Hearing Health Blog

Man using earplugs to protect his hearing before a concert.

If you’re subjected to loud noises, for instance running a lawnmower in your backyard, going to an arena to see your favorite band play, or simply sleeping at home next to a snoring spouse, earplugs may be helpful. In the first two circumstances, they can assist in protecting your hearing by decreasing the volume. They assist in saving your peace of mind and perhaps even your marriage, in the last case, by allowing you to get a good night’s sleep. But are these ear protectors, actually, causing harm to your hearing?

Why Utilize Earplugs in The First Place?

The argument for earplugs is fairly simple: Properly used, earplugs can help safeguard your hearing by reducing your exposure to extreme decibel levels. Perhaps you’ve observed that your hearing sounds different when you leave a loud venue, say, a football game with a loud crowd, and you could also suffer from symptoms of tinnitus. Those little hairs are bent by this sort of noise exposure and that’s why this happens. It commonly vanishes within a couple of days, because the hair cells have recovered.

But if you’re subjected to high decibels frequently, for example, if you work on a construction crew or at an airport, the audio assault on those tiny hair cells is unyielding. In this instance, those hairs don’t get better, they are permanently damaged. You’ve got just about 16,000 of those little cells inside each cochlea, but up to 50% of them can be injured or destroyed before your hearing has changed enough for the problem to appear in a hearing test.

Is it Possible to Harm Your Hearing by Using Earplugs?

When it comes to safeguarding your ears, it seems like it would be obvious to use earplugs. But primarily if you’re in scenarios where you’re subjected to loud noises regularly (like on the job or with the aforementioned snoring partner), headphones that decrease, but don’t completely cancel, sound or over the head earmuffs are a much smarter idea. Earplugs aren’t well suited to day to day use but are a smarter choice for one time events such as a sports event or a concert.

Why? The first problem is, earwax. Your ears create wax to defend themselves, and if you’re frequently using earplugs, they will generate more of it, and you’re likely to jam it in with the plugs. This can result in problems like impacted earwax, which can cause tinnitus and other hearing problems.

Ear infections can also be the result from overuse of earplugs. If you continually wear the same pair, and you fail to clean them between uses, they can become bacteria traps. Certainly, ear infections are a disturbance to your day to day life. If left untreated, in the worst instances, they can trigger an ear infection.

How Can You Utilize Earplugs Without Risk?

Whether it’s a restful night sleep or protecting your ears, there’s still a big upside to wearing earplugs. Using them in the proper way and using the right kind is the key to success. Foam earplugs are the least expensive, which is good because you really should not use them more than once, the soft, porous material is a germ’s paradise. Don’t put wax or silicone earplugs back in until they are thoroughly dry after using warm water to completely clean them. It’s also a good idea to keep earplugs in a well ventilated container to prevent moisture, or worse, bacteria or mold, from building up.

You may want to speak with us concerning custom fit earplugs if you need or want them on a regular basis. They are comfortable because they’re made from molds of your ears and they’re reusable. But it’s important not to forget, good earplug hygiene can prevent hearing damage.

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