Man using earplugs to protect his hearing before a concert.

If you’re subjected to loud noises, for example using a lawnmower in your backyard, going to a venue to see your favorite band play, or merely sleeping in your own bed beside a snoring spouse, earplugs may be practical. In the first two situations, they can help protect your hearing by decreasing the volume. They assist in saving your sanity and possibly even your relationships, in the last situation, by enabling you to get a good night’s sleep. But are your ears being harmed by these protectors?

Why Utilize Earplugs at All?

It’s a pretty simple case for using earplugs: Properly used, earplugs can help protect your ears by reducing your direct exposure to extreme decibel levels. Maybe you’ve noticed that your hearing sounds different when you leave a loud venue, say, a football game with a loud crowd, and you could also experience symptoms of tinnitus. This happens because those extremely loud noises actually bend the tiny hair cells inside your inner ear. It often vanishes within a couple of days, because the hair cells have recovered.

But if you’re subjected to extreme decibels regularly, for example, if you work on a construction site or at an airport, the audio assault on those tiny hair cells is constant. As opposed to recovering after bending, the cells are permanently damaged. Inside each cochlea, there are around 16,000 of these tiny hair cells, but up to 50% of them can be destroyed or at least damaged before you would see the different in a hearing assessment.

Is it Possible That Your Ears May be Injured by Earplugs?

In terms of protecting your hearing, you’d think it would be obvious to utilize earplugs. But if your subjected to loud noises on a regular basis, this seems to be even more obvious (like on the job or when your significant other snores as mentioned), over-the-head earmuffs or noise-reducing (but not completely stopping) headphones are a better option. Earplugs are better applicable to one-off situations such as a concert or sporting event than for day to day use.

Why? For one, earwax. In order to protect themselves, your ears create earwax, and if you’re frequently wearing earplugs, more earwax will be created, and the earplugs will push it in further. This can cause issues such as impacted earwax, which can cause tinnitus and other hearing disorders.

Ear infections can also be the consequence from overuse of earplugs. If you continually wear the same pair, and you don’t clean them between uses, they can become bacteria traps. Certainly, ear infections are a disturbance of your life. If left untreated, in the worst instances, they can cause an ear infection.

How Can You Safely Utilize Earplugs?

Earplugs still have a strong positive, whether it’s safeguarding your hearing or getting a good night’s sleep. Using them in the right way and using the right kind is the secret to success. The porous material of foam earplugs is a germ haven so it’s a helpful thing that they are the least expensive. Don’t put silicone or wax earplugs back in until they are completely dry after utilizing warm water to entirely clean them. It’s also a good idea to keep earplugs in a ventilated place to discourage humidity, or worse, mold or bacteria, from building up.

You may want to speak with us about custom fit earplugs if you want or need them on a regular basis. They are comfortable since they’re made from molds of your ears and they’re reusable. Again though, to protect against any potential hearing damage, it’s crucial to put into practice smart earplug hygiene!

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