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Hearing protection is provided in the workplace with a 80dB Health & Safety Executive limit, but we are seeing more hearing loss cases from recreational activities, including motorcycle riding, shooting and the playing of music.

Nowadays people realise noise in the workplace can damage hearing and steps are taken in the form of ear muffs and disposable plugs all being readily available. So, seeing damage arising from loud music, motorcycling and motorsport, shooting, and surfing needs attention, to reduce the likelihood of damage to your hearing.

This overloading of the finely tuned hearing system, can lead to permanent damage and distortion, a lack of accurate fine tuning, hearing sounds that aren’t there (tinnitus), over-sensitivity to loud sounds, reduced sensitivity to quiet sounds, reduced reaction times, and even – they have now found – damage to the brain itself.

Here’s how to protect your hearing in 3 easy steps …

1. Know where the danger lies …

There are 2 types of noise threat:

The instant kind, where the sound is so loud that it instantly causes mechanical damage to the sensory cells, not all of them, it is mainly those higher pitched sounds where some of the most important consonants are. It leaves an area of your hearing with a “bald spot” of no hearing, a patch that will spread if you continue to assault it with noise. This type of damage comes from blasts, gunfire, impact sounds, percussive sounds, and very loud sudden sounds. If you encounter these sorts of sounds as part of your job or a hobby, get yourself some suitable hearing protection.

The second type is where the sound is over a certain level for prolonged periods of time, more usually associated with noisy occupations. Our ears can’t produce enough of the right chemicals to keep up with the prolonged onslaught of sound, and can’t get rid of the waste chemicals quickly enough. As a result the sensory cells get exhausted and… die. Every time you encounter these types of sounds, it adds to the wear and tear that’s already there. This second type of noise damage comes mainly from music over a certain level and machine noise. But how loud does it have to be?

The simple rule is:

“If you have to shout or stand close to hear, the volume is too loud.”

2. Guard against hearing damage …

Other people certainly do not concern themselves with your hearing being damaged, if you go to most night clubs, or concerts – even a seemingly innocent school disco – and you’ll find the music is pumped up so loud, that glasses of drink are vibrating (so what’s happening to your hearing?).

There is legislation in place to control noise at work, but in your leisure time such legislation is not easily enforced. That is why the amplifiers are being pushed to the limit because that’s what their users think they’re supposed to do. It’s like seeing how fast you can drive your car or push your motorcycle on a road without speed limits. But why should you miss out on doing the things you enjoy just because of other’s lack of awareness? If you want to be there, you should: your hearing’s there to be enjoyed.

That’s where personal hearing protection is of use. We supply and fit custom made ear plugs, or standard off the shelf plugs perfectly tailored to the type of environments or activities you wish to be there for.

3. Get yourself the right hearing protection …

When you protect your hearing, you want to make sure you’re keeping the damaging sounds out but letting the music/speech/engine tone through.

If you are attending a gig, you want the music to sound like music, with the timbre of the musical instruments unaffected.

If you’re motorcycling, you want to be aware of the traffic and space around, whilst minimising the wind and road noise. You also want them to fit under your helmet, and may even want an intercom system included.

If you’re shooting, you want to hear what’s going on around you and only have them “shut down” when a gun goes off.

Whatever it is you do, today’s hearing protectors mean that you no longer have to choose between keeping your hearing and doing the things you enjoy.

Specific Areas:


Most people think that a motorcycle helmet will protect their hearing, but in fact, it is the opposite. Riding your motorcycle from Honiton to Exeter at 60mph will take approximately 30 minutes. Test results show this places 101dB (A) on your eardrums, even with a helmet on. Colin confirms, “Your daily limit of exposure, without damage, is 102dB for 30 minutes. Exceeding these limits can cause damage to the inner ear, resulting in temporary or permanent deafness, tinnitus and oversensitivity to various sounds.”

