Development of an intra-aural protective device for hearing-impaired individuals working in noisy environments
AbstractOccupational hearing loss among workers is increasingly prevalent. Hearing impairment has consequences in the workplace including reduced efficiency in performing tasks as well as safety concerns due to difficulties in perceiving and localizing sounds. While hearing aids can mitigate these consequences in many situations, products currently available are not able to distinguish sounds of interest in a noisy workplace and can therefore increase the risk of further hearing loss by amplifying already high-level sounds. Moreover, there is no existing reliable solution to evaluate the sound exposure level of those workers wearing hearing aids. Ideally, a hearing-impaired worker would have access to a device that can allow for both attenuation and amplification of sounds to communicate properly in noisy environments. This project addresses the implementation of hearing aid algorithms into a device with two earplugs, each instrumented with a loudspeaker and two microphones, such that a final prototype has the benefits of both hearing aids and hearing protection devices. Intra-aural dosimetry is included for real-time monitoring of an individual’s noise exposure. The combination of those three features into one single intra-aural device would reduce the risk of further occupational hearing loss for hearing-impaired workers.
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