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US soldiers are getting enhanced hearing tech on the battlefield

The US Army is in the process of rolling out a new piece of technology that can protect a soldier’s hearing on the battlefield. These aren’t just any earplugs, though. TCAPS (Tactical Communication and Protective System) is an active sound processing system that can eliminate loud noises and boost quiet ones.

A battlefield is noisy, and damage to hearing from exposure to high decibel levels can be permanent. Simply using earplugs or other hearing protection that block the noise might seem like a good solution, but then you lose the situational awareness that comes from unimpeded hearing. Soldiers report they often have to remove such devices to hear communication from their comrades or to listen for concealed enemies.

TCAPS addresses both of these issues by setting an audio cut off for loud impulse sounds, like a gunshot for example. The volume of such an event is lowered to safe levels without muffling it. When it picks up sound that is below that preferred threshold, TCAPS can boost it to be easier to hear. The volume can even be increased to give the wearer enhanced hearing. The device can be recharged with a standard electrical outlet, vehicle plug, or with a solar charger.

The Army has so far deployed only 20,000 TCAPS devices so far as it evaluates the effectiveness. They’re expensive at $2,000 each, but the Army has paid out billions in disability compensation for hearing damage. This could save money in the long run. Not to mention it could improve soldiers’ quality of life by saving them from permanent battlefield-related hearing loss.

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