Mining Publication: The Effect of an Insertion Lubricant on the Noise Attenuation of Foam Earplugs
Real-world levels of attenuation from hearing protection devices are usually much lower than the rated values obtained under near-ideal circumstances. The shortfall is even more extreme for earplugs than it is for earmuffs, primarily because of the complicated process of fitting the plugs within the ear canal. This study examines the use of a commercially-available lubricant for hearing aids to determine whether it would facilitate improved fit and attenuation for earplugs. In this experiment, ten participants inserted earplugs with and without using the lubricant. Average attenuation was assessed with the Real-Ear-Attenuation-at-Threshold (REAT) technique, and showed over 5 dB improvement when the lubricant was used. Participants obtained an 85% mastery rate using the lubricant versus a 50% mastery rate without. These results indicate several possible applications for improved earplug performance in real-world settings where hazardous noise is unavoidable and effective hearing protection is necessary.