Man using earplugs to protect his hearing before a concert.

If you’re exposed to loud noises, say running a lawnmower in your yard, going to a venue to see your favorite band play, or merely sleeping at home next to a snoring spouse, earplugs might be practical. Decreasing the volume is the way earplugs help in the first two instances. In the last situation, they reduced the sound levels plus help protect your sanity (and possibly your relationships) by enabling you to get a good night’s sleep. But are these ear protectors, really, causing damage to your ears?

What’s The Point of Wearing Earplugs?

It’s a fairly simple case for wearing earplugs: Properly used, earplugs can help to safeguard your hearing by reducing your direct exposure to excessive decibel levels. Perhaps you’ve noticed that your hearing seems different when you leave a loud venue, for instance, a football game with a loud crowd, and you might 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 disappears within a day or two, because the hair cells have recovered.

But in some instances, there is a persistent assault on those tiny hairs, particularly if you work in a high volume industry like the music business or in an airport. In this situation, those hairs don’t heal, they are permanently damaged. inside of each cochlea, you have around 16,000 of these little hair cells, but up to 50% of them can be destroyed or at least injured before you would notice the change in a hearing exam.

How Can Earplugs Cause Damage?

With all that, you’d think that wearing earplugs would be a no-brainer when it comes to protecting your hearing. But primarily if you’re in situations where you’re subjected to loud noises every day (like on the job or when your significant other snores as mentioned), over-the-head earmuffs or noise-reducing (but not completely blocking) headphones are a smarter choice. Earplugs aren’t well suited to day to day use but are a smarter choice for one time occasions like a sports event or a concert.

Why? The first problem is, earwax. So that they can protect themselves, your ears make earwax, and if you’re regularly wearing earplugs, they will make more of it, and the earplugs will push it in further. This can result in problems like impacted earwax, which can trigger tinnitus and other hearing issues.

An ear infection can also be the result from too much use of earplugs. They can become bacteria breeding grounds if you wear the same pair without proper cleaning and disinfecting. At the very least, ear infections can be a disturbance to your life. But at the negative end of the scale, they can also be the cause of hearing loss if you fail to get treatment.

How Can You Safely Use Earplugs?

Earplugs still have a strong upside, whether it’s safeguarding your hearing or getting a good night’s rest. You just need to be certain you’re using the proper kind and using them in the proper way. The porous material of foam earplugs is a germ sanctuary so it’s a helpful thing that they are the least costly. Don’t put wax or silicone earplugs back in your ears until they are completely dry after using warm water to entirely sanitize them. It’s also a good idea to store earplugs in a well ventilated container to discourage moisture, or worse, bacteria or mold, from accumulating.

You might want to contact us about custom fit earplugs if you need or want them on a regular basis. They’re comfortable since they are made from molds of your ears and they’re reusable. Again though, to prevent any possible hearing problems, it’s crucial to put into practice smart 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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