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Pentagon Needs $5,000 Headsets to Keep F-35 Crews from Going Deaf

© AP Photo / Cliff OwenA Marine Corp F-35B Joint Strike Fighter at Patuxent River Naval Air Station, Maryland
A Marine Corp F-35B Joint Strike Fighter at Patuxent River Naval Air Station, Maryland - Sputnik International
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Now that the first batch of F-35 jets have been declared operational, Virginia-based firm Aegisound is producing noise-cancelling headsets for support personnel and mechanics working on the aircraft.

A 2014 study by the F-35's Joint Program Office concluded that ongoing exposure to the on-deck noise produced from the jet can pose a risk of hearing loss for flight deck personnel, Defense News reports.

"The seriousness of the problem continues to grow," said Aegisound CEO Mike Vaudrey. "The hearing protection they have been wearing was designed for environments that were not as loud as they are today."

The headsets combine digital active noise reduction (DANR) with two forms of passive noise reduction, effectively diminishing engine noise without inhibiting radio communications, reports Defense News.

© AegisoundNoise-canceling headset from Aegisound
Noise-canceling headset from Aegisound - Sputnik International
Noise-canceling headset from Aegisound

By offering three layers of hearing protection – large cups over the ear, custom fit earbuds inside the ear and DANR electronics within the earbuds – the headset can reduce noise levels by more than 30 decibels.

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A digital noise-cancelling microphone still gives the wearer two-way communication.

The top-of-the-line headset costs as much as $5,000 each. However, they could save money down the line by reducing the number of hearing loss-related medical claims.

In July, the Marine Corps declared that the F-35B – the jump-jet version of the aircraft – had achieved initial operational capability. The Marines are the only US service to declare the F-35 ready for combat.

At a total cost of more than $1 trillion, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is the most expensive weapons program in the Pentagon's history. It has been plagued by systems malfunctions, cost overruns and schedule delays.

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