Comfortable, Easy-To-Fit, Deep-Insert Earplug
Effective hearing protection is essential for service members who work in hazardous noise environments and for whom permanent or even temporary hearing damage affects performance, endangers lives, and reduces quality of life. Various devices have been developed to attenuate high levels of impulse and continuous noise while allowing low-level sounds to pass through. However, issues with comfort, ease-of-use, fit, and performance prevent widespread adoption and cause reductions in field performance compared to laboratory ratings. Furthermore, amplification of internal bone-conducted sounds in occluded ear canals increases discomfort and can mask other sounds, affecting communications and situational awareness. Paxauris’s innovative deep-insert earplug addresses these issues. It is easily inserted and removed, remains comfortable when worn for long durations, and creates a reliable acoustic seal deep in the ear canal. This deep seal maximizes attenuation while minimizing the occlusion effect. The result is a high-performance, reusable earplug that achieves a consistent, comfortable fit without the need for custom ear molds. In Phase I we demonstrated the feasibility of the Paxauris earplug by modifying our design for high-volume manufacture, fabricating production representative prototypes, and demonstrating the earplug’s performance on a biofidelic acoustic test fixture while also demonstrating fit, usability, and durability. An important aspect of our results is that due to our earplug’s innovative design, which makes it simple to insert correctly and hard to insert incorrectly, we do not expect significant degradation in performance between laboratory and field attenuation ratings. In Phase II we will further mature the design though an iterative development cycle before conducting qualification testing on production-representative prototype earplugs in our acoustic test facility using a biofidelic head simulator in the first year and following this with human-subject verification testing in the second year. We plan to conduct a field trial of the earplugs in a Phase II Enhancement. In Phase III we will commercialize the earplugs for military and civilian markets.
View award information at https://www.sbir.gov/node/2173531