NEW YORK --- The November issue of Defense Technology International (DTI) details the growing issue of hearing loss in the military in an article by Senior Editor Paul McLeary, "Equipment Noise is Accelerating Hearing Loss." New equipment, such as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV), is so loud that "the technology to protect users from damage does not yet exist," says the article, and "it's not a matter of whether but when and how badly operators will suffer permanent hearing damage."
A study for the U.S. Marines by Navy Cdr. Stan Jossell in Sept. 2007 placed medical costs for treating veterans at over $900 million in 2006, up from $200 million in 1996. The Navy Times estimates that 840,000 veterans suffer from service-related hearing loss, and the Naval Safety Center says that hearing-related disability payments increased from $65 million in 1999 to $108 million in 2004.
While it is not yet available, the military is looking into technology that will one day replace the foam earplugs and active noise reduction (ANR) headphones currently in use, which only partially block the noise from modern aircraft. Noise-attenuating products, such as those being developed by Adaptive Technology Inc., will utilize digital-signal-processing computers in custom-shaped earplugs to produce higher ANR performance. Prototypes should be available for military use in 2009.
DTI, part of the McGraw-Hill Companies' Aviation Week portfolio, is an integrated media business dedicated to covering the interplay of defense technology, funding, operations, programs and policies.
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