* GN to join in U.S. military tenders in 2018
* Firm wants to expand to other countries and markets
* Rivals also target market to protect soldiers' hearing
By Julie Astrid Thomsen
COPENHAGEN, Jan 30 (Reuters) - Hearing aid maker GN Store Nord aims to capitalise on the $600 million market for hearing protection in combat zones with a new device to help soldiers communicate on the battlefield and protect their hearing at the same time.
GN is joining U.S. firms Honeywell, 3M, as well as Sweden's Invisio, which are working on products to protect soldiers' vision and hearing.
"In a war situation, it's essential to be able to hear where voices are coming from, where the sounds you need are coming from," the head of GN Store Nord's hearing aid division, Anders Hedegaard, told Reuters.
The new device provides noise protection, while giving 360 degree sound identification and integration with military radio technology.
"When ... you are bombarded with noise, you need technology to help you out of it," Hedegaard said, adding it would help ensure soldiers returned from war zones without damaged hearing.
GN, a major supplier of hearing aids to U.S. war veterans, is participating in U.S. military procurement tenders for the first time this month.
Hedegaard said he did not expect significant revenue from the new device this year, but it could grow in future.
"If by the end of 2018, we see that this worked I don't see why we shouldn't continue at full speed and expand to other countries and new business areas," Hedegaard said, adding it could be used by others who worked in loud environments.
GN, which started in 1869 as a telegraph firm, is best known for its hearing aids, but also produces Jabra headsets and earbuds. The unit has benefited from working with Apple on hearing aids that stream from Apple devices.
The hearing aid unit accounts for 60 percent of GN's revenue, while the audio division contributes 40 percent.
GN will produce the devices at its U.S. manufacturing site in Minnesota. It did not disclose the price of the device.
$1 = 5.9771 Danish crowns Reporting by Julie Astrid Thomsen; Editing by Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen and Edmund Blair