Sgt. Betty Boomer/U.S. Army
tcaps-1
Robots & Machines

These Earbuds Give U.S. Troops Superhuman Hearing

They dampen explosions and amplify whispers.

Adeel ShaffiJune 9th 2016

Drowning Out the Din of War

As a soldier, following commands becomes a challenge during combat where things can get pretty loud. The sound of gunshots, explosions, and blasts don’t just prevent soldiers from hearing their commanding officer, they also reduce their overall awareness.

Prolonged exposure to noise levels as extreme as these can certainly cause irreversible damage to a soldier’s hearing capabilities.

Thankfully, the U.S. Army has developed a new hearing system that boosts a soldier’s ability to hear his fellow troops as well as cuts down the battle noise in the field. It’s called the Tactical Communication and Protective System (TCAPS), and it’s already being distributed to deployed army units.

In Combat

Illustration of the TCAPS sound-deadening technology. Credit: peosoldier.armylive.dodlive.mil
Credit: peosoldier.armylive.dodlive.mil

The choice to protect a soldier’s hearing capability usually comes with steep consequences, such as soldiers being unable to hear one another. Typical ear protection also deadens all sounds—making it much harder for soldiers to establish where sounds are coming from. This is critical on the battlefield, especially when shots are being fired and one needs to know the source.

The Program Executive Office (PEO) Soldier program of the U.S. Army was able to make TCAPS exhibit the best of both worlds. TCAPS’ earbuds limit the battlefield noise to a tolerable decibel level.

While the wearer is still capable of hearing gunshots and can determine their source, the noise intensity is dampened as the sound waves from the gunshot enter a microphone which channels the sound to a sound-canceling device, modifying it before it reaches the wearer’s ears. This also allows the wearer to hear the voices of his fellow soldiers above the din of combat. TCAPS is also equipped with an acoustic sensor that enables the wearer to detect sounds that aren’t perceptible to the human ear.

The TCAPS, which comes with a pair of earbuds, a microphone, and sensors, is priced at $2,000 per unit. Engadget reported that 20,000 TCAPS have already been distributed throughout the army—enough to equip almost three combat divisions.

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