Tactical Earbuds Are The Next Big Thing In Soldier Safety

Health & Fitness
Screenshot via YouTube

Hearing loss is a huge problem for active-duty service members and veterans alike, but the military has done very little in the past to preempt auditory damage beyond issuing earplugs to troops downrange. Instead, the responsibility falls on the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide medical treatment and compensate veterans grappling with service-connected auditory issues.


But U.S. Army researchers are working to fix that with the tactical communications and protective system (TCAPS), a wearable designed to allow soldiers to communicate effectively in combat situations, without exposing their ears to damaging battlefield noises.

Army Lt. Col. Amy Blank and 1st Lt. Maggie Schad, two audiology experts from the  Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, are working with PEO Soldier to develop and field TCAPS, which will allow soldiers to communicate effectively in combat situations, without exposing their ears to damaging battlefield noises.

“Traditional hearing protection dampens loud level sounds from damaging hearing, but also blocks much needed low level inputs that soldiers need to hear to maintain their situational awareness on the battlefield,” Blank said. The wearable TCAPS fit like earbuds, which allow soldiers to communicate over radio while also protecting their hearing against the racket of automatic weapons fire. U.S. Special Forces troops were fitted for the first iteration of the TCAPS in 2014, but Blank and Schad are hoping they’ll be made a service-wide requirement. After all, maintaining hearing is key for readiness and mission success.

“In 2015, a study was conducted at Fort Campbell that simulated mild, moderate, and profound hearing loss profiles compared to normal hearing soldiers during team level maneuvers,” Schad said. “The results showed as hearing loss worsened, the lethality of the soldiers significantly decreased.”

Protecting service members’ hearing could also provide relief to the VA’s budget as well. According to a VA study, in 2015, over 1 million veterans were receiving disability compensation for hearing loss, and 1.45 million were compensated for tinnitus.

Military CME reported that in 2006, veteran compensation for hearing loss and tinnitus cost approximately $1.2 billion, and costs continue to be an issue as hearing loss has become the military’s “silent epidemic.”

Tinnitus, the VA found, is also linked to emotional distress in veterans: “71.9 percent of the 91 veterans with tinnitus they studied also had a diagnosis of anxiety, 59.3 percent had depression, and 58.2 percent had both conditions.”

“Our hope is to be able to make more ‘educated and informed’ decisions regarding hearing readiness for soldiers before we determine what level of hearing loss becomes critical to safety and situational awareness,” Blank said.

(U.S. Attorney's Office in Maryland)

GREENBELT, Md. (Reuters) - A U.S. Coast Guard lieutenant accused of amassing a cache of weapons and plotting to attack Democratic politicians and journalists was ordered held for two weeks on Thursday while federal prosecutors consider charging him with more crimes.

Read More Show Less
An undated image of Hoda Muthana provided by her attorney, Hassan Shibly. (Associated Press)

Attorneys for the Constitutional Law Center for Muslims in America have filed a lawsuit against Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Attorney General William Barr and President Donald Trump asking the court to recognize the citizenship of an Alabama woman who left the U.S. to join ISIS and allow she and her young son to return to the United States.

Read More Show Less
U.S. soldiers surveil the area during a combined joint patrol in Manbij, Syria, November 1, 2018. Picture taken November 1, 2018. (U.S. Army/Zoe Garbarino/Handout via Reuters)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States will leave "a small peacekeeping group" of 200 American troops in Syria for a period of time after a U.S. pullout, the White House said on Thursday, as President Donald Trump pulled back from a complete withdrawal.

Read More Show Less
Construction crews staged material needed for the Santa Teresa Border Wall Replacement project near the Santa Teresa Port of Entry. (U.S. Customs and Border Patrol/Mani Albrecht)

With a legal fight challenge mounting from state governments over the Trump administration's use of a national emergency to construct at the U.S.-Mexico border, the president has kicked his push for the barrier into high gear.

On Wednesday, President Trump tweeted a time-lapse video of wall construction in New Mexico; the next day, he proclaimed that "THE WALL IS UNDER CONSTRUCTION RIGHT NOW"

But there's a big problem: The footage, which was filmed more than five months ago on Sep. 18, 2018, isn't really new wall construction at all, and certainly not part of the ongoing construction of "the wall" that Trump has been haggling with Congress over.

Read More Show Less
(From left to right) Chris Osman, Chris McKinley, Kent Kroeker, and Talon Burton

A group comprised of former U.S. military veterans and security contractors who were detained in Haiti on weapons charges has been brought back to the United States and arrested upon landing, The Miami-Herald reported.

The men — five Americans, two Serbs, and one Haitian — were stopped at a Port-au-Prince police checkpoint on Sunday while riding in two vehicles without license plates, according to police. When questioned, the heavily-armed men allegedly told police they were on a "government mission" before being taken into custody.

Read More Show Less