Military ear and hearing protection systems are designed to reduce hearing damage and hearing loss for personnel working in a wide range of noise-prone environments. They are used to protect against loud noises such as gunfire and explosions in field and training environments, the operation of aircraft and vehicles, and vibrating machinery.
Tactical Hearing Protection
Tactical hearing protection is available in a variety of forms, which can broadly be categorized into active and passive. Active hearing protection uses electronic systems to suppress loud noises, whereas passive hearing protection uses some form of barrier without any electronics. Some hearing protection systems offer both, and may include electronics that can be removed to turn the hybrid system into a pure passive system.
The simplest form of hearing protection is disposable foam earplugs, which are designed to be inserted into the ear canal and thrown away after a single use. More sophisticated systems include in-ear plugs, and full ear coverings. Tactical ear protection may be designed with a neckband so that it can be worn with a helmet without getting in the way, or designed to integrate into the helmet.
Many forms of military hearing protection are designed to filter out particular loud sounds such as gunshots or use noise-canceling to mitigate the effects of ambient noise. They may do this while still allowing the operator to hear voices and other environmental sounds, as well as providing the ability to still operate their communication systems normally, thus ensuring that situational awareness is not affected. This may involve the use of filters that can scale the level of noise reduction, increasing the protection as certain decibel levels are reached. These systems may be able to protect against both ongoing steady-state and peak impulse noise, and may offer a selection switch for modes that are optimized for one type or the other.