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: Study shows why some types of multitasking are more dangerous than others

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 ...

Recommended for you

New insights on how cocaine changes the brain

November 25, 2015

The burst of energy and hyperactivity that comes with a cocaine high is a rather accurate reflection of what's going on in the brain of its users, finds a study published November 25 in Cell Reports. Through experiments conducted ...

Can physical exercise enhance long-term memory?

November 25, 2015

Exercise can enhance the development of new brain cells in the adult brain, a process called adult neurogenesis. These newborn brain cells play an important role in learning and memory. A new study has determined that mice ...

Umbilical cells help eye's neurons connect

November 24, 2015

Cells isolated from human umbilical cord tissue have been shown to produce molecules that help retinal neurons from the eyes of rats grow, connect and survive, according to Duke University researchers working with Janssen ...

Brain connections predict how well you can pay attention

November 24, 2015

During a 1959 television appearance, Jack Kerouac was asked how long it took him to write his novel On The Road. His response – three weeks – amazed the interviewer and ignited an enduring myth that the book was composed ...

No cable spaghetti in the brain

November 24, 2015

Our brain is a mysterious machine. Billions of nerve cells are connected such that they store information as efficiently as books are stored in a well-organized library. To this date, many details remain unclear, for instance ...


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.