For a long time, the standard in hearing protection for the military, police and workers in noisy industrial environments was little more than a set of ill-fitting ear plugs. But blocking your hearing is often more dangerous than potentially losing it in noisy environments where inability to hear your colleague’s voices or failure to hear warnings of an imminent threat can put you in harm’s way. It’s no surprise, then, that hearing loss among soldiers who don’t wear their earplugs because they don’t feel safe not being able to hear what’s going on around them has become one of the biggest problems for veterans of the Irag war and other conflicts. That’s why it’s gratifying to see hearing-aid manufacturers have finally start applying advanced hearing enhancement and hearing protection technology to the problem of environmental noise. Phonak is the latest manufacturer to come up with an advanced hearing system for people trying to get their jobs done in noisy and dangerous environments, and it integrates some impressive technology.
The new Phonak primero DPC boomless radio headset features “dynamic hearing protection.” Custom ear molds that sit in the user’s ears integrate wireless technology which measures and dampens environmental noise while enhancing speech tones. The sound-dampening completely protects users from load blasts or noise from heavy machinery while enabling them to continue speaking with others over a wireless link. A tiny microphone integrated within the ear jack and an innovative signal processing algorithm pick up the user’s voice from inside the ear canal. This allows the user to be heard by others over the wireless link more clearly than with previous technologies. Designed with teams such as rapid intervention, SWAT, police, emergency and homeland security professionals in mind, the primero DPC system raises the bar of safe radio communications by enabling conversation in noise of up to 115dB with hearing protection guaranteed even when loud ‘impulse’ noises such as shots or crashes occur.
By integrating both hearing enhancement AND protection, Phonak’s new system is leading the charge for a new class of products that put sophisticated hearing aid technology to work in a market for hearing-protection systems that is potentially even larger than the global market for hearing aids.