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Hair cells in the inner ear can be permanently damaged after continuous exposure to sound pressure levels (SPL) over certain decibel (dB) levels. According to our labour law, more than 8 hours exposure to sound levels above 85dB is regarded as dangerous. For unprotected ears, allowed exposure time decreases by ½ the amount of time for each 3dB increase in SPL. For e.g. exposure should be limited to 8 hours at 85dB, 4 hours at 87dB, 2 hours at 90dB, etc.

Permissible exposure for unprotected ears at 105dB is 4 minutes per day!
Just as sunglasses help vision in very bright light, so do hearing protectors enhance speech understanding in noisy places. Even in a quiet setting, a person wearing hearing protectors should be able to understand a regular conversation. Hearing protectors do slightly reduce the ability of those with damaged hearing or poor speech discrimination to understand normal conversation however, it is important to prevent further noise-induced hearing damage. Most machine operators quickly adjust to quieter sounds and can still detect machine problems. Most people automatically speak louder in a noisy environment, therefore as the noise source levels are dropped, for example from 115dB to 80dB, and if speech is at 80dB, it is easily understandable despite the background noise.
When it comes to hearing, very few people realize the importance of protecting their hearing! Over the years we have seen and treated many people that have been affected by hearing loss. On average, 30% of the population is exposed to high noise levels during work or play, of which one third will suffer from occupational deafness by the time they retire. Before they actually become aware of their hearing loss there is a decrease in work efficiency, they get agitated, frustrated, aggressive, depressed, they feel more isolated from the community and tend to become withdrawn from society. Family conflicts frequently occur and some become paranoid.

Not only does their hearing-loss affect them, but physically and psychologically they struggle to get along with society.
It certainly takes a few adjustments – it’s a new lifestyle, but definitely worthwhile in the end. We don’t “feel” hearing loss at a young age (it’s painless!), but as we get older the sensorineural (nerve) hearing loss that can be caused by several factors other than noise (ageing, genetics, ototoxic drugs, viruses) could be reduced or prevented by addressing the noise-induced factors!

Due to the adaptations that need to be made and the fact that some hearing-protectors do not measure up to the persons needs, they choose not to wear them. People feel the costs are too high, they can “do without them”, they “interfere”, etc. Hearing loss is irreversible! Once the nerve is damaged, it never recovers. Having been involved in the hearing field for a considerable time and knowing that prevention is better than cure, Protec-Ear has devoted a lot of their time and energy into developing a hearing protector that is user-friendly, comfortable and affordable and that complies with and surpasses the minimum specifications laid down by the SABS and Department of Labour.
People differ in their sensitivity to noise. As a general rule, noise may damage your hearing if you have to shout over background noise to make yourself heard; the noise hurts your ears, makes them ring or leaves you slightly deaf for several hours after exposure to the noise.

Sound is normally measured in two ways: Intensity (loudness) is measured in decibels (dB). Pitch is measured in frequency of sound vibrations per second. A low pitch such as a deep voice or tuba makes fewer vibrations per second than a high voice or violin.
No. If you think you have grown used to loud noises, your hearing nerve is probably damaged. There is no treatment – no medicine, no surgery, not even a hearing aid can correct your hearing 100% once you have noise-induced hearing loss!
Frequency is measured in cycles per second, or Hertz (Hz). The higher the pitch of the sound, the higher the frequency. Young children, who generally have the best hearing, can often distinguish between sounds from about 20 Hz, such as the lowest sound of a pipe organ, to 20 000 Hz, such as the shrill sound of a dog-whistle that many people are unable to hear.

Human speech, which ranges from 300 to 4000 Hz, sounds louder to most people than noise at very high or low frequencies. When hearing impairment begins, the high frequencies are often lost first, which is why people with hearing loss often have difficulty understanding the high pitched voices of women and children.

