The United States Marine Corps (USMC) has put out a call to industry for hearing enhancement devices that could help soldiers in combat and in training with situational awareness.
“Marines have the earplugs and they do provide protection, but sometimes they choose not to wear them because they want to be aware of their surroundings at all times,” Steven Fontenot, project officer for Hearing, Eye Protection and Loadbearing Equipment in PM ICE at MCSC, said. “The new headset we want to acquire will allow Marines to wear hearing protection, yet still provide the opportunity to communicate and understand what is going on around them.”
The call follows the release of 220 new headsets to Marines as a sample back in February. They followed them through testing at the Air Force Research laboratory, live fire exercises and into cold weather training in Norway, to positive results. However, new weapon systems could outpace the hearing protection capabilities of these headsets, and the Marine Corps wishes to be ready.
“Most of the systems we’ve researched amplify the verbal and softer noises around the Marine, so they know what is going on while protecting against loud noises that could damage the ear,” Nick Pierce, Individual Armor Team lead of PM ICE, said. “Although we conducted an initial evaluation, the latest technologies could yield something better in 2020, and there are always things we can improve upon from the systems that were tested, such as comfort and the ability to clearly pinpoint which direction sound is coming from.”
Currently, Marines utilize Combat Arms Earplugs. The USMC is considering purchasing between 7,000 and 65,000 hearing enhancement devices in the next three years to supplement these devices. Any future technology will also be assessed for compatibility with radios and the USMC’s enhanced combat helmets.