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June 6, 2016 AT 11:55 am

US Army Using ‘Smart Earplugs’ to Dampen High-Decibel Noise, Enhance ‘Soft Sounds’

The US Army has been testing new technology to both protect soldiers from hearing loss from gunfire and explosives while simultaneously increasing their sensitivity to ‘soft sounds’ (think whispers, enemies stepping on twigs, etc.) while in combat. The device is called TCAPS for Tactical Communication and Protective System and as NPR reports over 20,000 of them are already deployed.

Interestingly, this is very similar in design origin to the TPS-L2 Sony “Walkman” from 1979 (then the “Soundabout”) which had a “hotline” button allowing a user to listen to the world outside their headphones without taking them off – similarly the TCAPS have what appears to be an electret microphone on the exterior of the earplug body, thereby providing both protection and amplification when needed:

tcaps

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Listen to the full report on NPR.


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