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Man using earplugs to protect his hearing before a concert.

Earplugs can be helpful if you’re subjected to loud noises, such as, something as basic as a snoring spouse, or a lawnmower in your backyard, or going to an arena to see a concert. In the first two instances, they can assist in protecting your hearing by turning down the volume. In the last circumstances, they bring down the decibels plus help protect your peace of mind (and maybe your marriage) by enabling you to get a good night’s sleep. But is your hearing being damaged by these protectors?

What’s The Purpose of Using Earplugs?

The case for earplugs is fairly simple: When used properly, earplugs can help to protect your hearing by reducing your direct exposure to extreme sound levels. After you leave a loud place, say a football game where the Jumbotron keeps telling the crowd to, GET LOUD, when the opposing team kicks off, you’ve most likely observed that your hearing seems off, and you might also have symptoms of tinnitus. This occurs because those super-loud noises actually bend the little hair cells inside of your inner ear. It commonly goes away within a day or two, because the hair cells have recovered.

But in some situations, there is a relentless assault on those tiny hairs, particularly if you work in a noisy profession such as the music business or around jet planes. Rather than bending and then recovering, the cells are damaged permanently. There are around 16,000 of those tiny cells in each cochlea, but up to 50% of them can be injured or destroyed before your hearing has changed enough for the deficiency to appear in a hearing exam.

How Might Your Ears be Damaged by Wearing Earplugs?

With all that, you’d think that using earplugs would be an obvious choice when it comes to protecting your ears. But particularly if you’re in situations where you’re subjected to loud noises all the time (like on the job or when your spouse snores as previously stated), over-the-head earmuffs or noise-reducing (but not completely blocking) headphones are a smarter choice. Earplugs aren’t the best choice for everyday use but are better suited to one off occasions like a concert or sporting events.

Why? The first problem is, earwax. So that they can protect themselves, your ears create earwax, and if you’re frequently using earplugs, more earwax will be generated, and the earplugs will jam it in further. Tinnitus and other complications can be the result of impacted earwax.

An ear infection can be another concern for people who use earplugs. If you continually wear the same pair, and you don’t clean them from use to use, they can become bacteria traps. Certainly, ear infections can be a disturbance of your life. But at the negative end of the spectrum, they can also be the cause of hearing loss if left untreated.

How Can You Safely Use Earplugs?

Whether it’s a good night sleep or safeguarding your ears, there’s still a formidable benefit to wearing earplugs. Using them in the proper way and using the most appropriate kind is the secret to success. The porous material of foam earplugs is a germ paradise so it’s a good thing that they are the least costly. Wax or silicone earplugs are reusable, but you have to keep them sanitized, 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. Accumulation of moisture can cause bacteria or mold so store your earplugs in a well ventilated container.

You may want to speak with us concerning custom fit earplugs if you want or need them frequently. These are made from unique molds of your ears, they can be reused and since they’re fitted to your ears, their comfortable. But it’s important not to forget, good earplug hygiene can stop hearing impairment.