STTR Phase I: Self-Inflating bubble provides comfortable, effective hearing protection with directionality

Period of Performance: 01/01/2014 - 12/31/2014

$225K

Phase 1 STTR

Recipient Firm

Asius Technologies, LLC
1257 Whitehall
Longmont, CO 80504
Principal Investigator, Firm POC

Research Institution

Vanderbilt University
2400 Blackmore Ave
Nashville, TN 37212

Abstract

The broader impact/commercial potential of this project will be to improve HPD use-rates among workers in loud noise environments, reduce permanent hearing loss rates and usher in the field of sealed-ear bio-acoustical studies. This HPD is expected to provide greater comfort and fit than custom earplugs yet have a cost similar to the annual expense of the foam type. The use-rate with this HPD is expected to compete with and likely exceed that of the custom earplugs and be the new hearing protection device of choice for both markets. The anticipated hearing protection device use-rate increase in loud workplaces will have the effect of improving workers? health and stabilizing their productivity rates, positions and wages. The presence of this HPD with its novel approach to hearing protection on the market will enhance appreciation for hearing health and further popularize biophysics solutions to everyday issues. The underlying research will open up interest in sealed-ear bio-acoustical phenomena. Once the performance results of this HPD and the associated tympanic membrane response study reaches the mainstream audiological and acoustic research communities, the desire to evaluate the health effects of a range of in-ear audio devices and associated ear canal acoustics will become widespread. This Small Business Technology Transfer Research (STTR) Phase I project addresses the need for a hearing protection device (HPD) that is comfortable to wear, effectively blocks harmful sounds and yet enables communication. HPDs go unused or misused in loud workplace environments due to discomfort and insufficient utility with regards to situational awareness leading to the single most extensive non-fatal labor-based sickness of permanent hearing loss in the United States and in particular, among members of the armed forces. A prototype HPD is under development with a soft, ?disappears from perception? inflatable ear-coupler that fully seals and isolates the ear from exterior sound and with variability to adjust for differing loudness situations. Tests will measure sound isolation, speech recognition, occlusion effect, and perceived comfort, occlusion and stress on the tympanic membrane compared to the most common earplug style hearing protection devices on the market today. Standard audiometric methods such as Real Ear Attenuation at Threshold, Microphone In Real Ear, tympanometry, and reflectance will be used to perform tests. Expected results include improved sound isolation, clearer speech recognition, significantly less to no occlusion effect, greatly preferred comfort levels and reduced stress on the tympanic membrane compared to the common hearing protection devices.