Hearing Health Blog

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 basic as a spouse who is snoring, or a lawnmower in your yard, or going to an arena to see a concert. In the first two circumstances, they can help protect your ears by decreasing the volume. In the last instance, they lower the sound levels and help protect your sanity (and possibly your marriage) by letting you get a good night’s sleep. But is your hearing being injured by these protectors?

Why Utilize Earplugs in The First Place?

The argument for earplugs is pretty simple: When used properly, earplugs can limit your exposure to extreme noise levels and thereby shield your hearing. When you leave a loud venue, like a football game where the Jumbotron keeps exhorting the crowd to, GET LOUD, when the opposing team kicks off, you’ve probably noticed that your hearing seems off, and you may also experience symptoms of tinnitus. Those little hairs are bent by this sort of noise exposure and that’s the reason why this occurs. It usually disappears within a day or two, 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 audio assault on those tiny hair cells is relentless. Rather than bending and then recovering, the cells are permanently compromised. Inside each cochlea, there are about 16,000 of these little hair cells, but up to 50% of them can be ruined or at least damaged before you would notice the change in a hearing exam.

Is it Possible That Your Hearing May be Harmed by Earplugs?

With regards to safeguarding your hearing, you’d think it would be a no-brainer to wear 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 when your significant other snores as previously stated), over-the-head earmuffs or noise-reducing (but not completely stopping) headphones are a smarter option. Earplugs aren’t well suited to everyday use but are better suited to one off occasions like a concert or sporting events.

Why? For one, earwax. Your ears create wax to protect themselves, and if you’re frequently using earplugs, more earwax will be generated, and the earplugs will push it in further. Tinnitus and other concerns can be the result of impacted earwax.

An ear infection can also result from too much use of earplugs. They can become bacteria traps if you regularly use the same pair but fail to properly clean and disinfect them. Certainly, ear infections can be a disruption to your life. If left untreated, in the worst cases, they can trigger an ear infection.

How Can You Safely Use Earplugs?

Whether it’s a restful night sleep or safeguarding your ears, there’s still a formidable positive to using earplugs. Using them in the proper way and using the right kind is the secret to success. Foam earplugs are the least expensive, which is good because you really shouldn’t use them more than once, the cushy, porous material is a germ’s paradise. Don’t put wax or silicone earplugs back in your ears until they are thoroughly dry after utilizing warm water to completely sanitize them. It’s also a good plan to store earplugs in a well ventilated container to prevent humidity, or worse, mold or bacteria, from accumulating.

You might want to contact us concerning custom fit earplugs if you need or want them frequently. They are comfortable since they are crafted from molds of your ears and they’re reusable. Again though, to prevent any possible hearing problems, it’s essential to put into practice good earplug hygiene!

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