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Noise Health. 2011 Mar-Apr;13(51):93-8. doi: 10.4103/1463-1741.77200.

Heat and humidity buildup under earmuff-type hearing protectors.

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  • 1Division of Applied Research and Technology, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Columbia Parkway, Cincinnati, OH 45226, USA.


A major barrier to effective wear of hearing protection is comfort. This study examined several comfort indicators in the earmuff-type hearing protectors. Twenty subjects wore hearing protectors instrumented with two different temperature/humidity measurement systems (Omega and iButton) while walking a corridor for about 25 min. The instruments recorded the temperature and humidity every 10 s and their results were compared. In addition, skin surface pH was measured at the ear canal entrance before and after the task. Finally, the subject indicated earmuff comfort at the beginning and end of the session. Earmuff comfort decreased significantly over the course of the walking task. Ear canal pH became slightly less acidic, but the change was not statistically significant. The two temperature/humidity systems provided comparable results. Heat increased at about 0.3°F while humidity built up at about 0.5%/min. However, the study found some limitations on the instrumentation. The complexity of the electrical connections and equipment in the Omega probe system led to loss of three subject's data. The iButton device was more robust, but provided only 256 gradations of temperature and relative humidity. Even with its limitations, the iButton device would be a valuable tool for field studies. The present study showed that the buildup of heat and humidity can be modeled using linear equations. The present study demonstrates that relatively inexpensive tools and a low-exertion task can provide important information about the under-earmuff environment, which can inform assumptions about comfort during use.

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