Man using earplugs to protect his hearing before a concert.

Earplugs can be helpful if you’re subjected to loud sounds, such as for instance, something as simple as a snoring spouse, or a lawnmower in your yard, or going to a concert at an arena. Decreasing the volume is how earplugs help in the first two instances. In the last circumstances, they reduce the sound levels and help save your peace of mind (and possibly your marriage) by enabling you to get a good night’s sleep. But is your hearing being damaged by these protectors?

Why Use Earplugs at All?

It’s a pretty simple case for using earplugs: When used properly, earplugs can help protect your hearing by reducing your direct exposure to extreme decibel levels. Perhaps you’ve noticed that your hearing seems different when you leave a loud venue, for instance, a football game with a noisy crowd, and you may also suffer from symptoms of tinnitus. This occurs because those extremely loud sounds can actually bend the little hair cells inside your inner ear. In a day or two, when the hairs have recovered, it often goes away.

But in certain circumstances, there is a relentless attack on those tiny hairs, especially if you work in a high volume trade such as the music business or in an airport. As opposed to bending and then recovering, the cells are permanently damaged. Inside each cochlea, you have about 16,000 of these little hair cells, but up to 50% of them can be harmed or ruined before your hearing has changed enough for the deficiency to show up in a hearing exam.

How Can Your Hearing be Damaged by Using Earplugs?

When it comes to safeguarding your ears, it seems like it would be obvious to utilize earplugs. But if your exposed to loud noises on a day to day basis, this seems to be even more obvious (like on the job or with the aforementioned snoring significant other), over-the-head earmuffs or noise-reducing (but not completely stopping) headphones are a better option. Earplugs are better applicable to one-off scenarios such as a concert or sporting event than for everyday use.

Why? The first problem is, earwax. So that they can protect themselves, your ears make earwax, and if wearing earplugs is something you do frequently, more earwax will be produced, and the earplugs will push it in further. This can lead to troubles like impacted earwax, which can trigger tinnitus and other hearing issues.

Ear infections can also be the outcome from overuse of earplugs. If you continuously wear the same pair, and you fail to clean them from use to use, they can become breeding grounds for bacteria. Certainly, ear infections are a disruption of your life. But at the negative end of the scale, they can also be the cause of a loss of hearing if neglected.

How Can You Use Earplugs Without Risk?

Whether it’s a good night sleep or safeguarding your hearing, there’s still a strong benefit to using earplugs. 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 good thing that they are the least expensive. Wax or silicone earplugs are reusable, but you need to keep them clean, wash them with warm water and mild soap to wash them, and you shouldn’t put them back in your ears until they’re totally dry. It’s also a good idea to keep earplugs in a well ventilated container to prevent moisture, or worse, mold or bacteria, from accumulating.

You might want to talk to us about custom fit earplugs if you want or need them on a regular basis. They are comfortable since they’re crafted from molds of your ears and they’re reusable. But it’s important not to forget, smart earplug hygiene can lessen hearing impairment.

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