Situational Awareness and Background Noise

Your ears are a very important asset to situational awareness!

We hear all the time. Even when we’re sleeping our subconscious still listens.

During the daytime as we go about our daily work, routines, and activities, our ears send ‘input’ to our brain. Even when we’re not ‘listening’ we’re still ‘hearing’.

We are generally pretty good at distinguishing what would be unusual or out of the ordinary sounds in a given environment of background noise. Especially when we hear something that is loudly out of place, we take notice.


Background Noise versus Noticing Unusual or Out-of-Place Noises

In this context, background noise is defined as whatever it is that may be considered ‘normal’ for that environment. Depends on where you are, what’s going on, etc.. but most of us have a pretty good idea what that is as we go about our typical day.

In a quiet environment it’s quite easy to hear a louder noise. In fact it’s actually pretty easy to hear something that’s just a little bit louder than quiet background noise.

It’s not just loudness that we notice — when the frequency, pitch, tone of the sounds themselves change (compared to what’s ‘normal’ for a given environment), even though they might be about the same loudness – we may notice the changes.

The noisier the environment the louder the ‘unusual’ or ‘out of place’ noise needs to be before it’s noticed.

When the environment is fairly loud, we still notice these changes if we’re paying attention. However the louder the background is, the more it will mask noises beneath its threshold.

In other words, you may be able to speak fairly loudly to a person next to you and not be heard 30 feet away if the environment is filled with lots of noise. Whereas even speaking in a fairly low voice in a quiet Library will get noticed across the room…

I know this is common sense. However being aware of these things will help if you’re focusing on situational awareness.

Side note: I have a pair of ‘ears’ (hearing protection for the shooting sport) that have built-in microphones & amplifiers which GREATLY enhance the background noise. It’s amazing what you can hear with those electronic ears… They’re designed such that when you shoot, they instantaneously shut off to protect your ears. I’ve worn them while walking through the woods. You seemingly can hear ‘everything’…

Pro Ears – Predator Gold – Hearing Protection and Amplification


Your Ears and Situational Awareness

Eyes and Ears.

When actively in condition yellow consciously focusing on your situational awareness, not only ‘look’ with your eyes, but tune in with your ears.

Situational Awareness Drills

– Go outside and just listen. I sometimes enjoy just sitting out on the deck and listening to nature around me. I mostly will hear the sounds of birds. But it’s more than that. After awhile you can figure out if something’s happening over here or over there based on the bird sounds. They’re all different…

– While you’re out in pubic or around other people, listen to the words being spoken by those around you. Can you pick up anything that they’re saying? Can you figure out what they might be conversing about?

– As you move about in different environments, try to quickly identify the source of various sounds that you are hearing. What’s making the specific noise (noises)?

– Again as you’re out and about, identify whether a given noise is natural or man-made.

More: Additional articles on Situational Awareness

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