Man using earplugs to protect his hearing before a concert.

If you’re exposed to loud noises, say using a lawnmower in your yard, going to an arena to see your favorite band play, or simply sleeping in your own bed next to a snoring spouse, earplugs can be practical. In the first two circumstances, they can help protect your ears by decreasing the volume. They assist in saving your peace of mind and perhaps even your marriage, in the last situation, by permitting you to get a good night’s sleep. But is your hearing being injured by these protectors?

What’s The Point of Utilizing Earplugs?

It’s a fairly simple argument for wearing earplugs: Properly used, earplugs can help protect your hearing by reducing your direct exposure to extreme decibel levels. When you leave a loud place, say a football game where the Jumbotron keeps telling the crowd to, GET LOUD, every time the other team kicks off, you’ve probably observed that your hearing seems different, and you could also have symptoms of tinnitus. This happens because those extremely loud noises can actually bend the tiny hair cells inside your inner ear. It commonly goes away within a day or two, because the hair cells have recovered.

But if you’re subjected to extreme decibels frequently, say you work on a construction crew or at an airport, the audio attack on those tiny hair cells is unrelenting. Rather than recovering after bending, the cells are permanently damaged. You’ve got around 16,000 of those little cells inside each cochlea, but up to 50% of them can be ruined or at least injured before you would notice the different in a hearing exam.

How Could Earplugs Lead to Injury?

In terms of protecting your ears, you’d think it would be a no-brainer to make use of earplugs. But particularly if you’re in situations where you’re subjected to loud noises regularly (like on the job or with the aforementioned snoring spouse), over-the-head earmuffs or noise-reducing (but not completely blocking) headphones are a better choice. Earplugs are better applicable to one-off situations such as a sporting event or concert than for everyday use.

Why? The first problem is, earwax. Your ears produce wax to protect themselves, and if using earplugs is something you do regularly, more earwax will be produced, and you are likely to jam it in with the plugs. This can cause troubles such as impacted earwax, which can trigger tinnitus and other hearing problems.

Ear infections can also result from too much use of earplugs. They can become bacteria traps if you use the same pair but fail to properly clean and disinfect them. Ear infections are, at a minimum, an uncomfortable irritation. But at the negative end of the scale, they can also cause hearing loss if neglected.

How Can You Make Use of Earplugs Safely?

Earplugs still have a strong positive, whether it’s protecting your hearing or enjoying a good night’s sleep. You just have to be sure you’re using the correct kind and utilizing them the right way. Foam earplugs are the least expensive, which is good because you really should not use them more than once, the soft, porous material is a germ’s paradise. Don’t put silicone or wax earplugs back in until they are thoroughly dry after utilizing warm water to entirely sanitize them. It’s also a good plan to keep earplugs in a ventilated container to prevent moisture, or worse, mold or bacteria, from accumulating.

You may want to contact us about custom fit earplugs if you want or need them regularly. They are comfortable since they are made from molds of your ears and they’re reusable. But it’s worthwhile not to forget, good earplug hygiene can prevent hearing impairment.

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.

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