Smart helmets to prevent soldiers incurring hearing injuries

Tiny microphones almost invisible to the naked eye are being knitted into the fabric covering army helmets to reduce the risk of soldiers developing hearing injuries, thanks to new research by Nottingham Trent University.

Dr Hughes-Riley with the acoustic yarn sample
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Acoustic yarn sample
Dr Theodore Hughes-Riley

A project led by the Advanced Textiles Research Group (ATRG) of the School of Art & Design will develop technology to measure and record the levels of noise which soldiers experience in the field to prevent hearing damage.

Professor Tilak Dias and research fellow Dr Theodore Hughes-Riley are using microelectromechanical system microphones (MEMS) which measure the level of noise someone is exposed to over a length of time.

The microphones - when knitted into the fabric covering regular personnel headwear - will be undetectable to the user and avoid interfering with military activities.

“This innovation will dramatically reduce the risk of service personnel injured due to long-term noise exposure,” said Professor Dias.

“By integrating a low-cost and discrete dosemeter directly into a textile, such as a helmet cover, the noise exposure of personnel will be monitored and stored, providing the data necessary to take preventative action in the future.”

Professor Dias and Dr Hughes-Riley have received a grant from The Defence & Security Accelerator – Open Call for Innovation to develop a prototype helmet with two microphones, one above each ear.

The positioning of the microphones above each ear is vital as an acoustic injury is more likely to be asymmetric due to some military activities, meaning one ear might be affected more than the other.

A short exposure to sound levels exceeding 140 decibels can cause permanent hearing damage, with a single gunshot capable of producing a sound level of 140 to 170 decibels.

The microphones will be embedded in yarns using ATRG’s e-yarn technology platform to keep them dry and allow the helmet covers to be washed.

In addition to preventing injury, the helmet will make it simpler for the military to continue to fully comply with the Control of Noise at Work Regulations which limit the level of noise that an employee can be exposed to in the workplace over a period of time.

Dr Hughes-Riley said: “Research has shown that the effect of hearing loss on an individual’s speech comprehension can severely affect their ability to communicate with others, and affect their quality of life.

“So it’s important that soldiers are given the best protection possible to prevent them from experiencing noise levels which can cause injury.”

  • Notes for editors

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    Nottingham Trent University (NTU) is one of the largest UK universities with nearly 28,000 students and more than 3,500 staff across four campuses, contributing £496m to the UK economy every year. It is one of the most environmentally-friendly universities, containing some of the country’s most inspiring and efficient award-winning buildings.

    Nottingham Trent University was named Modern University of the Year in the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2018. The award recognises NTU for its strong student satisfaction, quality of teaching, overall student experience and engagement with employers.

    The University is passionate about creating opportunities and its extensive outreach programme is designed to enable NTU to be a vehicle for social mobility. The University is the sixth biggest recruiter of students from disadvantaged backgrounds in the country and 95.6% of its graduates go on to employment or further education within six months of leaving.

    NTU is home to world-class research, winning The Queen’s Anniversary Prizein 2015 - the highest national honour for a UK university. The prize recognised pioneering projects to improve the detection of weapons and explosives in luggage, enable safer production of powdered infant formula and combat food fraud.

    With an international student population of approximately 2,600 from around 100 countries, the University prides itself on its global outlookand seeks to attract talented students and staff from across the world.

    The Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) was announced in the 2015 UK Strategic Defence and Security Review, with the purpose to find and exploit innovations and accelerate those solutions to real world problems. Hosted by Dstl, DASA focuses on innovations which can provide advantage to defence and national security to protect the UK from its adversaries.

    DASA will be the go-to place for Government, private sector, partners and academics to find solutions to defence and security problems and needs.

    For more information contact the DASA communications team on accelerator@dstl.gov.uk or 01980 952939.

    Follow us on:

    Twitter: @DASAccelerator

    LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/11202757/

    Website: www.gov.uk/government/organisations/defence-and-security-accelerator

Smart helmets to prevent soldiers incurring hearing injuries

Published on 29 September 2017
  • Subject area: Art and design
  • Category: School of Art & Design

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