection, crew headgear must address a variety of other requirements. Creare has designed a helmet-integrated hearing protection system that is based on the knowledge gained from a test program using innovative evaluation techniques to understand how to best protect the head from extreme noise levels, and in particular, how to attenuate the transmission of bone-conducted sound. New softer material, 3 flanges, translucent blue color, finger grip design, one size, soft braided cord.
New softer material, 3 flanges, translucent blue color, finger grip design, one size, soft braided cord, storage case.
New softer material, 3 flanges, translucent blue color, finger grip design, one size, plastic cord. New softer material, 3 flanges, translucent blue color, finger grip design, one size, plastic cord, storage case. Have you ever left a heart pounding rock concert wondering when a€“ or if a€“ youa€™ll ever get the cotton out of your ears? Well, the noise that reverberated through your eardrums doesna€™t match the roar experienced by Naval Aviation deck crew and flight line personnel a€“ day after daya€¦hour after houra€¦as jet aircraft deliver their proverbial a€?sound of freedoma€? during multiple take-offs and landings.
According to experts, the sound threshold for pain is 125 decibels, a€?Aa€? weighted or dB(A). According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (1998), continued exposure to noise above 85 dB(A) will likely cause permanent hearing loss. Given these grim statistics, you would expect our sailors and aviators to be outfitted with the most powerful hearing protection systems available on the planet. If you do the math, that leaves the average maintainer, landing signals officer (LSO), or landing signals enlisted (LSE) with a near continuous exposure of up to 120 dB(A). So why arena€™t naval aviation personnel protected by commercially available Active Noise Reduction (ANR) headsets, if not superior technologies? According to Wilt, there is no official Fleet requirement for ANR headsets or similar products to improve hearing protection. But on a more basic level, many of our warfighters are unaware of the potential consequences of prolonged exposure, or ignore safety warnings, accepting hearing loss as an occupational hazard.
In a recent ear protection survey of 301 deck crew personnel on 6 ships, a staggering 47 percent reported never wearing earplugs, according to study lead Valerie Bjorn of NAVAIRa€™s Human Systems department. Hearing loss is the number one Veterans Administration disability claim, amounting to over $5.5 billion since 1977 for all Services. Thanks to a team of government and industry personnel, new technology is being developed to prevent hearing loss and mitigate the associated risk. The latest advancements toward mitigating this risk are being developed by Adaptive Technologies, Inc.
ATIa€™s unique communication-capable earplug combines advanced versions of active and passive noise reduction technologies to achieve the highest levels of attenuation ever tested in jet noise fields.

