Hearing loss and tinnitus (ringing in the ear) remain the top two military-connected disabilities for U.S. veterans according to the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs 2017 Annual Benefits Report. Nearly 16 percent of new disability claims in 2017 were for some type of hearing dysfunction caused by military service. That’s more than the claims for limited motion injuries to the knee, back and arm combined!
Whether in training or in active combat, soldiers are continuously exposed to noise levels significantly higher than what is deemed “safe” to avoid hearing damage. Generally acceptable noise levels range from 82dB to about 115dB depending on the number of hours of continuous exposure during a day. It’s safe to say military weapons emit noise levels about 150 percent higher than accepted standards. That’s not to mention the continuous high-noise level exposures experienced by support personnel in armored vehicles, on flight lines, below decks or around other machinery.
Exposure to harmful high noise levels is an inevitable part of being a soldier, but hearing loss due to overexposure to noise does not have to be a foregone conclusion. Hearing protection is an essential and mandated element of a soldier’s uniform; however, many soldiers believe the standard-issue foam earplugs actually impair their performance during mission-critical operations, and for good reason.
The standard-issue foam earplugs block harmful noise very effectively. The trouble is, they block all noise, not just harmful noise. Soldiers are unable to hear radio communications, verbal orders or warnings from others nearby. And that does not even consider the need to hear the enemy approaching to avoid being ambushed. With all this in mind, most soldiers would rather risk damage to their hearing than approach a combat or training situation feeling unsafe and unprepared.
In Tune With Today’s Soldiers
OTTO Engineering, a leading manufacturer of high-performance accessories for two-way radio equipment, has collaborated with tactical operators worldwide to develop advanced tactical communication headsets that solve the issues that lead soldiers to forego their hearing protection. OTTO has industry-leading expertise in development of high-NRR (Noise Reduction Ratio) headsets, including advanced in-house capabilities for rigorous acoustic and reliability testing.
Anyone who has used a two-way radio has probably used a radio accessory designed, engineered and manufactured by OTTO Engineering. Seven of the eight major two-way radio manufacturers worldwide rely on OTTO for accessories for their radios, and thereby provide OTTO’s tactical radio communications accessories to military forces around the globe. OTTO’s products include tactical comm and non-comm headsets and ear plugs, push-to-talk (PTT) systems, speaker microphones, cable assemblies for connecting accessories to radios, tactical surveillance kits and wireless intercoms for virtually all radio platforms.
- Communications Clarity Meets Natural Hearing: While protecting their hearing, soldiers must still be able to hear clear and concise communications during tactical operations. Many traditional headsets distort and cut out to reduce the incoming noise levels to safe thresholds, causing essential messages to be fragmented or even lost, jeopardizing mission success. OTTO’s NoizeBarrier™ noise-dampening technology prevents temporary audio dropouts when loud sounds are present, ensuring crystal clear, continuous radio communications for greater safety and tactical awareness.
- OTTO’s NoizeBarrier™ headsets and earplugs automatically adapt the incoming sound to be heard above the surrounding noise level in a manner that is seamless to the user. Loud and impulse sounds are suppressed to internationally-accepted safe levels while normal-level sounds, nearby conversation and radio communications are still easily heard without clipping or shut-down. The user experiences more natural hearing across a broader frequency range. In short, soldiers can simply hear better for greater safety without damaging their hearing.
- 360-Degree Advanced Situational Awareness: Sight and hearing combine to detect, locate and recognize the enemy. Covering or plugging the ears to reduce the damaging effects of loud and percussive sounds also blocks low-frequency sounds that help soldiers remain totally aware of their surroundings.
- OTTO’s NoizeBarrier™ headsets and earplugs use sophisticated technology to provide 360-degree advanced situational awareness for accurate sound localization. Hearing the sounds safely is one thing. Being able to accurately locate where the sound is coming from is essential for informed decision-making in mission-critical situations. OTTO’s headsets allow low-frequency sounds, including normal speech, to be heard clearly and completely, even in the midst of gunfire and other impulse noise situations.
NoizeBarrier™ Hearing Protection Leads The Way
Advanced NoizeBarrier™ technology is available in multiple types of hearing protection to fit the requirements of the user.
- NoizeBarrier™ TAC Headset is the choice of warfighters in need of maximum tactical hearing protection with full communications capabilities. The versatile headset can be configured to meet a wide variety of comms needs, ranging from single radio and push-to-talk (PTT) options to multi-channel, multi-radio options controlled by the OTTO Multi-Port Hub PTT. Along with the OTTO NoizeBarrier™ 3D-soundscape and a noise- reduction rating (NRR) of 23dB (SNR 29dB), the NoizeBarrier™ TAC also features a telescopic, noise- and wind-cancelling boom microphone that can be mounted on the right or left side to fit the user’s preference. The optional rail-mount kit allows the user to easily convert the headset from over-the-head style to top or rear rail mount in the field without tools, and is compatible with major Hi-Cut helmet systems including Ops-Core®
and Team Wendy®.
- NoizeBarrier™ Range SA Headset is the premier headset for conventional and tactical firearms training and other situations requiring hearing protection without comms capability. It combines tactical-grade performance with industry-leading hearing protection providing an NRR of 23dB (SNR 29dB). Continuous blast and impulse noise protection are paired with volume-adjustable situational awareness controls that amplify barely audible sounds without clipping or shut-off in high-noise situations. The ergonomic design works well with hats, helmets and safety glasses, and allows for a smooth shouldering of a firearm. As with the NoizeBarrier™ TAC, the optional rail-mount kit, compatible with major Hi-Cut helmet systems including Ops-Core® and Team Wendy®, allows the user to easily convert the headset from over-the-head style to top or rear rail mount in the field without tools.
- NoizeBarrier™ Micro High-Definition Earplugs High-definition, rechargeable, electronic earplugs provide exceptional hearing protection with an NRR of 28dB (SNR 26dB) when used with the included foam earpieces. They are ideal for military, law enforcement, hunting and indoor/outdoor shoot houses. Proprietary dual-mode sound processing technology actively responds to the noise level in the surrounding environment. In standard mode, the earplugs allow natural hearing for all safe sounds. In the presence of sustained loud noise, an additional, higher level of hearing protection (up to 15 dB) is immediately provided. A simple push of the button on the earplugs switches to enhanced mode to boost soft sounds by 5X. In both modes, the earplugs provide maximum hearing protection (up to 40 dB) from loud impulse noises.
- OTTO Multi-Port Hub PTT is the ultimate hub for modular control of up to three unique communications platforms, each with a separate Push-To-Talk (PTT) button. It is compatible with major radio platforms using detachable cables for each radio. In addition, the Multi-Port Hub is compatible with vehicular and air-based intercoms (ICS) and both Android and iOS devices.
- Designed with soldier’s needs and a tactical environment in mind, the Multi-Port Hub has large buttons for easy field use and is left and right hand reversible for convenience. Unique integrated volume controls on the Multi-Port Hub amplify hearing and control situational awareness volume (+/- 12dB) on the NoizeBarrier™ TAC tactical headset.
Located in Carpentersville, Illinois, USA, OTTO’s products are proudly made in America. Visit OTTOFedMil.com to learn more about OTTO’s advanced tactical solutions for the military and federal agencies worldwide.