Despite the stringent government regulations relating to health and safety in the workplace, the incidence of industrial injury remains unacceptably high in many countries. Even though it is common enough to find notices displayed on South Africa’s mines proudly declaring that it has been 250 days or more since the last accident, not all industrial injuries are visible. In a high-risk environment such as this, one will rarely see a worker without a hard hat to protect against head injuries. Rather less obvious, however, may be the absence of earplugs that have the potential to save that worker from a lifetime of noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL).
Sound Pollution Poses a Serious Threat to Many South Africans
The gradual transition from a pastoral society to an industrial one has resulted in many improvements in the way we live. Today, through the convenience of air travel, we can fly between any of the nation’s major cities within an hour or two, and be anywhere in the world within the space of a day. We no longer have to face long walks to local destinations, or carry heavy shopping bags by hand, thanks to the ubiquitous motor car. For those who may not own a vehicle of their own, public transport offers the option of taxis, busses and trains. In the nation’s factories, the days of labour-intensive manufacturing have long been replaced by automated machinery that requires minimal input from its human attendants. Even our entertainment is now delivered directly to our eyes and ears through the modern miracles of television, radio and the internet.
The Alarming Increase in Noise-Induced Hearing Loss
While it may be true that the pair of facial appendages known as ears are not necessarily the most attractive of everyone’s features, a journey along the auditory canal reveals a structure of delicate beauty and precision beyond the tympanic membrane, in the middle chambers of the auditory system. Known as ossicles, the triad of tiny bones, consisting of the descriptively-named maleus, incus and stapes, or hammer anvil and stirrup, is responsible for conducting soundwaves to the inner ear.