Hearing damage is an extremely common consequence of working in high-noise environments. In many countries, workers are obliged by workplace law to wear hearing protection to combat the damage exposure can cause. Of course, this is rendered much less effective when workers have to pull their earmuffs off to talk to each other on the factory floor or answer a mobile phone.
Sensear's innovative hearing protection earmuffs and earplugs aim to combine hearing protection with clear communication, using a combination of techniques to separate ambient noise from speech:
- A series of directional microphones takes sound in from all directions for processing.
- A complex frequency algorithm determines if speech is coming from any particular direction, as opposed to ambient noise. Where speech is detected, all other directions are supressed while the speaker's direction is further processed to remove the ambient noise while enhancing and amplifying the speaker's voice.
- The processed sound is delivered in stereo to the wearer, so that speech, alarms and other noises can be directionally pinpointed by the wearer.
The system also includes Bluetooth integration to let workers answer a mobile phone without removing their hearing protection. In this case the Sensear system also doubles as a noise reduction microphone that cuts out ambient noise that's delivered to the caller as well.
Sensear will produce a self-contained earmuff unit as well as an earplug setup with a remote processing unit roughly the size of an iPod Nano, which they expect will be popular for staff at live music events, bars and nightclubs.