Monday, August 23, 2010

Norway Develops Smart Ear Protection

Short Canyon near the Jostedalsbreen, Norway
The petroleum industry is one that can be loud and hazardous. In Norway people in the industry report 600 cases of hearing loss each year. Now Statoil - Norway's largest company - is taking technology used by the military and turning it into an ear protection and communication device to be used on offshore platforms.

The device - called QUIETPRO - is more like a digital hearing aid than your typical earplug. There's a microphone on the outside, which filters out sounds and can be controlled by the user, and a microphone inside, which picks up speech as it travels through the skull, eliminating the need for a microphone outside the mouth. The newest device, in testing right now, even has an alert that will tell users when sound is loud enough to potentially damage hearing.

A noise specialist at Statoil, Asle Melvær, says, "Users of the new device do not have to strain to hear what is being said over the radio, and the noise reduction system in the earplug means that the level of sound is adapted to the surrounding environment. On board an oil platform understanding messages transmitted by radio can be a matter of life and death."

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