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Sound safety
Date:5/12/2011

the diaphonic valve-on-a-chip and its capabilities for harvesting audio energy to couple communications into the ear arises from both the innovative components of the proposed technology as well as the societal impacts," says Juan Figueroa, the NSF program director who has overseen Asius's grant. "The improvement will allow users improved hearing all the time, rather than being forced to live with reduced hearing again and again due to device-related listener fatigue."

The new technologies emerged from Ambrose's experiences as a recording artist and audio pioneer. In 1976, Ambrose invented what would become the SoundSight MicroMonitor, the first high-fidelity, custom in-ear monitor (IEM), a headphone for monitoring amplified music during concerts.

While the small size, improved sound, and other advantages led to wide adoption of the IEMs, users realized early on that extended listening could result in uncomfortable fatigue in the ear, and sometimes pain. The experiences were not unique - hearing-aid users, battlefield soldiers using in-ear protection, and others using sealed-ear-canal devices reported similar experiences.

"From the beginning, I knew something would have to be done about this audio fatigue factor," says Ambrose, though he had trouble proving that pressures were so extreme. "I invented the diaphonic pump partly to prove that audio volumes could create static pressures in the ear that no one ever dreamed were possible."

The researchers corroborated observational data with a computer simulation of the effect, incorporating data from functioning ear canals, cadavers and fluid dynamics models.

Because the reflex is muscular, the researchers believe the repeated engagement and disengagement causes the tiny muscles to fatigue, leading to much of the pain and discomfort associated with listener fatigue. The researchers have submitted applications to conduct extensive studies to determine the role these factors play in contri
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Contact: Josh Chamot
jchamot@nsf.gov
703-292-7730
National Science Foundation
Source:Eurekalert  

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