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Sound safety
Date:5/12/2011

s loud volumes seem lower than they really are," adds Gido, "potentially prompting the listener to turn up the volume even more." The ear drum, already shaken by the oscillations of the pressure chamber, is further impacted by the boosted volume.

The resulting physical strain, along with the repeated activation of the tiny muscles involved in the acoustic reflex, are what the researchers believe may lead to listener fatigue.

To counter the oscillations, Ambrose and his colleagues developed a way to use a membrane outside the ear drum to take the brunt of all the pounding. This "sacrificial membrane" disrupts the excessive pressure waves, protecting the ear drum and preventing the triggering of the acoustic reflex, ultimately leading to lower, safer listening volumes.

The papers describe two approaches for introducing the new technology. The simplest involves a retrofit that can be applied to existing in-ear headphones and builds upon earlier studies of hearing aids. For decades, audiologists have known that sealed ear canals create distracting side effects, such as the occlusion effect that causes one's voice to sound muffled. In years past, audiologists drilled small holes to alleviate the pressure; however, the holes also led to squealing feedback effects and diminished sound quality.

Ambrose discovered that stretching a thin film of medical-grade polymer over the pressure-alleviating hole reseals the environment, yet provides a sacrificial membrane to absorb the abusive pressures. Based on the conclusions of the recent papers, the membrane-hole modification appears to eliminate the overpressure effects that impact the users of many headphones, hearing aids and other devices.

For greater sound pressure reduction and potentially improved sound quality, Asius also developed a more advanced corrective device: a small, inflatable seal called an Ambrose Diaphonic Ear Lens (ADELTM). The ADELTM, which looks like a tiny ear-sealin
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Contact: Josh Chamot
jchamot@nsf.gov
703-292-7730
National Science Foundation
Source:Eurekalert  

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