1st’s that Shaped the World

February 21, 2017

A World of Firsts


New ways of doing things and shifts in thinking create ripples and waves of influence. Explore how these powerful inventions created change and take a look at how noisy they were too.


The Printing Press

Gutenberg’s printing press forever revolutionized our world. Invented in the 1480’s the technology spread fast and within 40 years there were printers in 110 German cities. By the end of the 14th century they were spread across Europe in 270 cities. In 1600 continual innovation made it possible for a single machine to produce 3,600 impressions per day in spite of typesetting being a painstakingly slow and meticulous task. The first machine with movable lettering known as a Linotype press was created in the 1800’s. Speeding up the ability to set type allowed the written word in the forms of books, almanacs, and daily newspapers to become even more prolific. A new term was coined to describe the growing industry that is still used today i.e. “The Press”.

The printing press made possible the “democratization of knowledge”. Gutenberg started with making the text of the Bible available to many. This, with other factors, led to a massive religious reformation in Germany that spread quickly into France. French Protestants, called Huguenots were among some of the first Europeans to immigrate to South Africa.

The printing press was also instrumental in forming the first scientific community, as it enabled scientists and thinkers of the time to exchange ideas more easily than before. This contributed to the Scientific Revolution. The rise of technical capabilities also played a role in the rise of the Industrial Revolution.

Noise Factor

While the original presses were pressed by hand and virtually noiseless, the industrial presses of modern times can be noisy. Of the three basic noises: continuous, impulse and impact they produce continuous and impulse noise.

According to this research one press runs at about 84 decibels a number right below the level of danger for Noise Induced Hearing Loss. Two presses running simultaneously register around 86.5 decibels right above the number of the danger levels.


The Radio

The technology of moving sound as an electrical impulse was developed with the telegraph and expanded with the telephone. Scientific understanding of sound waves advanced and innovators discovered that by modulating electromagnet waves, radio signals could be transmitted.

Nicola Tesla a scientist from Serbia was the first to invent a Radio in 1892. Sir Oliver Lodge later added the first primitive antenna and was the first to transmit a radio signal with success.

The Radio allowed information and world news to be conveyed with ease over a large area and it gained popularity quickly.  When the Audion (radio tube which improved clarity of the sound) was incorporated it allowed the quality of the sound listeners heard to be much better than before – this facilitated more music being played on the radio. Radios became an integral part of life to many all around the world.

With the advent of digital radio and the internet, communication technology continues to advance as we find new ways to share information. Think of YouTube video’s, instant messaging, and voice-calls over the internet.

Noise Factor

Listening to the radio at safe volume levels is an activity usually self-regulated. Education regarding safe listening levels is important to raising awareness of preventable hearing loss.


The Automobile

The invention of the internal combustion engine made new things possible in many industries.

It was first invented by a Swiss man named Francois Isaac de Rivaz in 1807 and originally used hydrogen as fuel. In 1979 Karl Benz next created one that utilized gasoline and by 1889 they were being produced in factories in Europe. After Henry Ford introduced his assembly line system of production, automobiles began to get onto the market faster and cheaper than before. This was an integral part of cars becoming the most popular transportation in the world. The engineering used to enhance engines has led to the jet engine technology that allows us to cross the globe in safety and comfort. Space exploration was also made possible through propulsion technology.

Noise Factor

Formula 1 racing car engines represent some of the best technical achievements in the field. F1 motors produce extremely loud noise registering over 145 decimals! In 2014 the industry received complaints from spectators that the car engines were too quiet! In fact out of concern for hearing health sport regulations had lowered the allowable sound levels by 10 decibels. People weren’t imagining things though, as in the world of sound, a reduction of 10 decibels often sounds as though the sound has been cut in half. Another factor in how the sound was perceived was that the engines have been altered to produce the sound about an octave lower making it tonally less ‘harsh’ to the human ear albeit not less dangerous.

In 2016 the industry made a move to increase the noise of the car engines once again. Spectators should know that the noise of these engines is painful to the human ear in close proximity and can cause irreversible damage. This makes wearing ear protection on the race track essential.

To hear the difference in the sound watch this video, at safe listening volumes, here:

A jet engines volume will depend on its proximity but in general fighter planes can produce between 140-160 decibels while commercial airliners produce between 100-120 decibels.

To Note: The loud noise of a powerful engine is easily recognizable but did you know that an smart device such as your cell-phone on max speaker volume can make 115 decibels of noise. This level from your phone can be just as decimating to your hearing ability as an aeroplane engine! Choose wisely, Choose safe listening levels!


Southern ENT

Pioneers in bringing world class Cochlear™ technology to South Africa. Our integrated team of experts can answer questions, explore possibilities, and support you in putting hearing 1st.

For any information or advice, please call our offices on 011 667 6243

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