Hearing protectors: a dilemma involving acoustics and personal safety

  • Dennis Else

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis is concerned with the optimising of hearing protector selection.
A computer model was used to estimate the reduction in noise exposure and risk of occupational deafness provided by the wearing of hearing protectors in industrial noise spectra. The model was used to show that low attenuation
hearing protectors con provide greater protection than high attenuation protectors if the high attenuation protectors ore not worn for the total duration of noise exposure; or not used by a small proportion of the population.
The model was also used to show that high attenuation protectors will not necessarily provide significantly greater reduction in risk than low attenuation protectors if the population has been exposed to the noise for many years prior to the provision of hearing protectors.
The effects of earplugs and earmuffs on the localisation of sounds were studied to determine whether high attenuation earmuffs are likely to have greater potential than the lower attenuation earplugs for affecting personal safety.
Laboratory studies and experiments at a foundry with normal-hearing
office employees and noise-exposed foundrymen who had some experience of wearing hearing protectors showed that although earplugs reduced the ability of the wearer to determine the direction of warning sounds, earmuffs
produced more total angular error and more confusions between left and right.
!t is concluded from the research findings that the key to the selection of hearing protectors is to be found in the provision of hearing protectors that can be worn for a very high percentage of the exposure time by a high
percentage of the exposed population with the minimum effect
on the personal safety of the wearers - the attenuation provided by the protection should be adequate but not a maximum value.
Date of AwardOct 1976
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorG.R.C. Atherley (Supervisor)


  • Hearing protectors
  • selection
  • localisation
  • safety

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