There are 2 main sources for noise when riding a motorcycle, below 20mph, most of the noise will come from the motor, but above 40mph the noise emphasis shifts to wind noise. So far advances in helmet design have made little difference to the sound levels in the ear, but without a helmet the sound reaching the ear is around 18dB higher at all speeds. It is true that susceptibility to noise induced hearing loss varies between people, and there is also little real difference between bikes, helmets, and riding styles. However, interestingly, signal detection is improved with plugs in above around 40 mph, so they should be considered essential for all but short urban journeys

As a rough guide the sound levels at the ear relate to the speed you are doing … Bear in mind the 80dB (A) action level for industry … that equates to roughly 30mph, anything above 30mph and you need to protect your hearing.

So for motorcycling, ear plugs are the answer!

Normally a low profile filtered plug, or a moulded communication system.


The sound of gunfire can permanently damage your hearing in milliseconds. It is essential to use the correct high performance custom moulded shooting plugs in order to prevent irreversible damage.
There are 3 main types:

Custom made solid plugs: the solid noise plug is designed to completely block the ear canal and is made from a flexible soft material, available in a wide range of colours.
Custom made filtered plugs: This plug is again custom made, but has a sound bore through the aid to which a filter or valve is fitted. This permits the reception of conversational speech, aeration and changes in pressure in the ear canal. A choice of filter is available to attenuate the sound according to the client needs.
Custom made electronic plugs. These plugs are available in different styles, but uses electronics to enhance the sound of speech, but shutting off when loud sounds are present. They are made from either hard acrylic or soft silicone, and have varying numbers of programs depending on the shooters needs.
Naturally there are ear defenders available too!


Most musicians have come to appreciate the damage that can be caused by loud music, and there are many “Rock” musicians who suffer hearing issues because of lack of protection to their hearing (all well documented).

In most cases of amateur music a calibrated musician plug should deal with most issues, and the ER series offer different attenuation to suit the type of music being played.

For the more professional musician the new ranges of in-ear-monitors allow a custom ear plug to be made, with drivers inserted inside to play the music, in essence either single, dual or triple drives are normally used. All of them supplied with a 3.5mm jack plug to plug into the feed system.

Lastly we have the custom ear pieces available for the ipod, MP3 players etc, these allow a more comfortable fit in the ear, and reduce friction wear from the more “standard” headphones. These can be made to fit existing headphones too!


Swimming ear plugs can be used for any situation where it may be undesirable to allow water into the ears.

For example:

Post-operatively following ear surgery
Where there is a predisposition to suffer from ear infection
During swimming activities in adverse conditions where infection risk is higher (such as open water swimming or surfing)
Where an individual simply does not like the sensation of having water in the ears
Where there is a risk of impact from water (surfing wipeouts etc)
Swimming ear plugs from Honiton Hearing Centre are of a high quality, floatable silicone ensuring exceptional fit, comfort and effectiveness. They can be personalised in a range of colours and designs, giving each pair a unique touch.

The Custom ear plug process:

The ear is examined for excessive ear wax, foreign body or abnormality which may prevent plugs being made.
If ear wax removal is required this can usually be done immediately, at the same appointment (there is an additional charge for this service), unless the wax is hard or very dry, where 7 days olive oil is recommended first.
If all is clear and safe to proceed, a small sponge plug is inserted into the ear canal to keep the ear drum and deeper canal safe during the impression procedure.
A 2 part silicone material is then syringed gently into the ear canal to create an impression of the ear. This hardens and is removed after around five minutes.
The finished swimming plug is manufactured from this impression. Our ear plug range is normally delivered with 2 weeks.
Colin and Sam of Honiton Hearing Centre stock a wide range of in and out of ear protectors, including moulded models for surfers, shooters and the motorcyclists amongst us.

They are happy to discuss the options available to you, matching the needs of your hobby, as well as offering the most protection. Pop in, look at the custom earmould display models and speak with Colin or Sam to protect your hearing for the future.