Man using earplugs to protect his hearing before a concert.

Earplugs can be practical if you’re subjected to loud sounds, such as for example, something as straightforward as a spouse who is snoring, or a lawnmower in your yard, or going to a concert at an arena. In the first two cases, they can help safeguard your ears by turning down the volume. In the last situation, they decrease the sound levels plus help save your sanity (and maybe your relationships) by allowing you to get a good night’s sleep. But are these ear protectors, in fact, causing harm to your ears?

Why Use Earplugs at All?

It’s a pretty simple case for wearing earplugs: When used properly, earplugs can reduce your exposure to extreme volume levels and thereby shield your ears. Perhaps you’ve noticed that your hearing seems different when you leave a loud venue, say, a football game with a noisy crowd, and you may also have symptoms of tinnitus. This happens because those extremely loud sounds can actually bend the small hair cells inside of your inner ear. It often goes away within a day or two, because the hair cells have recovered.

But if you’re subjected to excessive decibels constantly, for instance, if you work on a construction site or at an airport, the aural attack on those tiny hair cells is unyielding. As opposed to bending and then recovering, the cells are permanently impaired. Inside each cochlea, there are around 16,000 of these little hair cells, but up to 50% of them can be destroyed or at least injured before you would see the different in a hearing exam.

How Can Your Ears be Damaged by Wearing Earplugs?

With regards to protecting your hearing, you’d think it would be a no-brainer to utilize earplugs. But particularly if you’re in scenarios where you’re subjected to loud noises on a regular basis (like on the job or when your significant other snores as previously stated), headphones that reduce, but don’t totally cancel, sound or over the head earmuffs are a much better idea. Earplugs aren’t the best choice for day to day use but are a smarter choice for one time events like a concert or sporting events.

Why? The first problem is, earwax. So that they can protect themselves, your ears produce earwax, and if wearing earplugs is something you do regularly, they’re going to create more of it, and you are likely to jam it in with the plugs. This can cause troubles such as impacted earwax, which can cause tinnitus and other hearing disorders.

Ear infections can be another issue for people who wear earplugs. They can become bacteria traps if you use the same pair without proper cleaning and disinfecting. At the very least, ear infections can be a disturbance to your day to day life. But at the negative end of the spectrum, they can also be the cause of hearing loss if neglected.

How Can You Make Use of Earplugs Safely?

Earplugs still have a strong positive, whether it’s protecting your hearing or getting a peaceful night’s sleep. Using them in the proper way and using the correct kind is the key to success. The porous material of foam earplugs is a germ sanctuary so it’s a helpful thing they are the least costly. Silicone or wax earplugs are reusable, but you have to keep them clean, wash them with warm water and mild soap to cleanse them, and you shouldn’t put them back in your ears until they’re thoroughly dry. Accumulation of humidity can cause mold and bacteria so keep your earplugs in a well ventilated place.

You may want to speak with us concerning 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 problems, it’s important to practice good earplug hygiene!

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.
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