I’m a fan of hearing protection. I mean that I endorse its use even when it’s ‘uncool’, like at concerts or clubs, or anywhere where there it’s excessively loud <cough> restaurants <cough>. The problem with a lot of hearing protectors is that they block sounds that may be beneficial to us – like alarms, sirens, calls for help, etc – sounds that are really important while you’re in a noisy workplace. So when I find out that people are working on improved ear plugs or other types of hearing protection which can selectively block out certain noises, I’m intrigued.
The product is called Piezoselex (‘Piezo Pair Materials for the Selective Exclusion of Workplace Noise’).
The prototype ear defender uses piezoelectric material to cut down the noise level reaching your ear drum to a safe level (under 75 dB).
Piezoelectric materials are simply materials that take a vibration, in this case vibration due to sound, and convert it into an electric signal. This type of material was chosen for this project for two reasons:
1. It enables the ear defenders to power themselves, and therefore require no batteries.
2. It allows ‘signal processing’ of the incoming noise, and therefore filtering of helpful sound frequencies (e.g. speech, alarms).
Let’s hope it works well and that workplaces start to provide these to their workers (a gripe I’ll have to talk about another day).