SAS Regiment - Sergeant (Ret) Review
In Defence you constantly battle to provide a safe workplace in an often unpredictable environment. While all due measures are taken to protect our soldiers from harm by wearing protective clothing and equipment and implementing safe procedures and practises. But sometimes even the best of equipment and practises just are not enough. An example of this would be our hearing. We provide our soldiers with numerous types of protection from Electronic Peltor style earmuffs down to disposable foam earplugs (that have now been found insufficient as ear protections). But what happens when one or the other just doesn’t fit the bill?
My experience stems from hearing damage occurring during operational service where the physical requirement of hearing protection was outweighed by the tactical necessity to communicate or was just not able to be used all the time. I now suffer with Tinnitus and permanent hearing loss as a result of too many loud noise exposures and have face a lifetime impediment as a result. It may sound minor when compared with other serious injuries that defence members are enduring but possibly effects more members of the any other ailment.
I was fortunate enough to be fitted with custom hearing protection in an attempt to mitigate any further damage. As a result, I found myself wearing hearing protection more often even during times where previously I may not have or operationally may not have been able to. I received 3 types of custom Ear plugs supplied by Elacin and fitted locally by one of their Staff. One set for shooting, 1 for general use ie parachuting or motorbike riding and 1 for radio communication with a boom mic.
The process was quick and painless. In laymans terms a resin is injected into your ear canal and sets then removed and sent away to be “processed” much like a mouthguard mould. The company assess the clients needs based on the hearing loss and the required job type to select the correct “mechanical diaphragm” style insert. The type of product is then created and then sent back for final testing and fitment to the individual. The earplugs themselves are available in a wide variety of colours or in my case clear and when worn are hardly noticeable. They are soft silicon and because they are custom moulded can be worn for prolonged time without any discomfort. The company is also able to inscribe PM-Keys numbers or similar so if they are lost and found they are able to be sent back to the owner.
My experience- I was able to wear hearing protection more often than I was previously able to. Especially where earmuffs were impractical and earplugs were unable to be used. I used to be faced with the issue of using earplugs but then having to pull them out to communicate where as more often than not now I can just leave them in, as the mechanical diaphragm lets just enough noise in to be able to hear. If I was required to wear double hearing protection I was unable to hear a thing where now when combined with Peltors and my new earplugs I was offered high protection but still able to communicate.
Under full faced helmets (motorbike) where wind noise is the issue, the only option was to wear foam plugs or wear noise cancelling ear buds, that were either impractical or so uncomfortable even when using modern Bluetooth style headsets. I now will not ride a motorbike without my earplugs fitted and can’t understand how I did prior.
The last option I received was a boom mic styled headset. And although it was not appropriate in all situations as it lets no noise through at all, it was very good for loud environments such as in an aircraft and when able to use it the results were very good. Not only for me to be able to hear the radio transmission loud and clearly but also to be clearly understood on the receiving end. The earpiece itself that can be user changed to left or right ear, was able to be customised by Elacin to the customers request. In my case I asked for a stretch coil and a specific styled plug to suit the radio type ( ie 5 pin limo). This was supplied without any dramas. The only negative I have experienced is the interference from some radio frequency types effecting only the transmit side that I am told is being investigated and rectified.
The only real problem I have encountered is having a set stolen/lost. Even then the replacement process was easy as with one email I had a replacement set on its way from the original set of moulds. Luckily the latest set have small, soft rubber loops that a cord is attached to so even if I take them out they are still able to be lanyarded to something to prevent this occurring again.
Overall, I have been impressed with the products and service I have received and hope that more defence members are able to access these types of products in the future to protect their hearing, as once it is damaged there is no repair.
Sergeant -Special Air Service Regiment (Ret)