The impact of hearing protection on sound localization and orienting behavior

Brian D. Simpson*, Robert S. Bolia, Richard L. McKinley, Douglas S. Brungart

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations

Abstract

The effect of hearing protection devices (HPDs) on sound localization was examined in the context of an auditory-cued visual search task. Participants were required to locate and identify a visual target in a field of 5, 20, or 50 visual distractors randomly distributed on the interior surface of a sphere. Four HPD conditions were examined: earplugs, earmuffs, both earplugs and earmuffs simultaneously (double hearing protection), and no hearing protection. In addition, there was a control condition in which no auditory cue was provided. A repeated measures analysis of variance revealed significant main effects of HPD for both search time and head motion data (p < .05), indicating that the degree to which localization is disrupted by HPDs varies with the type of device worn. When both earplugs and earmuffs are worn simultaneously, search times and head motion are more similar to those found when no auditory cue is provided than when either earplugs or earmuffs alone are worn, suggesting that sound localization cues are so severely disrupted by double hearing protection the listener can recover little or no information regarding the direction of sound source origin. Potential applications of this research include high-noise military, aerospace, and industrial settings in which HPDs are necessary but wearing double protection may compromise safety and/or performance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)188-198
Number of pages11
JournalHuman Factors
Volume47
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2005
Externally publishedYes

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