During the past 50 years, military aircraft have become faster, more sophisticated and noisier. Unfortunately for Navy personnel on the flight decks of aircraft carriers, hearing protection has not kept pace.
Aegisound, a Blacksburg technology company, plans to change that. The company, an affiliate of Adaptive Technologies Inc., has begun making
and marketing a new generation of hearing-protection devices. The products attracted the attention of major defense contractor Lockheed
Martin, which has picked Aegisound to participate in a Navy-sponsored mentor-protégé program.
Under the program, Lockheed will help Aegisound develop its capabilities for defense, aerospace and commercial markets, while Aegisound will
supply earplugs, earmuffs and other products to Lockheed Martin and the Defense Department.
The earplugs are of particular interest to the Navy because their advanced design can help avoid the high rates of hearing loss experienced
by carrier personnel.
Aegisound takes impressions of each person’s ear canal. Then, using a digital manufacturing process, it creates a customized device that can
be inserted comfortably near the eardrum. The earplug utilizes a patented broadband controller. As a result, says Gary Gibbs, Aegisound’s
chief operating officer, “we are able to reduce the sound levels at the eardrum over a broad range of frequencies that are known to damage
Aegisound now has 10 employees but expects to triple its work force and build a new factory during the next year. The company also will also
supply the Navy with digital noise-canceling microphones. These devices reduce background noise so that aircraft personnel can hear orders
over hand-held radios. Before now, on-deck communications often required the use of hand signals.
Gibbs says that the Aegisound has delivered 30 to 50 units of its hearing-protection equipment for qualification testing and will ramp up to
full production beginning in fall 2009. The company also is getting orders for its earplugs, earmuffs and microphones from other military
branches and heavy industrial companies.
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