Hearing Protection Earplugs (Custom-Made)

For Maximum Hearing Protection, Only Custom-Made Earplugs are Effective

  Apart from using them as a means of hearing protection, there are other sound reasons why an individual may choose to wear earplugs. One of the most common of these is simply to get a good night’s sleep. Many of those who live in noisier areas, who have a partner with a snoring habit, or who are simply light sleepers, often find that they are sufficient to exclude most external sounds, thus making it easier for them to drop off to sleep, and to prevent being re-awakened by every creak or rattle.

Some swimmers may also choose to wear them to prevent the entry of water into their ears. This can also serve to protect against the possibility of an aural infection. In this case, a snug fit is important to prevent leakage, and this is usually achieved with a product made from a material that, with warmth and a little pressure, can be moulded until its shape more closely resembles the natural contours of the wearer’s ears. Typically, products intended for the purposes mentioned are short-lived and disposable.

For a solution that is both more efficient and durable, especially where protection from noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) may be their prime purpose, custom-made earplugs are the only sensible choice. Sustained exposure to sounds of 85 decibels or above has long been known to cause irreversible damage to the tiny hair cells that line the cochlea and are responsible for stimulating the auditory nerve. The damage is cumulative, and so it worsens during each subsequent exposure, with the result that marked auditory impairment can become apparent quite quickly.

While lawnmowers and food processors at 90dB to 95dB pose a possible threat in the home, risks in the workplace can be far greater. For example, ground crew working in close quarters of jet aircraft under power could face a 150dB onslaught, while a construction worker will typically be subjected to around 110dB when operating a jackhammer. One may perhaps get a better idea of the potential dangers when considering that it takes no more than a minute and a half of exposure to 110dB before there is a risk of permanent damage, and that just one solitary exposure to 140dB, for instance, by a firecracker, is enough to initiate it.   Under the terms of the Occupation Health and Safety Act of 1993 and its subsequent amendments, in addition to its other provisions, employers in South Africa are now legally required to provide hearing protection for all of their workers whose jobs are considered to carry a risk of NIHL. For such purposes, earplugs can be both a highly efficient and cost-effective choice when they are custom made to fit both ears of each employee who is considered to be at risk.

A specialist and industry leader in this field, Hass Industrial (Pty) Ltd, offers a range of products and services designed to address the needs of workers at risk of NIHL which, despite best efforts worldwide, continues to remain one of the most prevalent forms of occupational infirmities. Much of the reason for this apparent failure, however, lies not with legislation or the compliance of the employer, but with the quality of available products which, to be effective, should shield the wearer from danger, yet not interfere with his or her ability to communicate freely as required. This, in turn, requires a unit that combines the most efficient materials with the most effective design. With its Noise-Ban range, Hass Industrial has achieved precisely that. However, to ensure that it delivers a long-term solution to the problem of NIHL, the company also backs the effective hearing protection provided by its custom-made earplugs with a comprehensive management programme that starts with an assessment of each client’s particular needs.

The assessment phase includes a determination of actual noise exposure levels and audiometric screening of all workers who are exposed to them, and continues with an explanation of the proposed solution, the implementation process and recommendations with regards to the training of staff and campaigns to raise awareness. When ready to proceed, following and aural examination, impressions are made of each ear and used in the manufacturing process to tailor a perfect fit.

Currently, world-class hearing protection is offered by the company’s iconic Noise-Ban range of three high-quality earplug products, each manufactured in compliance with ISO 9001:2015 and custom made for maximum safety under the prevailing workplace conditions.

Custom-Made Hearing Protection

Custom-Made Hearing Protection is Essential in Many Work Environments



While there has been a steady decline in the incidence of noise-induced hearing loss in the industrial sector, the condition has certainly not been eliminated from the workplace. In addition, WHO statistics indicate that the overall incidence of NIHL has actually increased, and that excessive noise should now be recognised as the leading cause of auditory impairment worldwide. The apparent contradiction between the two sets of statistics is easily explained. In most industrialised countries, including South Africa, legislation has made it mandatory for employers to supply those workers who are required to work in noisy condition with some form of hearing protection, although not necessarily custom made. Despite the legislation, however, cheap inferior products, lack of surveillance, discomfort and human nature mean that not all workers are adequately protected

By contrast, there is very little legislation designed to protect the general public from the many sources of excessive noise encountered outside of the working environment. Not surprisingly, therefore, it is among this group that the dramatic increases in NIHL are to be found, and the proportion of children and young adults affected in this manner is growing at an alarming rate.

While few members of the public are likely to be aware of it, exposure to sound with a volume of 85 decibels or more is enough to cause damage to the delicate hair cells that line the walls of the cochlea, and are responsible for sending signals to the brain via the auditory nerve. The longer the exposure, the more extensive the damage, and since the body cannot regenerate hair cells, it will result in varying degrees of permanent deafness.

