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Use of Hearing Protection on Military Operations
  1. Major Mangala Patil, Specialty Registrar in Occupational Medicine1 and
  2. J Breeze, Research Fellow and Maxillofacial Surgery Trainee2
  1. 1Regional Occupational Health Team, Aldershot Centre for Health, Aldershot, Hants. GU11 1AY mangala.patil469{at}mod.uk
  2. 2Academic Department of Military Surgery and Trauma, Royal Centre for Defence Medicine, Birmingham

Abstract

Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) continues to be a significant source of morbidity for UK service personnel. The Personal Interfaced Hearing Protection (PIHP) system was procured as an Urgent Operational Requirement primarily to provide a connection to the Personal Role Radio. Through its custom- mould design it was also expected to act as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) against NIHL in a method that had not been possible previously. The aim of this paper was to evaluate user opinion of the four current methods of hearing protection including PIHP. 108 service personnel serving in a Forward Operating Base in Afghanistan were questioned anonymously using a paper-based questionnaire. The response rate was 78%, reflecting the difficulties in anonymous data collection in an environment such as this. PIHP was perceived to be more practical for use on the ranges or patrolling than the standard methods of hearing protection. Although only 4% were routinely wearing PIHP on patrol, this was related to understandable reluctance in wearing a new system that had only been issued immediately prior to this deployment. Early design problems highlighted by our study, such as changes in the design of the ear-piece to improve retention, have already been implemented. Compliance will be improved through a dedicated educational programme to explain its relevance. Despite the logistical difficulties in providing custom- made ear moulds, the PIHP system must be delivered to all service personnel early in their career so they are confident in its use long before operational deployment. Future research is required to ascertain the effectiveness of PIHP as a method of PPE in reducing the incidence of NIHL.

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