U.S. Army Has A New Earplug That Protects From Loud Noises & Enhances Whispers


The U.S. Army has been slowly implementing a new ear plug designed to preserve the hearing abilities of soldiers who are in the frontlines.  According to the NPR, the Tactical Communication and Protective System (TCAPS) protects the ears from loud noises such as explosions at the same time still give them enhanced hearing of whispers and be aware of the noises in their immediate environment. This means that situational awareness gets improved while protecting hearing.

Hearing problems are always a problem in the military as soldiers handle equipment that can be loud such as artillery and firearms, or be in an environment of deafening sounds such as explosions and aircraft flying overhead. The NPR report also says that Defense Department statistics show that more than half of the troops who have returned from Afghanistan and Iraq have some sort of damage to their ears.

The TCAPS is the equipment procured to answer this problem. Made by Invisio of Sweden and supplied by their U.S. partner, TEA Headsets, around SEK40 million worth of orders has been placed in October 2013. The earplug supplied is said to provide crystal clear communications under extreme conditions with around 20,000 units deployed so far.

It is indeed a smart system that protects the soldier, lowering the volume as the sound gets louder such as explosions or guns being fired to prevent hearing damage while at the same time able to enhance soft sounds such as twigs breaking when stepped upon or a door being opened. Some of these TCAPS units can be integrated with communication equipment that can also enhance listening to radio messages.

You may ask why there are only 20,000 units in the field rather than more given that there are more troops in the U.S. Army. It is a matter of costs as it each unit costs US$2,000 so not all soldiers will be equipped with it unless the costs are kept down by the manufacturer that more can be ordered.

The implementation is taking time as it soldiers will need to get used to a new way of hearing while in the field. As what they are used to hearing as really loud gets soft while those they are used to as soft noise will be louder so they need to be trained since they may under react or over react to certain suppressed or enhanced sounds.

With a price point of US$2,000 (it might be more costly if there is one for the civilian market), it is not something meant for airsoft players unless they have money to burn. But it’s cool to have something that will alert you to certain noises while in the AO during a milsim event as someone creeping up to your position may have a hard time going stealthy as you can hear the faint noise he makes, keeping you alert.

Now soldiers have something to use in the battlefield that will insure that they have don’t get hearing impairment hearing when they RTB. Perhaps next time they get a technology that gives them super hearing abilities like Superman.

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