Objectives: Usability is an important but often overlooked aspect of personal protective equipment technology. As part of a worksite intervention trial of a new technology for prevention of noise-induced hearing loss that allows workers to monitor their noise exposure inside of hearing protection on a daily basis, we studied the usability of the daily noise exposure monitoring device.
Methods: We conducted surveys and focus groups for workers enrolled in an intervention trial of daily use of a noise dosimeter with a microphone fitted inside of an individual's hearing protector (QuietDose). Volunteers completed a baseline and annual survey that included questions about perceived usability of the QuietDose device. Responses to usability questions on the annual survey were abstracted and compared to whether the individual was still using the device. Finally, 16 in-depth focus groups were conducted with subjects to qualitatively explore common themes regarding the usability of the technology.
Results: Reported problems downloading data or starting and stopping the monitoring device and/or ear discomfort were associated with whether individuals chose to continue monitoring and downloading their noise exposure data. Perceived benefits of the technology included the perception that it could help preserve hearing.
Conclusions: A novel technology that allows workers to record noise exposures inside of hearing protectors on a daily basis has been developed. Current users of the device report positive perception about how the device is helping them prevent noise-induced hearing loss. However, in its current version, users reported a number of usability barriers that are associated with stopping use of the device. These barriers to use should be addressed as the technology progresses.