While conducting a routine patrol in the military, your ability to hear cannot be over stated. All of your senses are employed, but your ears are critical. You must be able to hear your team, hear enemy movement, listen for wildlife, and countless other sounds that will help you and your team not only be successful, but survive the day. Then the shooting starts and the cacophony of weapons fire not only makes it harder to hear for the rest of the day, but causes ear damage to the ears that can never be repaired. With ear plugs, you can protect your hearing in the long run but, while they are being worn, you might as well be deaf while trying to conduct a patrol.
SoundGear has a fix for that with three different systems designed to protect your hearing while not muffling your entire environment. All three designs limit loud noises but amplify low noises in order to enhance the sounds of your environment.
The three designs are:
Behind the ear, which looks like old bulky hearing aids. They are rated at a 26 decibel (db) reduction with the ability to amplify quiet sounds by as much as 30 db. The volume is adjustable and the system can be muted while in the ear. They can also boost high frequencies. Retail is $299.
The In-the-canal system looks and feels like high quality rubber flange earplugs. They reduce noise by 25 db and can add up to 15 db. They are small, light, and easy to use. Retail is $399.
The final system is known as Custom. For these, you must go to a hearing specialist and have your ear molded for a custom fit. These ones will reduce sound by up to 24 db and raise low sounds by as much as 30 db. These have all the same functions as the behind the ear model but come with a price tag of $999.
I was sent a pair of the In-the-canal design and gave those a test, so we will look more in depth at this system.
Packaging: These were shipped in a well-protected shipping box. Once you get through all of the bubble wrap, you find a white box with a picture of a soldier checking a weapon, a construction worker grinding a beam, and a woman shouldering a shotgun. Sliding the white cardboard sleeve off reveals the actual box, which is a heavy duty cardboard box with a magnetically secured flip lid. Opening this box shows the prize inside; A plastic tray that holds a carry pouch, two packages of four batteries each, a cleaning tool, an instruction booklet, and, of course, the actual ear plugs with four flange choices; large orange, large black, small orange, and small black.
The Carry Pouch: The carry pouch clips onto the belt and sports clam shell opening. Once open, there is a mesh pocket on each side of the case to store the system. The pouch and pockets seem sturdy and did not feel as though they would break or wear out any time soon in the field. The belt clip however left mush to be desired. It is not deep enough to clip onto thicker belts, such as what you would find around the waist of a service member or police officer. This wouldn’t be too big of an issue except the clip is not tight enough to clip securely to belt loops.
Comfort: The plugs themselves are fairly comfortable. The rubber is soft and doesn’t jab the inside of the ears and the ability to switch between large or small sleeves is nice. Wearing them for several hours at a time was not super fun, but was much easier done than the foam plugs supplied by DoD, which itch like no tomorrow after ten minutes of use.
Sound: These did reduce the sound by a good 25 db while allowing quieter sounds through. It can be hard at first to tell where a sound is coming from though. By amplifying the sound, your ear will hear it as right next to you. While I was in the bedroom, a duffle bag was zipped closed in the living room. I was able to hear that, which is awesome, but it sounded like it was right next to me rather than in a separate room. After some time, I was able to get used to this and it stopped being an issue. At the gun range, being around shooting and shooting my own weapon was no issue, yet talking to the other shooters was easily done. In fact, the other guns going off were more of an issue than having ear plugs in. During periods of cease fire, there was no need to remove the plugs.
Ease of Use: To use this system is pretty easy. You push the core out of the rubber sleeve. On one side of the core you will find an open compartment that fits a small button battery. By putting the battery in, the system is turned on. Replace the core into the sleeve of your choice and put them into your ears. There are no adjustments on the in-the canal system.
Down Sides: The belt clip on the case was already mentioned. After that, the only problem is the battery. Once hearing aid batteries are activated by removing a piece of paper on one side, the battery will continue to discharge no matter what. If you remove it from the system it will discharge more slowly, but it will only last a several days. In the system, the battery life is good, lasting a few days. I suppose this is more of a limitation of batteries than it is the design of SoundGear products. The other down side is that there is no lanyard. Rather than a carry case, or in addition to it, a lanyard that hooks the ear plugs together would be nice so they could be draped around the neck when not in use but may be needed soon.
All in all, this system is very nice and would have been great while in the Navy. Working on the ship, boarding other boats in a tactical environment, and the slew of other conditions that involved hearing risks would have been made much safer and much easier with these little guys available. SoundGear packages the product well and makes sure that everything needed is included in the box. This hearing protection system should be in everyone’s bag, whether military, police, construction, or hunter.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.