To put this threshold figure into perspective, a typical conversation produces between 50dB and 60dB while, even at a distance of 2 kilometres, during descent, a Boeing 737 can rack up 90dB and, at 10 metres, a jackhammer pound out almost 110dB. These figures, however, pale when compared to the 130+ blast experienced at a rock concert, and easily duplicated by most car stereos and portable music devices. While wearing custom-made hearing protection was once only considered necessary for factory workers and those working in equally noisy environments, the needs of the so-called “Walkman Generation” are now even greater.

A pair of earmuffs may serve as a good way to keep one’s ears warm during a cold snap, but as a means of blocking loud sounds, in most cases, they are likely to be of little use. Instead, what is required in order to exclude the entry of sound effectively is a product that has been specially moulded, so as to fit snuggly into the contours of the outer ear. Ironically, the earbuds commonly used with portable music devices are designed along similar principles but, in this case, this is intended to prevent sound from escaping. Accordingly, these accessories have been widely implicated as a prominent cause of the increased incidence of NIHL among young people.

For the unfortunate youth, turning down the volume or wearing ear plugs at a concert could help, but for those exposed to persistent high-noise levels, for eight hours or more every day, only custom-made hearing protection will be sufficient when there is simply no way to turn down the volume. From a practical viewpoint, the need is for a product that, while protecting the wearer from the ill effects of noise, does not obstruct his or her ability to communicate easily.

Since 1992, H.A.S.S. Industrial (Pty) Ltd has been manufacturing high-quality products with these essential properties for distribution to the South African market under the Noise-Ban™ marque. The range consists of three models, each with its particular characteristics and related benefits. Of these, the first is known as the Noise-Ban Elite, and is a durable, lightweight product whose contours are customised to fit the individual wearer. The extra comfort proved by the personalised fit of this custom-made hearing protection product means that its users are encouraged to wear them both more consistently and for lengthier periods. In-depth leak testing during fitment confirms their performance, which is guaranteed for 12 months (TERMS AND CONDITIONS APPLY).

The Noise-Ban Soft product is made from softer silicone and offers the best choice for use beneath protective headgear. The last of the trio is Noise-Ban Detect. It permits the use of metal scanning equipment to monitor their use and to distinguish between those who may be wearing this custom-made hearing protection device, and those who are not.

ABOUT NOISE-INDUCED HEARING LOSS

We experience sound in our environment every day, such as the sounds from television and radio, people conversing, and traffic. Normally, we hear these sounds at safe levels that do not affect our hearing.

However, when we are exposed to harmful noise – sounds that are too loud or loud sounds that last a long time – sensitive structures in our inner ear can be damaged, causing noise-induced hearing loss. These sensitive structures, called hair cells, are small sensory cells that convert sound energy into electrical signals that travel to the brain. Once damaged, our hair cells cannot grow back.

Noise-induced hearing loss is irreversible, and there is no cure.

Noise-induced hearing loss can be caused by a one-time exposure to an intense impulse sound, such as an explosion, or by continuous exposure to loud sounds over an extended period of time, such as noise generated in a mine or factory, or those who shoot regularly.

Sound is measured in units called decibels. On the decibel scale, an increase of 10 means that a sound is 10 times more intense, or powerful. To your ears, it sounds twice as loud. The humming of a refrigerator is 45 decibels, normal conversation is approximately 60 decibels, and the noise from heavy city traffic can reach 85 decibels. A noisy factory can reach levels of up to xx decibels.

Sources of noise that can cause noise-induced hearing loss include wind noise on motorcycles, firearms, mines, factories and construction sites, which can emit sounds from 85 decibels up to 150 decibels. Long or repeated exposure to sounds at or above 85 decibels can cause hearing loss. The louder the sound, the shorter the time period before noise-induced hearing loss can occur. Sounds of less than 75 decibels, even after long exposure, are unlikely to cause hearing loss.

Exposure to harmful sounds causes damage to the hair cells as well as the auditory nerve. Impulse sound can result in immediate hearing loss that may be permanent. This kind of hearing loss may be accompanied by tinnitus – a ringing, buzzing, or roaring in the ears or head. Continuous exposure to loud noise can also damage the structure of hair cells, resulting in hearing loss and tinnitus, although the process occurs more gradually than for impulse noise.

Hearing loss and tinnitus may be experienced in one or both ears, and tinnitus may continue constantly or occasionally throughout a lifetime. Ear Institutes, situated in South Africa and Namibia offer advice on tinnitus and specialise in hearing healthcare for the entire family – click here for an Ear Institute near you.