Man using earplugs to protect his hearing before a concert.

Earplugs can be helpful if you’re subjected to loud noises, such as for example, something as straightforward as a spouse who is snoring, or a lawnmower in your backyard, or going to an arena to see a concert. In the first two situations, they can help safeguard your ears by turning down the volume. In the last situation, they reduce the decibels plus help protect your peace of mind (and possibly your marriage) by letting you get a good night’s sleep. But is your hearing being damaged by these protectors?

Why Utilize Earplugs at All?

The case for earplugs is pretty simple: When used properly, earplugs can reduce your exposure to excessive volume levels and thereby safeguard your ears. When you leave a loud place, say a football game where the Jumbotron keeps exhorting the crowd to, GET LOUD, whenever the other team kicks off, you’ve most likely noticed that your hearing seems off, and you might also experience symptoms of tinnitus. Those tiny hairs are bent by this type of noise exposure and that’s why this happens. It commonly disappears within a couple of days, because the hair cells have recovered.

But in a number of situations, there is a continual attack on those little hairs, especially if you work in a high volume trade like construction or around jet planes. In this situation, those hairs don’t recover, they are permanently injured. There are about 16,000 of those tiny cells inside each cochlea, but up to 50% of them can be injured or ruined before your hearing has changed enough for the problem to appear in a hearing assessment.

Is it Possible That Your Ears Could be Harmed by Earplugs?

With all that, you’d think that wearing earplugs would be a no-brainer in terms of protecting your ears. But primarily if you’re in scenarios where you’re exposed to loud noises regularly (like on the job or with the aforementioned snoring significant other), over-the-head earmuffs or noise-reducing (but not completely blocking) headphones are a smarter choice. Earplugs are better applicable to one-off scenarios like a concert or sporting event than for everyday use.

Why? For one, earwax. Your ears produce wax to defend themselves, and if you’re regularly wearing earplugs, more earwax will be produced, and you’re likely to jam it in with the plugs. This can lead to troubles like impacted earwax, which can trigger tinnitus and other hearing problems.

An ear infection can also result from too much use of earplugs. If you continuously use the same pair, and you don’t clean them from use to use, they can become breeding grounds for bacteria. Ear infections are, at a minimum, a painful annoyance. If neglected, in the worst instances, they can trigger an ear infection.

How Can You Safely Utilize Earplugs?

Earplugs still have a strong benefit, whether it’s protecting your hearing or enjoying a peaceful night’s sleep. You just need to be sure you’re using the correct kind and using them in the correct way. Foam earplugs are the least expensive, which is good because you really should not reuse them, the soft, porous material is a germ’s paradise. Don’t put wax or silicone earplugs back in your ears until they are completely dry after using warm water to completely sanitize them. It’s also a good idea to store earplugs in a ventilated container to discourage humidity, or worse, bacteria or mold, from building up.

You may want to get in touch with us about custom fit earplugs if you want or need them on a regular basis. These are crafted from unique molds of your ears, they can be reused and because they’re fitted to your ears, comfortable. Again though, to prevent any potential hearing problems, it’s crucial to put into practice smart earplug hygiene!

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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