The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has published a specific need under the topic area of Control Technology and Personal Protective Equipment for High Risk Occupations to develop an inexpensive hand-held earplug test device based on the NIOSH QuickFit concept. As such, this project, as proposed, has been designed to develop just such a system. Using the QuickFit prototype device as a baseline, Adaptive Technologies is proposing to refine the concept to include functionality and system architecture based on the psychoacoustic response and environmental sensitivities of such a device. As part of the development cycle, testing will be conducted to qualify the performance of the baseline concept technology in representative environments. The human interface design will also be reconsidered to allow for simple, quantitative assessments to be made without concern for misuse or subject cheating. A successful conclusion of the Phase I and Phase II projects associated with this proposed research area will be a field ready insert hearing protection evaluation system that allows self-proctored testing for proper earplug use.
Approximately 30 million workers are exposed to hazardous noise on the job . While we would prefer to eliminate noise through engineering controls or reduce exposure to noise through administrative controls, hearing protectors are critical when noise is unavoidable. Hearing protectors only work if they are fit and worn properly. Unfortunately, some studies have shown that this is only true for about 7% of the population . In fact, average protection values in the real world are much lower than the labeled Noise Reduction Ratings (NRR) determined in laboratories with trained and motivated subjects. Worse yet, many people receive virtually no protection at all because of poor fit . It's hard to tell f hearing protectors are working well just by looking at them. A more accurate approach is needed to provide immediate feedback on how well someone is being protected. The QuickFit technology has been shown in the laboratory environment to be an effective means by which someone can self-test for hearing protector attenuation of at least 15dB. This project aims to refine and commercialize the QuickFit technology to make it available to a broader population of users.