Systematic Evaluation of the Relationship between Physical and Psychoacoustical Measurements of Hearing Protectors’ Attenuation
The most commonly used methods to measure hearing protectors attenuation can be divided into two categories: psychoacoustical (subjective) and physical (objective) methods. In order to better understand the relationship between these methods, this article presents various factors relating attenuation values obtained with these methods through a series of tests. Experiments on human subjects were carried out where the subjects were instrumented on both ears with miniature microphones outside and underneath the protector. The subjects were then asked to go through a series of hearing threshold measurements (psychoacoustical method) followed by microphone sound recordings using high-level diffuse field broadband noises (physical method). The proposed test protocol allowed obtaining various factors relating the test methods as well as attenuation values and ratings for different protection conditions (open ear, earmuffs, earplugs, and dual protection). Results are presented for three models of passive earmuffs, three models of earplugs and all their combinations as dual hearing protectors. The validity and the relative importance of various terms used to correct the physical attenuation values when comparing with psychoacoustical attenuation values are examined.