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Piezo Pair Materials for the Selective Exclusion of Workplace Noise (PiezoSelEx)
Start date: Dec 1, 2010, End date: Nov 30, 2012 PROJECT  FINISHED 

The problem of Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) in the work place is a problem for SMEs and European workers, particularly in the manufacturing and transport sectors. NIHL results in reduced productivity from lost work days, insurance claims and potential early retirement. Current EU legislation requires employers to provide suitable ear protection for workers exposed to high levels of noise, but worker compliance is often low as they perceive the use of hearing protection as impairing hearing capability. Thus a suitable alternative to existing ear protection is needed, allowing speech and alarms to be heard whilst significantly reducing other potentially harmful sound. In summary the PiezoSelEx device will: • Promote productivity due to easier communication • Reduce the risk of NIHL • Contribute to a more comfortable work environment • Reduce employee absenteeism due to increased wearer comfort and a reduction in NIHL • Contribute to a safer working environment as warning signals will be easier to hear. The use of piezo materials in this proposal has many advantages over prior art of high end earplugs. The novel use of ‘piezo pairs’ self-powers the earplug, thus eliminating the need for external electrical equipment as is required by all current piezo earplugs. Furthermore, the use of sets of piezo pairs not only enables the device to cancel out all noise above 75 dB (A), but also ‘filter’ out background noise except for sound frequencies associated with speech and warning signals. The use of piezo pairs removes the need for batteries, thus having positive environmental implications. Ergonomic and safety testing of the prototype will take place to ensure maximum comfort and safety for users over extended periods of time. There are also a number of wider benefits for Europe. In addition to working environments currently protected by legislation our device may provide a driver to enforce new legislations, particularly in the entertainment industry.

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