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Military service goes hand in hand with loud explosions and constant gunfire. It thus comes as no surprise that military veterans exposed to that noise come out on the other side with hearing problems.

The Department of Defense estimates that more than half of Post-911 veterans came home from Iraq and Afghanistan with hearing loss.

To prevent this trend from impacting a new generation of soldiers, Army researchers are perfecting new technology that will protect soldiers from suffering damage to their inner ears. The crown jewel of their smart ear technology is called the Tactical Communication and Protective System (TCAPS).

Introducing TCAPS – The Army’s Battlefield Buds

While they don’t look very different from your standard earbuds, TCAPS devices don’t just muffle noise–they change how you hear.

Soldiers need to maintain auditory awareness and protect their ear drums. TCAPS answers both of those needs by amplifying softer sounds and quieting loud ones. The device basically turns down the volume on the outside world and cranks it up again during moments of silence.

An estimated 20,000 TCAPS hearing devices have been deployed with American troops so far. You can learn more about how this technology works in this video posted by the Army.