TITLE: Auditory Situation
Awareness Training Tool
TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Human
ACQUISITION PROGRAM: PM –
Infantry Combat Equipment, Ground Combat Element Systems Marine Corps SYSCOM
(PM ICE GCES MCSC)
OBJECTIVE: Develop an
auditory situation awareness (ASA) training-measurement system that will both
measure and provide practice for the Marine warfighter and Naval ship deck crew
member in maintaining auditory situation awareness when using tactical
communication and protection systems (TCAPS), communications headsets, hearing
protection devices (HPDs), or with the open ear.
DESCRIPTION: Although the
Navy as well as other military branches recognizes the importance of providing
appropriate HPDs, communications headsets and TCAPS to soldiers to prevent
noise-induced hearing loss, currently there is neither a standard nor generally
agreed-upon method to measure auditory situation awareness afforded by such
devices, nor agreement on the elements such a test would include. This topic
looks to develop such measurement techniques and contribute to the development
of appropriate standards. It has been clearly demonstrated in several
empirical human factors experiments that certain advanced HPDs and TCAPS
compromise the wearer's auditory situation awareness, as compared to that
provided by the open ear, for various tasks which may include detection,
recognition/identification, localization, and pass-through communications
(1,2,3,4). With these scientific data in hand which demonstrate the
deleterious effects of certain HPDs and TCAPS on the hearing of signals and
speech, it is now incumbent in future procurement of such devices to evaluate
them with an objective test battery prior to selection and deployment.
Furthermore, it is essential to train personnel who must accomplish missions
which depend upon auditory situation awareness, about how to improve their
situation awareness on multiple task elements with the open ear alone, and with
a particular HPD or TCAPS which might be assigned to them. It has already been
demonstrated in a recent dissertation experiment that the human hearing sense
has "plasticity," and can indeed be trained to improve performance on
complex localization and recognition/identification tasks, both with and
without occlusion of the ear (5,6).
An ideal measurement-training system is anticipated to be a fully automated
system that will provide an immersive simulation that employs both visual
displays and auditory cues for the recognition/identification element and
localization element of auditory situation awareness. The system should be
operable by a Marine or Navy "trainee" who will be assigned a TCAPS
or an HPD, and not require a laboratory experimenter or technician to oversee
the measurement and training. The system should be able to stop/pause when the
trainee reaches certain predetermined performance level, and provide continuous
performance feedback at all times. Performance milestone criteria will be
required in order to determine when the trainee can advance to the next level,
or simply needs to be assigned a different product due to training
difficulties. The system should also incorporate a modular design so that
additional signals and background noises can be easily added after final system
development, to render the system applicable to a variety of mission scenarios
for which personnel training would be beneficial. The system should also
include a software module to semi-automate the system's acoustical calibration.
The proposed training system's display must be auditory only (no visual strobe
or other light displays). The auditory localization signals will be highly
directional, and vectored toward the listener, so as to not disturb others in
the vicinity. Signals are preferred to be at a supra-threshold level, to
ensure reliable detection and then localization, but loud presentations are
unnecessary and undesirable. Care must be taken in design not to disturb
others who are in the vicinity. For this reason, both the to-be localized
signals and any added background sounds will be presented at levels that are
only slightly higher than that of ambient sound of the installation facility.
The basic localization test signal sounds may be the composite signal sounds
(as used in other test batteries), and should include both low and high
frequency components to take advantage of interaural time and interaural level
differences, respectively. Task/mission specific sounds are desirable as
well. In addition to maintaining signal levels at supra-threshold but not
disturbingly loud levels, the installation kit may employ sound absorbing
curtains or lightweight baffles to limit sound leakage to nearby rooms.
The training system hardware and control laptop should be designed so that
entire kit will fit into two "suitcase-style" standard aluminum or
plastic storage cases, with a maximum size of 4ft L x 3ft W x 2ft H each. It
is expected that the loudspeaker setup will be mounted on an expandable,
gimbaled, telescoping, or other design that can be quickly
"broken-down" into transportable configuration. Once assembled,
which should require less than 15 minutes, followed by five minutes of calibration,
the fully installed loudspeaker system should be less than about 6.5ft in
diameter with a trainee seated at the center. Disassembly should require
approximately the same amount of time as assembly.
The training-measurement system will provide immediate performance feedback
with the goal of improving the wearer's auditory situation awareness, both with
the open ear and while occluded with a TCAPS or HPD, in order to familiarize
the user with the device and improve their situation awareness performance
prior to deployment. The auditory situation awareness system must include
objective, quantitative measurement on at least the tasks of auditory
recognition/identification and localization. The system will afford
introduction of various background noise spectra at different sound levels to
simulate a variety of mission environments that are typically encountered by
Marine and Naval personnel. The sound level of both background noise and the
test-training signals will be adjustable so that multiple signal-to-noise ratios
can be evaluated. For the recognition/identification task, the system should
allow the use of highly realistic, mission-specific sounds that would be
encountered in the environments of interest where HPDs or TCAPS may be
employed. For the localization task, the system should provide measurement and
training in both azimuthal plane (i.e., 360-degrees in horizontal) and frontal
elevation. Loudspeakers should be arranged with at least 15-degrees of
separation for both subtests. For both measurement and training purposes, the
system will provide metrics of both accuracy (correctness of response) as well
as response time, and immediate trial-by-trial feedback on both types of
metrics will be seamlessly provided to the trainee during a testing-training session.
