Sound Localization and Hearing Protection Devices

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Introduction A hearing protection device (HPD) is often used as a protective measure in a workplace environment when the sound levels of that environment cannot be decreased and such levels pose a threat to the hearing of workers. An HPD is a safety device worn by individual’s to protect his or her hearing from the harmful effects of sound (Berger, 2003). A variety of occupational environments are known to produce high levels of noise, including factories and military operations. Individuals employed in these professions may be required to wear HPDs to reduce the risk of noise-induced hearing loss. However, certain situations in these work environments require the listener to also be able to hear low-level sounds for safety reasons. There is difficulty in providing a HPD that attenuates the high-level sounds while allowing low-level sounds to be perceived. More often than not, individuals must choose between protecting their hearing while missing out on essential low-level auditory information, or going without hearing protection and putting themselves at risk for temporary or permanent noise-induced hearing loss (Brungart & Hobbs, 2007). Furthermore, the implementation of HPDs can change the temporal and spectral cues of an auditory signal, which can interfere with one’s ability to locate the direction of a sound source (Bolia et al. 2001). Without localization abilities, an individual is more at risk for occupational hazards as well as jeopardizing their safety and the safety of others. Styles of HPDs and their effects on sound localization will be discussed to provide information for individuals required to wear hearing protection in high-risk professions. Types of Hearing Protection Devices Different styles of hearing pr... ... middle of paper ... ...l Hygiene Association (AIHA). Ch. 10, 379-454. Bolia, R.S., D’Angelo, W.R., Mishler, P.J., & Morris, L.J. (2001). Effects of Hearing Protectors on Auditory Localization in Azimuth and Elevation. Human Factors, 43(1), 122-128. Borg, E., Bergkvist, C., & Bagger-Sjoback, D. (2008). Effect on Directional Hearing in Hunters Using Amplifying (Level Dependent) Hearing Protectors. Otology & Neurotology, 29, 579-585. Brungart, D.S. & Hobbs, B.W. (2007). A Comparison of Acoustic and Psychoacoustic Measurements of Pass-Through Hearing Protection Devices, in Proceedings of 2007 IEEE Workshop on Applications of Signal Processing to Audio and Acoustics, New Paltz, New York. Oct 21-24, 2007. Simpson, B.D., Bolia, R.S., McKinley, R.L., & Brungart, D.S. (2005). The Impact of Hearing Protection on Sound Localization and Orienting Behavior. Human Factors, 47(1), 188-198.
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