ACC Airmen get ACCES through flight medicine

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  • Air Combat Command Public Affairs
ACC aircrew now have better access to high-tech, safer hearing protection.

In a memo issued May 23, the command designated flight medicine the office responsible for creating custom ear impressions and performing initial fit and comfort testing of the Attenuating Custom Communications Earpiece System, or ACCES®.

"This formal support from ACC streamlines the process for aircrew who want to experience the superb noise reduction and clear radio communications ACCES offers in the cockpit and for maintainers on the ground," said John Hall, an audiologist with the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio.

Before the policy change, Airmen who wanted ACCES had to find a qualified professional with the training to create impressions for the custom-molded earpieces. Often this meant contacting researchers at AFRL.

"With hundreds of sets of this product already in the air we needed trained medical professionals designated to meet the growing demand for custom-molded impressions of the flyer's ears," Mr. Hall said.

The AFRL's Human Effectiveness Directorate developed the unique hearing protection and communications system under a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement with Westone Laboratories, Inc., with the goal of improving hearing protection and communications not only for military maintainers and pilots, but for industrial workers such as construction crews, heavy equipment operators, and commercial air and ground crews.

By integrating specialized electronics into custom-molded earpieces, ACCES allows wearers to experience clear audio communications while protecting their ears from the damaging noise common in aerospace environments, Mr. Hall said.

Flying squadrons remain responsible for logistics, ordering and receipt, routine maintenance and all costs for materials and training, Mr. Hall said.

ACCES has been approved as safe-to-fly in Air Force fighter and bomber aircraft, according to the May 23 memo.

The Air Force hopes that, over time, improved hearing protection will help minimize health-care costs; the Veterans Administration has spent more than $7 billion on the treatment of hearing loss since 1977, Mr. Hall said.