Loss of high frequency hearing can also distort sound, so that speech is difficult to understand even though it can be heard. Hearing impaired people often have difficulty detecting differences between certain words that sound alike, especially words that contain s, f, sh, ch, h, or soft c sounds, because the sound of these consonants is in a much higher frequency range than vowels and other consonants.
Intensity of sound is measured in decibels (dB). The scale runs from the faintest sound the human ear can detect, which is labeled 0 dB, to over 180 dB, the noise at a rocket pad during a launch. Decibels are measured logarithmically. This means that as decibel intensity increases by units of 10, each increase is 10 times the lower figure. Thus, 20 decibels is 10 times the intensity of 10 decibels, and 50 decibels is 10 000 times as intense as 10 decibels.

Approximate Decibel Level Examples:

• 0 dB - The quietest sound you can hear
• 30 Db - Quiet whisper in a library
• 60 dB - Normal conversation, sewing machine, typewriter
• 85 dB - Lawnmowers, shop tools, truck traffic; 8 hours per day is the maximum exposure (protects 90 % of people)
• 100 dB - Chainsaw, pneumatic drill, snowmobile; 2 hours per day is the maximum exposure without protection
• 115 dB - Sandblasting, loud rock concert, car hooter; 15 minutes per day is the maximum exposure without protection
• 140 dB - Gunshot, jet engine; noise causes pain and even brief exposure injures unprotected ears. Maximum allowed noise with hearing protectors
Many experts agree that continued exposure to more than 85 dB may become dangerous.
It certainly does! The longer you are exposed to a loud noise, the more damaging it may be. Also, the closer you are to the source of intense noise, the more damaging it is.

Every gunshot produces a noise that could damage the ears of anyone in close hearing range. Large bore guns and artillery are the worst because they are the loudest. But even cap guns and firecrackers can damage your hearing if the explosion is close to your ear. Anyone who uses a firearm without some form of hearing protection risks hearing loss.

Recent studies show an alarming increase in hearing loss in youngsters. Evidence suggests that loud rock music along with increased use of portable radios with earphones may be responsible for this phenomenon.
A ringing in the ears called Tinnitus, commonly occurs after noise exposure and often becomes permanent.

Some people react to loud noise with anxiety and irritability, an increase in pulse rate and blood pressure, or an increase in stomach acid. Very loud noise can reduce efficiency in performing difficult tasks by diverting attention from the job.
Hearing protection devices decrease the intensity of sound that reaches the eardrum. They come in two forms: earmuffs and earplugs.

Earplugs are small inserts that fit into the outer ear canal. To be effective they must totally block the ear canal with an airtight seal. They are available in a variety of shapes and sizes to fit individual ear canals and can be custom made.

Earmuffs fit over the entire outer ear to form a seal so the entire circumference of the ear is blocked, and are held in place by an adjustable head band. Earmuffs will not seal around eyeglasses or long hair, and adjustable head band tension must be sufficient to hold earmuffs firmly against the ears.
- Small
- Comfortable in all climatic conditions
- Compatible with other forms of protection
- Less expensive
- Acrylic material does not absorb bodily secretions e.g. perspiration
- More comfortable to wear for longer periods of time

- Large
- Ear canals and outer ears become irritated in warm, moist climatic conditions
- Not compatible with other forms of protection
- More expensive
- Rubber or silicone materials absorb bodily secretions e.g. sweat
- Only comfortable for short periods of time

Custom made earplugs:
- Ear shape variations taken into account. Accurate fittings result in proper protection
- Will protect the user against damaging sound, while allowing the user to communicate
- Use of telephone possible
- Occlusion effect minimized
- Manufactured to be used long term
- Compatible with other forms of protection – hard hats and eye protection
- Worker pride – His own personalized set of hearing protectors
- Cost effective – permanent

Disposable earplugs:
- Ear shape variations cause inaccurate fittings thus resulting in improper protection
- Communication difficult
- Use of telephone not possible without removing the earplug
- Occlusion effect created
- Has to be replaced daily
- Not always compatible with other forms of protection
- One size fits all
- Expensive – has to be replaced often