Man using earplugs to protect his hearing before a concert.

Earplugs can be helpful if you’re exposed to loud noises, such as, something as straightforward as a snoring spouse, or a lawnmower in your backyard, or going to a concert at an arena. Decreasing the volume is how earplugs help in the first two circumstances. In the last case, they lower the sound levels plus help protect your peace of mind (and maybe your marriage) by permitting you to get a good night’s sleep. But are these ear protectors, actually, injuring your hearing?

Why Use Earplugs at All?

It’s a pretty simple case for wearing earplugs: When used properly, earplugs can help to protect your hearing by reducing your direct exposure to excessive decibel levels. Maybe you’ve observed that your hearing seems different when you leave a loud venue, say, a football game with a loud crowd, and you might also experience symptoms of tinnitus. Those little hairs are bent by this type of noise exposure and that’s why this happens. It often disappears within a day or two, because the hair cells have recovered.

But if you’re subjected to high decibels constantly, say you work on a construction crew or at an airfield, the audio assault on those tiny hair cells is unyielding. In this circumstance, those hairs cannot get better, they are permanently damaged. inside of each cochlea, you have around 16,000 of these tiny hair cells, but up to 50% of them can be harmed or destroyed before your hearing has changed enough for the problem to appear in a hearing test.

How Could Your Hearing be Harmed by Using Earplugs?

That being said, you’d think that using earplugs would be an obvious choice in terms of protecting your hearing. But particularly if you’re in scenarios where you’re exposed to loud noises all the time (like on the job or when your spouse snores as mentioned), headphones that limit, but don’t completely cancel, sound or over the head earmuffs are a much better idea. Earplugs are better suited to one-off scenarios like a sporting event or concert than for everyday use.

Why? The first problem is, earwax. So that they can protect themselves, your ears create earwax, and if you’re constantly using earplugs, they will generate more of it, and the earplugs will jam it in further. Tinnitus and other concerns can be the result of impacted earwax.

An ear infection can be another problem for those who wear earplugs. They can become bacteria traps if you regularly wear the same pair without proper cleaning and disinfecting. At the very least, ear infections are a disruption to your day to day life. But at the negative end of the spectrum, they can also result in hearing loss if left untreated.

How Can You Use Earplugs Safely?

Earplugs still have a strong benefit, whether it’s protecting your ears or enjoying a good night’s rest. Using them in the proper way and using the right kind is the key to success. Foam earplugs are the least expensive, which is good because you really should not reuse them, the cushy, porous material is a germ’s haven. Wax or silicone earplugs are reusable, but you have to keep them sanitized, wash them with warm water and mild soap to clean them, and don’t put them back in your ears until they’re thoroughly dry. It’s also a good idea to store earplugs in a well ventilated container to prevent humidity, or worse, bacteria or mold, from building up.

If you need or want to wear earplugs on a regular basis, you may want to get in touch with us about having custom-made earplugs. They are comfortable because they are crafted from molds of your ears and they are reusable. But it’s worthwhile not to forget, smart earplug hygiene can prevent hearing impairment.

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