ATI is also developing a unique noise canceling communication microphone to attenuate noise entering through the boom-mounted microphone, which passes into the communications system. According to Wilt, the TPOC for ATIa€™s SBIR effort, integration of the new earplug with state-of-the-art passive protection technologies leads to a total hearing protection package that can provide attenuation nearing 46 dB in the loudest jet noise fields. The Navy has been working with ATI for the past several years under an SBIR contract, managed by NAVAIR. While the concept of ANR is pervasive in headsets, this is the first practical application of the technology for deep-insert earplug devices. Because speech contains frequency content up to and beyond 3000 Hz, extending the control bandwidth to this range enables the technology to realize improvements in speech intelligibility that are not possible with current technologies. ATI has also worked closely with David Clark Company Incorporated to demonstrate passive noise reduction improvements using a new ear seal and interior foam in a retrofit package.
Combining these advancements with the new QuietCommTM communication microphone technology, ATIa€™s suite of products may soon allow effective communication and hearing protection for up to 60 launch and recovery sequences before exceeding the total safe daily exposure limit. Under the Lockheed Martin F-35 JSF contract, ATI would produce about 40 test units, enough to qualify and demonstrate the systema€™s utility as an F-35 platform solution for hearing protection. The challenge is that except for JSF, platform program offices typically dona€™t invest in life support equipment for deck personnel,a€? said Janousek.
In the meantime, NAVAIR Human Systems representatives continue to take their message to the Fleet via Fail Safe Teams (FSTs), Air Medical Safety Officers (AMSOs), Squadrons, Operational Advisory Groups (OAGs), Integrated Management Panels (IMPs), and similar aviation life support forums a€“ while the Fleet assists the team in documenting earplug usage aboard carriers and LHA-class amphibious ships.
The goal is to increase awareness and strengthen the case for improved policy, training, and enforcement, as well as to secure funding for advanced hearing protection technologies for the Fleet. Some of these technologies are likely to have future application in industrial and commercial settings. Sound levels, which approach 150 dB for high-performance jet aircraft like the new Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), can cause hearing damage and impair communications. In that test program, we relied on rapid prototyping techniques to develop helmet shells with good sound attenuation characteristics and tested various combinations of commercial-off-the-shelf hearing protection components. To put this into perspective, a doorbell is 80 dB(A), a baby crying 100 is db(A), and a rock concert is 120 dB(A).
The maximum exposure time at 85 dB(A) is 8 hours, which should be followed by 16 hours of quiet recovery time.
Offering little or no quiet sanctuary for a sailor to recover, life on a carrier can mean progressive and permanent hearing loss. Surprisingly, a large number of aircrew maintainer personnel choose not to wear double hearing protection at all, dramatically increasing the possibility of exposure related hearing loss. Only 14 percent reported always wearing double hearing protection, and a mere 7 percent inserted their earplugs fully (which would provide 22 dB attenuation).
Better policies, documentation, training, and enforcement of hearing protection safety guidelines are needed. Personnel from NAVAIRa€™s Human Systems department have collaborated with representatives from the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) under an ONR sponsored a€?Defense Technology Objectivea€? to develop a total systems approach to hearing protection for F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force maintenance personnel.

Lockheed Martin, the future F-35 supplier, has recognized ATIa€™s advancements, selecting ATI to supply the next generation of hearing protection and communications capabilities for the F-35 maintainers. According to Da€™Andrade, the unique earplugs contain a miniature microphone and speaker used to conduct the active cancellation portion of the attenuation, as well as provide communications capability.
The real benefit is realized through extending the bandwidth of active control performance from the traditional 800 Hz to as high as 3000 Hz. So, your next question might be, a€?when will this revolutionary technology be available to the Fleet?a€? Without a formal requirement, and consequently no funding from the Navy or Air Force to buy better hearing protection, the answer is unclear. Officials are hopeful that a successful fleet demonstration will strengthen the case for broader application and funding. Click on a€?Can you hear me now?a€? an article by NAVAIR employees Valerie Bjorn and Jim Wilt, and a€?What did Paddles say?a€? by LCdr. Hearing damage is now a common problem among today’s aircraft maintenance crews, which affects job performance and is the most costly Department of Defense disability (greater than $400 million per year in direct payments alone). Night operations require the use of night vision goggle (NVG) systems, which must remain fixed relative to the head to be effective.
A result of that test program is that our solution is layered and modular for the most comfortable and user-friendly design allowing for the addition of optional features or future capabilities as required. One of the loudest sounds in the world a€“ that of a tactical jet engine a€“ can reach an a€?ear achinga€? 150 dB(A) for carrier aircrew standing along the foul line (within 43 feet of the aircraft) during a catapult launch. Perhaps it is because flight deck noise is so extremely high that commercially available ANR headsets lack the power to cancel an appreciable amount of noise and can actually introduce a hissing noise.
Aside from hearing loss, prolonged exposure to jet noise could cause a pilot to miss a radio call, resulting in an aviation mishap, or worse a€“ loss of aircraft and crew. The SBIR program is the primary vehicle through which the Federal Government funds small technology companies to perform research and development (R&D) projects, with the ultimate goal of fostering R&D project insertion into military systems and programs. Sound inside the ear canal is actively a€?canceleda€? through a process known as active noise reduction (ANR). When coupled with the new passive ear seal and interior foam, the ANR earplug technology will provide more effective hearing protection than ever before. Improved hearing protection is required to enable flight deck and line crews to work safely at optimum performance levels.
The threat of chemical, biological, or radioactive attacks mandates rapid donning of protective gear, including masks and hoods. Uncomfortable helmets lead personnel to attempt modifications, which further reduces the helmet’s effectiveness.

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