Home Audiology Smart Earplugs Protect and Serve the U.S. Army

Smart Earplugs Protect and Serve the U.S. Army

by Shelley D. Hutchins

Sgt. Jon Heinrich/U.S. Army

Soldiers, law enforcement officers, first responders and others in similar professions often suffer from hearing damage that results from constant exposure to loud noises. Wearing hearing protection seems like an easy solution, but in muting loud noise, earplugs also block other crucial and often quieter sounds. These professionals need to be able to hear voices, footsteps or a door opening over explosions, gunfire, crashes and other loud noises.

The U.S. Army hopes it has found a solution to protect as well as amplify hearing for soldiers. Over the past two years, around 20,000 soldiers received tactical communication and protective systems, known as TCAPS, as well as training on how to use them. According to an NPR story about TCAPS, the devices simultaneously protect against loud noises by blocking a percentage of the sound while amplifying soft sounds. Some versions can also tie into standard military communication systems. The story explains that these smart earplugs work in a similar way to adjustable volume—when noise gets louder, TCAPS automatically turn down the sound. The systems also offer the ability to manually increase the volume of soft sounds if soldiers need to better hear what’s happening around them.

Training on how to properly use TCAPS—in a variety of situations—is just as important as buying the $2,000 systems and distributing them. As with any hearing protection, if people don’t regularly wear the devices, they won’t benefit. As part of the training and awareness, the Army made a short video on TCAPS:

Read more on protecting the hearing of our protectors:

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Audiologist Kathleen C. M. Campbell is on the front lines of studying a drug that could protect soldiers from long-term hearing loss—and save the U.S. Armed Forces billions of dollars.

For soldiers on the battlefield, the words “Medic!” and “Hold fire!” and references to location are among their top hearing priorities, according to new research in Noise and Health.

CDC Releases New Statistics on Hearing Loss in Noisy Workplaces


Shelley D. Hutchins is content producer/editor for The ASHA Leader.shutchins@asha.org


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