Dogs in combat zones can suffer hearing loss from explosions, gunfire, even helicopter engines. The hero dog Conan who was brought to the White House several months ago was no doubt subjected to a serious ear-pounding (as well as an injury) when he cornered the leader of ISIS in a tunnel and the man detonated a suicide vest. Hearing protection for military dogs exists, but how well it protects dogs’ ears is not clear. Furthermore, it is rigid, cumbersome, and hard to put on.
Now, at the only U.S. hearing clinic for animals, based at the University of Cincinnati, animal audiology expert Pete “Skip” Scheifele MD, PhD, has been working on a better solution. With the help of a U.S. Army small business program managed by the Army Research Office and Zeteo Tech, a biodefense and medical device company, he has developed a new technology to protect dogs’ ears against short-term hearing loss while they are on missions. Called CAPS, for Canine Auditory Protection System, it resembles a close-fitting hood and is made of lightweight, flexible, acoustic absorption materials that conform to the unique shape of a dog’s head to block unwanted sounds. And the comfortable apparatus is compatible with other gear worn by working dogs, like goggles. The new technology has already been successful in tests with both military and federal law enforcement working dogs.