Skip to main navigationSkip to main content
The University of Southampton
Aerospace

Fit for the frontline? New study identifies the hearing requirements of British soldiers

Published: 9 July 2014Origin: Engineering

University of Southampton researchers, with assistance from the Ministry of Defence, have conducted the first study to identify the hearing requirements of British soldiers fighting on the frontline.

The study, which provides an important and novel insight into the frontline experiences of British infantry personnel, identified 17 ‘auditory tasks', such as ‘hearing grid references' and ‘locating enemy movement in maize fields', carried out on operational duties abroad.

By identifying these tasks, researchers will be able to develop a new auditory fitness for duty test to determine the impact of hearing loss among infantry personnel and ensure that personnel are given appropriate training and equipment before deployment.

Zoë Bevis, from the University's Institute of Sound and Vibration Research (ISVR) and study co-author, says: "This new information allows us to better understand the challenges faced by our frontline soldiers.

"As well as identifying the auditory tasks, we also came across other interesting opinions during the study. Soldiers felt that they couldn't hear as well when they were performing several tasks at once, for instance listening to a radio while looking out for a signal, or when they are in a very stressful environment, such as enemy contact in combat.

"Those comments emphasise how important it is for the infantry to hear important signals whilst maintaining their situational awareness. Participants felt their hearing played a fundamental part in their safety and their ability to carry out the job expected of them."

The study, which is published in Noise and Health journal, consisted of 16 focus groups involving 80 British army personnel. The focus groups included open-ended questions about the auditory tasks performed on operational duty; these tasks were divided into subthemes of sound detection, speech communication and sound localisation.

Analysis of 1,177 individual comments resulted in two main themes (1) the auditory tasks personnel were expected to perform and (2) situations where personnel felt their hearing ability was reduced. Researchers also outlined attitudes to hearing health, noise exposure and hearing protection.

Zoë adds: "We know that infantry personnel are at increased risk of hearing impairment due to the nature of their job. With this new information, we can develop methods to assess whether hearing impaired soldiers can perform the frontline auditory tasks necessary for their safety and effectiveness."

The opinions and attitudes documented in this study will help researchers to gain a real insight into the challenging environments faced by infantry personnel fighting on the frontline. The information can be used to aid the continuing development of communication equipment, hearing protection, training programmes and measures of auditory fitness.

The study also provides a model for job analysis that is transferable to many fields of work-related fitness for duty - for example respiratory fitness standards for policemen or eyesight checks for air traffic controllers.

The research was funded, in full, by the Ministry of Defence.

Notes for editors

1. A copy of the paper ‘Fit for the frontline? A focus group exploration of auditory tasks carried out by infantry and combat support personnel' is available from Media Relations on request.

2. A selection of audio files of military commands and gunshots are available from Media Relations on request.

3. Through world-leading research and enterprise activities, the University of Southampton connects with businesses to create real-world solutions to global issues. Through its educational offering, it works with partners around the world to offer relevant, flexible education, which trains students for jobs not even thought of. This connectivity is what sets Southampton apart from the rest; we make connections and change the world. https://www.southampton.ac.uk/

https://www.southampton.ac.uk/weareconnected

#weareconnected

For more information:

Glenn Harris, Media Relations, University of Southampton, Tel 023 8059 3212, email G.Harris@soton.ac.uk, Twitter: @glennh75

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue without changing your settings, we will assume that you are happy to receive cookies on the University of Southampton website.

×