Man using earplugs to protect his hearing before a concert.

If you’re exposed to loud noises, say running a lawnmower in your backyard, going to a venue to see your favorite band play, or merely sleeping at home next to a snoring spouse, earplugs may be practical. In the first two circumstances, they can help protect your hearing by decreasing the volume. In the last case, they decrease the sound levels plus help protect your peace of mind (and maybe your relationships) by allowing you to get a good night’s sleep. But are your ears being damaged by these protectors?

What’s The Purpose of Utilizing Earplugs?

The case for earplugs is pretty simple: When used properly, earplugs can help protect your ears by reducing your exposure to extreme sound levels. When you leave a loud venue, like a football game where the announcer keeps exhorting the crowd to, GET LOUD, whenever the other team kicks off, you’ve most likely observed that your hearing seems off, and you could also experience symptoms of tinnitus. This happens because those extremely loud sounds actually bend the little hair cells in your inner ear. It commonly goes away within a day or two, because the hair cells have recovered.

But if you’re exposed to high decibels constantly, for instance, if you work on a construction crew or at an airport, the aural attack on those tiny hair cells is unrelenting. Instead of recovering after bending, the cells are damaged permanently. You’ve got around 16,000 of those tiny cells in each cochlea, but up to 50% of them can be injured or destroyed before your hearing has altered enough for the problem to show up in a hearing assessment.

How Can Earplugs Cause Damage?

That being said, you’d think that using earplugs would be a no-brainer when it comes to protecting your ears. But if your exposed to loud noises on a regular basis, this seems even more obvious (like on the job or when your spouse snores as previously stated), over-the-head earmuffs or noise-reducing (but not completely stopping) headphones are a better choice. Earplugs are better suited to one-off situations such as a sporting event or concert than for everyday use.

Why? The first problem is, earwax. Your ears create wax to defend themselves, and if you’re frequently using earplugs, they will make more of it, and the earplugs will push it in further. This can result in troubles like impacted earwax, which can cause tinnitus and other hearing issues.

An ear infection can be another complication for people who use earplugs. If you continually wear the same pair, and you don’t clean them properly from use to use, they can become bacteria traps. Ear infections are, at a minimum, a painful inconvenience. If left untreated, in the worst instances, they can result in an ear infection.

How Can You Safely Utilize Earplugs?

Whether it’s a good night sleep or protecting your ears, there’s still a big positive to wearing earplugs. You just have to be sure you’re using the proper kind and using them the correct way. The porous material of foam earplugs is a germ paradise so it’s a good thing they are the least costly. Don’t put wax or silicone earplugs back in your ears until they are totally dry after using warm water to entirely clean them. It’s also a good idea to keep earplugs in a ventilated place to prevent humidity, or worse, mold or bacteria, from accumulating.

You may want to talk to us concerning custom fit earplugs if you want or need them frequently. These are crafted from unique molds of your ears, they can be reused and because they’re fitted to your ears, their comfortable. Again though, to stop any possible hearing problems, it’s crucial to practice good earplug hygiene!

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