Texting proves beneficial in auditory overload situations

May 31, 2013

During command and control operations, military personnel are frequently exposed to extreme auditory overload – essentially bombarded by multiple messages coming from radio networks, loudspeakers, and live voices in an environment also filled with high-level noise from weapons and vehicles.

Adding a visual cue, such as texting, was explored by a team of researchers in Canada as a way to overcome this problem. Sharon Abel, defense scientist at Defence Research and Development Canada, will present her team's findings at the 21st on Acoustics (ICA 2013), held June 2-7 in Montreal.

"In , it's critical that messages be monitored, encoded, responded to and relayed accurately, in a timely manner, to ensure situational awareness, personal safety, and mission success," explains Abel.

To test the value of adding a visual cue to the mix, the researchers ran two experiments. First, they investigated the benefit of using to direct the listener's attention to an audio channel delivering a target message. Inside a mock-up military land vehicle, participants were exposed to multiple messages over right and left earphones via headset, and . Variables included a background of quiet or vehicle noise, with and without babble noise that modeled surrounding conversations, and with and without visual cues.

For their second experiment, the team tested the benefits of instant messaging as a supplement to audio presentation of information by asking participants to engage in two tasks simultaneously. Participants listened to pairs of phrases in right and left headset , while at the same time they had to decide whether or not simple math equations—presented over a loudspeaker, as a text message, or both—were correct.

"Participants had no difficulty responding to messages presented over the headset, although, there was a right ear advantage," Abel says. "We discovered that messages presented over a loudspeaker in noise were more difficult to understand. But a visual cue directing attention and text messaging resulted in significant improvements in performance. Our findings suggest that the use of the visual system is a viable supplement for communication in cases of auditory overload or degraded listening."

While the team's findings are particularly relevant for military operations, they may also prove quite useful to a diverse range of civilian trades that involve processing auditory information from multiple sources—such as air traffic control, office management, and group tutorials.

Explore further: Background noise in the operating room can impair surgical team communication

More information: Presentation 1pNSa3, "Supplemental text messaging for the resolution of auditory overload," is in the afternoon session on Monday, June 3. Abstract: asa.aip.org/web2/asa/abstracts/search.jun13/asa206.html

Related Stories

Fear factor: Study shows brain's response to scary stimuli

February 8, 2013

(Medical Xpress)—Driving through his hometown, a war veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder may see roadside debris and feel afraid, believing it to be a bomb. He's ignoring his safe, familiar surroundings and only ...

Sore thumbs? US text messaging declines

May 2, 2013

Americans are saying goodbye to text messaging, a wireless industry group says, as Internet-based applications such as Apple's Messages are starting to taking over from what was once a cash cow for phone companies.

Recommended for you

Rat brain atlas provides MR images for stereotaxic surgery

October 21, 2016

Boris Odintsov, senior research scientist at the Biomedical Imaging Center at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, and Thomas Brozoski, research professor ...

Imaging technique maps serotonin activity in living brains

October 20, 2016

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that's partly responsible for feelings of happiness and for mood regulation in humans. This makes it a common target for antidepressants, which block serotonin from being reabsorbed by neurons ...

Overcoming egocentricity increases self-control

October 19, 2016

Neurobiological models of self-control usually focus on brain mechanisms involved in impulse control and emotion regulation. Recent research at the University of Zurich shows that the mechanism for overcoming egocentricity ...

Exercise may help ward off memory decline

October 19, 2016

Exercise may be associated with a small benefit for elderly people who already have memory and thinking problems, according to new research published in the October 19, 2016, online issue of Neurology, a medical journal of ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.