Wanted: The Irony of “Smart” Earplugs

With BlastPLG earplugs, you can look as if you’re wearing hearing aids before you actually need them.

Wanted: The Irony of “Smart” Earplugs

Stereotypes of soldiers need ear protection, too. Cue the BlastPLG earplugs, which block out loud noises but allow lower-intensity sounds (like the Iraqi yelling you can’t decipher) to come through in high fidelity. Made by a company called Etymotic Research, Inc., the earplugs are meant to protect soldiers from hearing damage and tinnitus. Why can’t they wear normal earplugs? Etymotic says that despite risks to hearing, “warriors decline hearing protection because it interferes with situational awareness.” 


Is that true? Who knows. But regular foam earplugs already seem like a strong value proposition for the attentive solder. After all, an M16 unloading rounds next to your head also interferes with “situational awareness,” doesn’t it?

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I've written about innovation, design, and technology for Fast Company since 2007. I was the co-founding editor of FastCoLabs.