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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.

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