High Level Impulse Sounds and Human Hearing: Standards, Physiology, Quantification

Report No. ARL-TR-6017
Authors: Bruce E. Amrein and Tomasz R. Letowski
Date/Pages: May 2012; 58 pages
Abstract: Assessing the noise hazard of high level impulse sounds created by friendly and enemy weapons is of critical importance since hearing loss negatively impacts mission success and unit readiness, and creates a costly common Soldier disability. Noise hazard assessment tools must strike a balance between minimizing hearing injury and creating high lethality weapons that ensure battlefield superiority and survivability. Existing tools, e.g., the U.S. National Research Council's Committee on Hearing and Bio-acoustics's (CHABA) Damage Risk Criteria (DRC), are not applicable for a broad range of military blasts, such as from improvised explosive devices (IEDs). This report provides background information and justification for using the auditory hazard assessment algorithm for humans (AHAAH), which incorporates state-of-the-art knowledge about the human hearing system to predict and quantify hearing loss caused by high level impulse sounds. This 10-year-old extensively peer-reviewed model has immediate value as a health hazard assessment tool and a design tool for the military. It can predict the onset of hazard in the human ear much more accurately than other methods and simulate the behavior of various hearing protection devices (HPDs). Further, its foundations in physical phenomenology are generalizable to new weapon sounds. The model provides engineering insight into the loss process to promote safer, more effective designs.
Distribution: Approved for public release
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Last Update / Reviewed: May 1, 2012