The effects of hearing protection and experience on the ability to identify firearms by their auditory signatures
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Type of Workapplication/pdf
viii, 51 pages
DepartmentTowson University. Department of Audiology, Speech-Language Pathology and Deaf Studies
RightsCopyright protected, all rights reserved.
There are no restrictions on access to this document. An internet release form signed by the author to display this document online is on file with Towson University Special Collections and Archives.
Hearing protection devices are used to attenuate loud sounds that could be potentially damaging to the ear and cause hearing loss. The attenuation provided by hearing protection helps to reduce the risk of noise induced hearing loss, but it also attenuates important auditory cues for detection, localization, and identification of sounds. Many soldiers report that they do not wear hearing protection because they believe it compromises their situational awareness. This loss of auditory cues could be detrimental to soldiers who rely on their hearing for awareness of friendly or enemy troops and resources as well as for communication of orders. The purpose of this study was to determine if hearing protection devices had a negative effect on the ability of listeners to identify firearms by their auditory signatures. A secondary purpose was to determine if experience using small arms had an effect on recognition of weapon type as well. Results of this study for one- and three-shot listening conditions suggested that hearing protection does have a detrimental effect on identification abilities; participants scored lower when listening with hearing protection than with an open ear. A significant difference in scores was observed between the hearing protection and open ear listening conditions overall as well as in a one-shot condition. No significant differences were seen between one- and three-shot conditions, nor between the expert and novice experience groups. Based on these findings, hearing protection devices can have a small, but significant negative impact on identification of small arms fire. Despite this negative effect, it is still important for soldiers to wear hearing protection because noise induced hearing loss can have a greater impact on auditory skills.