Mary Roach, talks about ear cuffs, a new military-grade technology that will help soldiers preserve their hearing and minimize deafness and hearing disability among veterans. Roach's latest book is "Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War" (http://goo.gl/mbRirO).
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Transcript - With a really loud noise like an M-16 is 160 dB and something that loud just a second or two or a split second worth of exposure can cause some hearing damage. Whereas if you're talking about like a noisy street, a loud restaurant, 85 dB, you could be exposed for eight hours before you'd start to run a risk. So it's a combination of how loud it is and how long you're exposed. So it's a huge problem in the military. It's the number one expense that the VA deals with. It's a billion dollars a year for hearing loss and tinnitus for hearing disabilities.
And you think well, duh, put in earplugs or ear cuffs. And that's great until you need to communicate; you need to hear somebody yelling get down or there's someone over there. These are pretty important things to hear and so the idea is that you want to be able to protect hearing but also preserve what they call situational awareness, like what's going on around you. Because about 50 percent of that comes from hearing, even somebody riding a bike down the street so a lot of it is you're aware of things by sound, even if you don't realize that.
So the military's challenge has been to come up with a way to protect hearing but also enable you to hear more quiet places. In special operations they have something that they're using, which is really cool. It's these ear cuffs that magically, not magically it's technology, but they attenuate loud noise, they minimize loud noises. They sense something that's over a certain decibel level, cut that but amplify quiet noises like a human voice. So you put these on and when they're switched on it's kind of amazing you're kind of like the Bionic Woman; you're able to hear a conversation across to the street. So that's the challenge of military hearing. Read Full Transcript Here: http://goo.gl/ORFxlJ.
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