Posted by Mel Baker
Can you hear me at the back there? No? You`re probably an open-top sports car driver or a motorcyclist then. You probably drive and your ears are ringing. That`s called a temporary threshold shift, which is a short-term hearing loss after exposure to loud, sustained noise. Most of the time it gets better, but sometimes` it doesn`t. As your hearing starts to worsen, you realise that DRIVING YOUR OPEN TOP CLASSIC CAR IS MAKING YOU DEAF.
You are by no means alone. Studies have shown that sustained exposure to noise above 85 decibels (DbA) has a deleterious effect on hearing – most MGB drivers or open-top sports cars with a rorty exhaust & motorcyclists are exposed to much more (90DbA at 5Omph and up to 100DbA at 90) – and just 10 minutes of 100DbA exposure is enough to inflict permanent hearing damage. Remember that sound is measured on a logarithmic scale and every 3DbA increase represents a doubling of sonic energy.
Hearing loss is beginning to be recognised as a long-term health problem for anyone exposed to long periods of high-speed wind buffeting. Loud noise has also been cited as a cause of tiredness, lapses of concentration and, believe it or not, impotence. Some crash helmets generate less noise than others and windscreens will also deflect same of the racket. In the long term, however, ear plugs are the only defence against deafness.
But which type of ear plug works best? Off-the-shelf silicone plugs are washable and durable, but they don`t suit all ears and can be an awkward fit. Foam plugs are more comfortable, but they come in many different sizes and shapes and are supposed to be suitable for one use only. And there`s the rub. Few people don�t bother throwing them away after each journey – and reusing them carries a risk of ear infection. If you have cauliflower ears there is another problem: plugs have to be jammed into the inner ear to stop them falling out – and that can damage the delicate structures within.
For six years, Green Leopard has been making custom ear defenders for the police, shooting enthusiasts and members of the armed forces. Oddly, though, the company has no Formula One customers. Its London agent, Nathan Onions, says: “It`s strange to see Michael Schumacher wearing custom-made race suit, helmet and boots when he`s got a pair of scrappy clear� sealant plugs sticking out of his ears. We could make him some in Ferrari colours�.
Prices start at �45 for a pair of solid silicone plugs, but they can also be made with speakers or filters. The rest of the deal couldn`t be simpler. You ring the firm to discover the whereabouts of your local UK agent. He or she comes round, squirts quick-setting silicone into your ears and disappears to create your personalised plugs. You`ll receive them within a week in the UK.
There are one or two extra details. The sizing-up process takes 25 minutes because your ears have to be inspected for signs of wax or infection, either of which would need sorting out before the plugs can be tailored. Your ears are lubricated to prevent the silicone sticking, then a small foam block is eased into the second bend in your ear canal to prevent the liquid penetrating too far. After that, the silicone is mixed, placed in a syringe and squirted into your ears. It`s uncomfortable rather than painful, and setting takes about five minutes. When the plugs arrive in the post (and you can choose from a broad palate of colours), you feel a lot better about the experience. It takes time to remember how to fit them, but once you`ve worked it out, unpleasant sounds become a thing of the past.
Demands for making love, pocket money, requests to do housework and irritating telephone calls all vanish. Oh; and driving the MG is pretty quiet, too. In a week`s solid use, the plugs have stayed in, been completely comfortable and eliminated the ringing sound that used to linger after a long, fast drive. For �45, they`re a bargain. What else can you have custom made for that kind of money? Green Leopard: 0845 330 4153 www.greenleopard.co.uk .
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