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Next generation hearing protection: TEA’s RAC headset

I had the chance to meet up with Gerard Rotunno of TEA headsets yesterday as they launched their latest tactical hearing protection design. TEA headsets has a long track record in the hearing protection market. Many of their products are in use by US military units and law enforcement teams across the country. They recently undertook an effort to support the trend many shooters have of setting up electronic hearing protection on their helmets (often semi-permanently).

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This sort of arrangement usually involves an adapter rail added to a ballistic rated helmet, with a headband style muffs attached to swivel down over the ear. Helmet technology has changed rapidly during the Global War on Terror, in no small part to accommodate these electronic ear muffs. Electronic hearing protection allows the user to hear sounds around them, such as voices or footsteps but cuts the audio at a safe level to prevent hearing damage. I compare shooting a firearm while wearing electronic ear pro to hearing gunfire on TV. You recognize it as gunfire, but it's not blowing your eardrums out. This type of ear pro also allows you to maintain clear communications with your team mates as well as commanders. Since our military teaches that the three elements of winning a gunfight is to shoot, move and communicate it’s usually the last pillar that suffers the most in combat.

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The RAC system promises to be more comfortable than headband models worn under helmets and is easier to stow than some other systems. The ear cups are cushioned and ergonomically countered to fit your head geometry, which translates into a better, more comfortable seal. They also feature a very interesting Induction Receiver Earplug, an optional plug that mounts inside the ear cup and gives you further hearing protection but without loosing the acoustics. This mode of use will likely be popular with those who already use “double ear-pro” such as when shooting .50 caliber firearms or other heavies.

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Weighing in at just one even pound, the RAC is light to reduce neck strain. The articulating ear cup arms lock with a large, easy to access button in several positions. One such setting holds the cup slightly away from the ear, to allow ventilation but retains the communications ability. Anyone who has worn muffs for extended periods of time, particularly on hot days, will attest to how they like to become sweat buckets in a very short time.


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The electronics allow the shooter to tune the volume up and down, and also perceive the direction of perceived noise, much like your normal hearing. The communication cable runs down from the RAC in a single line, allowing the user to choose to not use a radio, use a single radio, or use two radios. The single down lead interfaces with a push to talk handset, which determines which radio will transmit depending on which button is pushed.

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The RAC headset is waterproof to 6 meters, offers messages to be received even with dead batteries, and more degrees of adjustability than nearly any other helmet mounted system. Available in black and tan, the basic model is not cheap. Mr. Rottunno informed me that MSRP will be around the 1k mark, and the dual com version a little more than that. They will be available soon, and hold great promise to become the go-to helmet mounted hearing protection solution. Be sure to watch their website for further updates.

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