Man using earplugs to protect his hearing before a concert.

Earplugs can be helpful if you’re subjected to loud sounds, such as for example, something as basic as a snoring spouse, or a lawnmower in your yard, or going to an arena to see a concert. Bringing down the volume is the way earplugs can help in the first two cases. In the last situation, they reduced the decibels and help protect your sanity (and possibly your marriage) by enabling you to get a good night’s sleep. But are your ears being harmed by these protectors?

What’s The Purpose of Wearing Earplugs?

It’s a pretty simple case for using earplugs: When used properly, earplugs can minimize your exposure to extreme sound levels and thereby shield your ears. After you leave a loud venue, say a football game where the announcer keeps telling the crowd to, GET LOUD, every time the other team kicks off, you’ve most likely noticed that your hearing seems different, and you may also have symptoms of tinnitus. Those little hairs are bent by this sort of noise exposure and that’s the reason why this happens. It commonly disappears within a couple of days, because the hair cells have recovered.

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

How Can Earplugs Lead to Injury?

With all that, you’d think that using earplugs would be a no-brainer with regards to protecting your ears. But primarily if you’re in situations where you’re subjected to loud noises regularly (like on the job or when your significant other snores as mentioned), headphones that reduce, but don’t completely cancel, sound or over the head earmuffs are a much better choice. Earplugs are better suited to one-off scenarios such as a sporting event or concert than for regular use.

Why? The first problem is, earwax. Your ears generate wax to defend themselves, and if using earplugs is something you do all of the time, more earwax will be created, and the earplugs will push it in further. This can lead to problems such as impacted earwax, which can cause tinnitus and other hearing problems.

An ear infection can also result from overuse 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 the very least, an uncomfortable annoyance. If left untreated, in the worst situations, they can trigger an ear infection.

How Can You Use Earplugs Without Risk?

Earplugs nevertheless have a strong upside, whether it’s protecting your hearing or enjoying a restful night’s rest. You just have to be sure you’re using the correct kind and using them in the right way. Foam earplugs are the least costly, which is good because you really should not use them more than once, the cushy, porous material is a germ’s paradise. Don’t put silicone or wax earplugs back in until they are totally dry after using warm water to entirely sanitize them. Accumulation of humidity can cause mold and bacteria so keep your earplugs in a well ventilated container.

If you want or need to wear earplugs on a regular basis, you may want to consult us about having custom-made earplugs. They are comfortable since they are made from molds of your ears and they are reusable. Again though, to avoid any possible hearing damage, it’s crucial to practice smart earplug hygiene!

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