Signal detection and speech perception with level-dependent hearing protectors
Keywords:hearing, speech intelligibility, signal detection, speech perception, level-dependent hearing protectors, industrial hearing conservation programmes, noise-induced hearing loss, noisy surroundings, protected listening
AbstractHearing protective devices (HPDs) are the mainstay of industrial hearing conservation programmes for the prevention of noise-induced hearing loss. Conventional muffs and plugs are level-independent devices, i.e., they reduce all sounds by the same amount regardless of decibel level. As a result, they may interfere with speech communication and acoustic cues to occupational hazard, particularly in individuals with pre-existing hearing loss. The present research was undertaken to determine whether level-dependent protectors might provide a more suitable alternative for this group. These newly-marketed HPDs either reduce sounds minimally or amplify them at low levels, depending on the design, and attenuate maximally at high levels judged hazardous to hearing. Signal detection and speech perception were assessed in quiet and in noisy surroundings with the ears unoccluded and protected with the two types of muffs. The effect on protected listening of ageing, as well as hearing loss, was assessed
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