The system will have the dual capability of being amenable to application for
personnel training purposes or for device evaluation and procurement decisions,
PHASE I: Demonstrate the
feasibility of a training-measurement system that will measure performance,
both accuracy and response time, for the recognition/identification and
localization components of auditory situation awareness. This will be
applicable to military trainees with HPDs, headsets, and TCAPS under at least 3
signal-to-noise ratios and various background noises, and compare the
performance to the open ear. For the sound localization element, the system
will measure at least 15-degrees of separation or smaller, in 360-degrees of
azimuth and 60-degrees of frontal elevation. It should measure at least
similar ASA task elements as in a prior-developed DRILCOM1 test battery or
similar, and test various combinations of visual displays and control input
devices. It shall establish situation awareness performance goals and milestones
of performance. The outcomes of Phase I report will yield a Phase II
developmental schedule that contains discrete milestones for actual system
development and plans for a prototype in Phase II.
PHASE II: Develop a prototype
training-measurement system that incorporates both visual and auditory displays
in accordance with the Phase II developmental schedule created in Phase I.
Conduct a full ergonomics task analysis review (i.e., not requiring human
subject testing) to ensure the training system’s capabilities are accommodated,
primarily by measuring inter-device differences via physical
microphone-analyzer testing to ascertain the signals' acoustical
characteristics in-situ. The training system should be fully automated and a
user should be able to initiate the training program and finish without any
major intervention/control from a trainer; this will also be subjected to a
task analytic review. The system should include semi-automated calibration
program that will enable calibration of the system by a minimally trained
PHASE III DUAL USE
APPLICATIONS: Develop a fully automated training system with a calibration
program and hardware installation kit that is intended for use by an individual
trainee on themselves for practice and learning purposes. The installation kit
will enable installation of the training-measurement system by one having
minimal technical skills in acoustics and without extensive effort. The
modular program will allow future increments of the training scenarios and
their associated performance metrics to accommodate training for various
missions that could be encountered, making the system useful for a variety of
military MOS (Military Occupation Specialties). The system will provide a
means to train warfighters with various devices and with the open ear on the
two auditory situation awareness tasks, and a means to measure the initial
performance levels that soldiers with a device can be expected to achieve
without any training.
Beyond the aforementioned military applications, the localization
training-acclimation system has strong potential benefits for civilian
workplace applications. For instance, in road construction, the localization
of horns and backup alarms on moving equipment is critical, and many run-over
accidents occur when these warning signals cannot be localized. Furthermore,
in manufacturing plants, forklifts and remotely-guided materials handling
vehicles have reverse alarms and motion beepers, respectively, to warn workers
of their positions. Any worker in these highly dynamic environments must be
cognizant of the location of dangerous equipment that moves in their vicinity.
Furthermore, these workers are also frequently wearing hearing protection due
to noise exposures. Thus, workers need training on the tasks of learning the
warning signals, what they mean, and how to localize them. Each worker could
go through a brief acclimation session with any hearing protector they are
supplied with, and learn to recognize and localize the sounds they will
encounter in the actual workplace. With fairly simple injection of relevant
warning signals into the system software, and calibration of these signals
acoustically, the training system can easily be adapted for specific workplaces
with relevant warning signals as well as ambient sound. Thus, industrial and
construction workers, prior to being placed on the job, can become
well-informed on the auditory signals to which they must be vigilant, and learn
how to localize those signals. Also, the training system can assist in the
industrial hygienist's selection of proper hearing protectors that best
facilitate the detection and localization of specific industry warning signals
such that situation awareness on the part of the worker can be maintained.
1. Casali, J. G. and Lee K.
(2016) “Objective metric-based assessments for efficient evaluation of Auditory
Situation Awareness Characteristic of TCAPS and HPDs, Final Report”. Contract
#W81XWH-13-C-0193, Department of Defense, Hearing Center of Excellence, January
14, 2016. (95 pages) (DoD contractor’s report.) http://www.dtic.mil/docs/citations/AD1017344
2. Talcott, K. A., Casali, J.
G., Keady, J. P. and Killion, M. C. (2012) “Azimuthal auditory localization of
gunshots in a realistic field environment: Effects of open-ear versus hearing
protection-enhancement devices (HPEDS), military vehicle noise, and hearing
impairment.” International Journal of Audiology, 51, S20-S30.
3. Clasing, J. E. and Casali,
J. G. (2014) “Warfighter auditory situation awareness: Effects of augmented
hearing protection/enhancement devices and TCAPS for military ground combat
applications.” International Journal of Audiology, 52, Suppl 2, S43-52.
4. Scharine, A., Letowski,
T., and Sampson, J. B. (2009). “Auditory situation awareness in urban
operations.” Journal of Military and Strategic Studies,11(4).
5. Casali, J. G. and
Robinette, M. B. (2015) “Effects of user training with electronically-modulated
sound transmission hearing protectors and the open ear on horizontal
localization ability.” International Journal of Audiology, 54, Suppl 1, S37-45.
6. Fluitt, K., Gaston, J.,
Karna, V., and Letowski, T. (2010). “Feasibility of audio training for
identification of auditory signatures of small arms fire (No. ARL-TR-5413).”
Army Research Lab Aberdeen Proving Ground MD, Human Research and Engineering
Awareness; Auditory; Training; Measurement
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