About Ear Protection
How loud is too loud?
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.
What is noise-induced hearing loss?
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.
Sources of noise that can cause noise-induced hearing loss include wind noise on motorcycles, firecrackers, and small firearms, all emitting sounds from 120 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 - which may subside over time. Hearing loss and tinnitus may be experienced in one or both ears, and tinnitus may continue constantly or occasionally throughout a lifetime.
Optimum hearing protection
There are many hearing protection devices available, from formable foam plugs to ear-muffs and banded ear-plugs, but custom-made ear-plugs differ from these in one important respect - they are manufactured individually for the ear canal of their user. From an impression of the ear canal, an ear-plug is manufactured to seal that particular ear canal fully. In some custom-moulded ear-plug products, the sound attenuation is determined by the attenuating action of the integral filter, and can therefore be selected within certain limits according to the noise exposure level.
Our custom-made hearing protection devices offer optimum protection for those who want to protect their hearing while engaging in noise-generating activities such as shooting, motorsport or concerts, while still providing the opportunity for communication. There are a number of products available to accommodate individual requirements, and hearing protection can be adapted to offer comfort while wearing ear muffs or a helmet. Other ear protection devices for swimming, sleeping or musicians are also available – have a look at our products page for more information.