More than half of the soldiers the United States sends into battle come out with hearing damage that, in many cases, is unable to be fixed. However, 20,000 military members are going to be using smart earbuds that reduce high-level noises while heightening low sounds to give soldiers "super-hearing" capabilities.
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The new system is called Tactical Communication and Protective System (TCAPS) and, once made more affordable, can be used for everything from construction to rock concerts. Not only does it protect hearing, but it also allows soldiers to communicate over gunfire.
These earbuds fit because they are made of a foam that expands and contracts to fit every ear perfectly in about 20 seconds. However, they will only last for around a month, according to the Daily Mail.
This isn't new technology as it was developed in 2007, but it has been tested since then and improved quite a bit.
Captain Jack Moore, who was part of the Project Manager Soldier Warrior Team, explained that they wanted to help soldiers but also give them an advantage. "Over the years, we have seen a large amount of dollars being spent to benefit soldiers who had lost their hearing, either in training or combat," he said. "We are now trying to address that problem in such a way that we can not only get enhanced hearing protection, but we can also get an enhancement of communication capabilities incorporated as well."
"Your ears can't handle loud sounds without suffering mechanical damage to the inner ear that results in permanent hearing loss," Lt. Col. Kristen Casto, audiology consultant to the Army's surgeon general said.
In the past, soldiers have used homemade methods to protect their hearing, but they usually inhibit hearing. The unit looks like traditional earbuds and has some options to connect to a soldier's communication gear.
"The technology's not really that complicated," says Doug Brungart, chief scientist at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center's audiology and speech pathology center.
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Brungart says that the system adjusts the volume by itself. "The louder the sound outside gets, the more it turns down the volume," he said. "The person wearing the device can still hear the sound, but it's never going to get so loud that it's going to be damaging.”