Intelligent earplug for rig workers
Posted Tue, 21 Feb 2012
Researchers in Norway have developed an intelligent earplug system to protect the hearing of offshore workers.
Norwegian Research Institute SINTEF is conducting a pilot of the system among 80 workers at energy firm Statoil. The system includes earplugs and a database which calculates hearing thresholds in real time and issues appropriate warnings.
The earplug contains an external microphone which picks up sounds from the wearer's surroundings and filters out harmful noise. Remaining sounds are then transmitted to the loudspeaker on the inside of the plug for the worker to hear.
Speech signals are picked up through the wearer's skull via a microphone on the inside of the earplug, avoiding the need for a traditional mouth microphone. Because speech is registered in the ear canal, the system cuts out the exposure to background noise often experienced when using traditional mouth microphones.
The Norwegian Petroleum Safety Authority receives around 600 reports of new or aggravated cases of hearing damage every year. SINTEF spokesman Olav Kvaloy said hearing loss is one of the only hazards still faced by rig workers, adding: "Everything else is very safe offshore."
Copyright Press Association 2012