The use of ear protection when firing weapons within the British Army has risen greatly over the last few decades, as the long term effects of repeated exposure to loud noise has been appreciated. Hearing protection has improved markedly in the same period, with less reliance on large cup defenders over the whole ear and a greater use of smaller, in ear defenders. Whilst many purchase their own, propriety ear plugs, the British Army does have an issue examples manufactured by E-A-R Combat Arms that consists of a pair of double ended plugs, secured together by a piece of cord to help prevent loss:
The plugs have two ends, a yellow and an olive green end:
These form two functions, as explained in the official literature:
Yellow End – should be inserted only when ambient noise levels are not hazardous and the wearer wants hear-through capability with instant protection from impulse noises (i.e., weapons fire or explosive devices)
Green End – constant Protection Against constant Noise (NRR 22) should be inserted when continuous hazardous noise is present and if it is determined that the attenuation reduces the hazardous noise to a safe level as determined by a qualified professional
To protect the ear plugs, they come issued in a small translucent plastic container, with a small length of chain that allows it to be attached to webbing or a lanyard so it does not get lost:
Note the user instructions moulded into the plastic of the container. To access the ear plugs, the top of the container pivots to one side:
The lid is actually removable and has a plastic spike built into it:
I am assuming there is a purpose to this spigot, however I have struggled to find what it is!
The E-A-R Combat Arms earplugs were used not only by the British, but also by the US Army and in recent years a class action has been brought in that country by former soldiers who claim that the company supplied defective earplugs that did not work as required and led to hearing loss and tinnitus. The argument was that the design of the earplug was too short which meant that they could become loose in the wearer’s ear canal although it was hard for the user or an observer to tell that this was the case. By not being able to be fully inserted, the plugs did not work correctly and make a seal and so loud noise could still penetrate and damage the user’s hearing. Whilst the US Military reached a settlement with the company, individual soldiers are still pursuing legal action to get compensation for damaged hearing.