Mallock-Armstrong ear defenders, vulcanite, in tin box, used by Royal Navy, c. 1915.
The inventors and makers of these ear defenders promised “…ordinary sounds and conversations heard as usual. Gunfire and shell bursts rendered harmless.” The First World War was characterised by the extensive use of heavy artillery and many troops experiencing temporary or permanent deafness caused by the tremendous noise created by both their own and the enemy’s guns.
These ear defenders were tested by the British Medical Journal in January 1915, but the testers found that plastic ear defenders were cheaper and more effective than the Mallock-Armstrong design. The Mallock ear defenders did, however, include a scoop to clean the ears. Unfortunately, the testers felt that if the scoop was “unskillfully used” it was “as much a possible source of injury to the ears as the gun firing”.