The United States Army has funded the development of new, snood-style headgear to prevent short-term hearing loss in military working dogs.
The Canine Auditory Protection System (CAPS) has been developed to prevent hearing loss caused due to high-decibel noise in training, transport and operations in dogs.
"Even a short helicopter flight can affect a dog's hearing, resulting in impaired performance and inability to hear the handler's commands, which can hinder the mission," said Dr. Stephen Lee, senior scientist at Army Research Office. "This new technology protects the canine while on missions and can extend the dog's working life."
Zeteo Tech, Inc., in partnership with Pete "Skip" Scheifele M.D., Ph.D., a retired Navy lieutenant commander, professor at the University of Cincinnati and leading animal audiology expert, developed the CAPS gear.
The US Army Medical Research and Development Command supported the program as a part of a Small Business Innovation Research grant managed by ARO- an element of US Army Combat Capabilities Development Command's Army Research Laboratory.
Military workings dogs are used for a variety of roles, including tactical operations, patrol, detection and specialized search. Until now hearing protection systems available were rigid, cumbersome and hard to put on the dog, with limited effectiveness in testing for the protection of canine hearing, the US Army Research Laboratory said in a statement Tuesday.
The CAPS uses lightweight, high-quality acoustic absorption materials to block unwanted sounds. Unlike conventional canine hearing protection, this solution is constructed of flexible materials that conform to the unique shape of a dog's head. This flexibility ensures proper sealing around the ear and maximum sound reduction.
The snood-style headgear, resembling a close-fitting hood, uniformly distributes the pressure required to hold the hearing protection in place, while avoiding challenges associated with straps. At a little more than an inch thick, the device's low profile will not be a hindrance for dogs working in tight spaces. It is also compatible with other gear used by working dogs, such as goggles.
The research team tested the headgear extensively with military working dogs, as well as federal law enforcement working dogs, for wearability, usability and comfort. The team also measured the hearing protection effectiveness during helicopter operations and found a significant reduction in short-term hearing loss.