The Norwegian Armed Forces has purchased thousands of ear protection sets to the tune of millions of dollars. However, after almost decade, most of the costly earplugs are sitting silently in army depots, while the spending continues to increase.
In 2007, Norway’s Armed Forces purchased 3,450 sets of communication equipment Quiet Pro with the aim of preventing hearing loss among personnel. However, while setting the Nordic nation’s state coffers NOK 40 million ($5 million), the expensive ear protection is still unboxed, and only a handful of the costly devices are actually in use.
“This equipment enables communication between soldiers and units, while at the same time functioning as hearing protection. In case of any loud sound, the device simply shuts it off,” Norwegian Defense Materiel Agency senior councilor Asgeir Spange Brekke told Norwegian national broadcaster NRK, describing Quiet Pro as “revolutionizing” the daily life of a soldier.
The devices underwent testing by the Norwegian Armed Forces and received a seal of approval. But ten years after being ordered, only 40 of the high-end earplugs are actually being used due to related health hazards. For the mathematically inclined, that means the cost of each set comes to US $125,000 — roughly the price of a brand new Porsche sports car.
In spite of the extensive tests, the user friendliness of the device proved to be largely exaggerated, as end users reportedly suffered from ulcers, irritation of the ear canal and even aural bleeding. Subsequent investigations revealed that the earplugs were also used incorrectly, being shoved too far into the ear and used in wrong sizes.
The situation was already known to the Armed Forces in 2009, whereupon the usage rate of the equipment plummeted. In recent years, however, the Norwegian Army developed earplugs in various sizes, while simultaneously upgrading the devices with new data. In total, this accounted for yet another NOK 250,000 ($31,500). Still, though, the devices are not completely ready for use, as 2,000 of the sets are undergoing a software upgrade, with the end date still hovering in the darkness.
According to the Defense Logistics Organization (FLO), the plug is the absolute best guard against hearing damage they have encountered so far.
“Alas, such is the case in big organizations. There are many joints, a lot of equipment and huge costs,” Marit Yttervoll, a hygienist at the Armed Forces Health Service in northern Norway, told NRK.
Asgeir Spange Brekke admitted the unfortunate delay and stressed that a focus on upgrading was needed to be used in several departments of the Armed Forces as planned.
Previously, hearing loss was named among the occupational hazards in Norway’s Armed Forces, as 31.4 percent of Navy personnel in active duty on warships were revealed to be suffering from varying degrees of aural trauma.
The Skjold-class corvettes, which are being touted by the Norwegian Navy as some of the world’s fastest naval vessels, were revealed to be particularly harmful on the ear.
“On these ships, I would definitely recommend sleeping with hearing protection,” work environment researcher Erlend Sunde from the University of Bergen was quoted as saying to NRK.