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.

"It's kind of like the equivalent of dropping a soda can into canyon and putting on a blindfold and going and finding it, because you can't just look down and see it," diver Jeff Goodreau said of finding the wreck.

The USS Eagle 56 was only five miles off the coast of Maine when it exploded.

The World War I-era patrol boat split in half, then slipped beneath the surface of the North Atlantic. The Eagle 56 had been carrying a crew of 62. Rescuers pulled 13 survivors from the water that day. It was April 23, 1945, just two weeks before the surrender of Nazi Germany.

The U.S. Navy classified the disaster as an accident, attributing the sinking to a blast in the boiler room. In 2001, that ruling was changed to reflect the sinking as a deliberate act of war, perpetuated by German submarine U-853, a u-boat belonging to Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine.

Still, despite the Navy's effort to clarify the circumstances surrounding the sinking, the Eagle 56 lingered as a mystery. The ship had sunk relatively close to shore, but efforts to locate the wreck were futile for decades. No one could find the Eagle 56, a small patrol ship that had come so close to making it back home.

Then, a group of friends and amateur divers decided to try to find the wreck in 2014. After years of fruitless dives and intensive research, New England-based Nomad Exploration Team successfully located the Eagle 56 in June 2018.

Business Insider spoke to two crew members — meat truck driver Jeff Goodreau and Massachusetts Department of Corrections officer Donald Ferrara — about their discovery.

Read More Show Less
(CIA photo)

Before the 5th Special Forces Group's Operational Detachment Alpha 595, before 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment's MH-47E Chinooks, and before the Air Force combat controllers, there were a handful of CIA officers and a buttload of cash.

Read More Show Less

The last time the world saw Marine veteran Austin Tice, he had been taken prisoner by armed men. It was unclear whether his captors were jihadists or allies of Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad who were disguised as Islamic radicals.

Blindfolded and nearly out of breath, Tice spoke in Arabic before breaking into English:"Oh Jesus. Oh Jesus."

That was from a video posted on YouTube on Sept. 26, 2012, several weeks after Tice went missing near Damascus, Syria, while working as a freelance journalist for McClatchy and the Washington Post.

Now that Tice has been held in captivity for more than seven years, reporters who have regular access to President Donald Trump need to start asking him how he is going to bring Tice home.

Read More Show Less

"Shoots like a carbine, holsters like a pistol." That's the pitch behind the new Flux Defense system designed to transform the Army's brand new sidearm into a personal defense weapon.

Read More Show Less

Sometimes a joke just doesn't work.

For example, the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service tweeted and subsequently deleted a Gilbert Gottfried-esque misfire about the "Storm Area 51" movement.

On Friday DVIDSHUB tweeted a picture of a B-2 bomber on the flight line with a formation of airmen in front of it along with the caption: "The last thing #Millenials will see if they attempt the #area51raid today."

Read More Show Less