Occluded insertion loss from intracochlear pressure measurements during acoustic shock wave exposure

David A. Anderson, Theodore F. Argo, Nathaniel T. Greene

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Injuries to the peripheral auditory system are among the most common results of high intensity impulsive noise exposure. Hearing protection can mitigate this injury, but careful assessment of the insertion loss they provide is necessary. Insertion loss is typically measured using microphone-based acoustic manikins to measure the decrease in sound pressure level transmitted into the ear canal, which precisely measure the change in air conducted sound, but neglect alternate pathways to the inner ear such as bone conduction. In a previous study we reported intracochlear pressures in cadaveric human specimens to acoustic shock waves, which revealed a substantial bone conducted component (Greene, et al., 2018). Here we evaluate insertion loss to several hearing protection devices (HPDs) in those same specimens using intracochlear pressure measurements. Methods: Human cadaver heads were exposed to impulsive acoustic pressure waves with peak overpressures of 7 and 28 kPa (171 & 183 dB SPL). Ear canal (EAC), middle ear, and intracochlear sound pressure levels were measured bilaterally with fiber-optic pressure sensors. Surface-mounted sensors measured SPL and skull strain near the opening of each EAC and at the forehead. Responses were measured with specimen ears unoccluded, as reported previously, as well as fitted with four types of HPDs. Impulse peak insertion loss (IPIL) and impulse spectrum insertion loss (ISIL) were calculated for each HPD. Results: For all HPDs, IPIL generally increases with exposure level, though ISIL tended to be more consistent, and the spectral characteristics across frequency appear to be highly dependent on exposure level. ISIL measured in the ear canal tended to overestimate insertion loss measured in the cochlea, particularly at frequencies > 1 kHz; however, low signal-to-noise in intracochlear pressures limited comparisons. As a proof of concept, 36 low-level unoccluded exposures, were averaged together, and the resulting signal-to-noise ratio was improved by up to 15 dB. Conclusions: Insertion loss measured in the cochlea was lower than in the ear canal, suggesting substantial contributions from transmission pathways in parallel with air conduction (e.g., bone conduction) were present, which will require novel strategies to mitigate. However, high variance was observed, and noise reduction strategies should be utilized in future studies to facilitate more precise insertion loss estimates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number108669
JournalHearing Research
StatePublished - Feb 2023
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022


  • Acoustic shock wave
  • Blast overpressure
  • Bone conduction
  • Hearing protection insertion loss
  • Intracochlear pressure

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.


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