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Man using earplugs to protect his hearing before a concert.

If you’re exposed to loud noises, for instance running a lawnmower in your yard, going to a venue to see your favorite band play, or merely sleeping in your own bed beside a snoring spouse, earplugs might be practical. Turning down the volume is the way earplugs can help in the first two cases. In the last case, they reduce the sound levels and help save your sanity (and possibly your relationships) by allowing you to get a good night’s sleep. But are these ear protectors, really, causing damage to your hearing?

What’s The Purpose of Utilizing Earplugs?

The argument for earplugs is quite simple: When used properly, earplugs can limit your exposure to extreme sound levels and thereby safeguard your hearing. Perhaps you’ve noticed that your hearing seems different after you leave a loud venue, for instance, a football game with a noisy crowd, and you might also suffer from symptoms of tinnitus. Those little hairs are bent by this kind of noise exposure and that’s why this happens. It usually goes away within a day or two, because the hair cells have recovered.

But if you’re subjected to extreme decibels frequently, for instance, if you work on a construction site or at an airfield, the audio attack on those tiny hair cells is relentless. Rather than bending and then recovering, the cells are permanently injured. Inside each cochlea, there are about 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 different in a hearing assessment.

Is it Possible That Your Ears Could be Harmed by Earplugs?

When it comes to safeguarding your ears, you’d think it would be obvious to use 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 with the above mentioned snoring partner), over-the-head earmuffs or noise-reducing (but not completely stopping) headphones are a better choice. Earplugs aren’t well suited to day to day use but are a smarter choice for one time events such as a concert or sporting events.

Why? The first problem is, earwax. In order to protect themselves, your ears generate earwax, and if wearing earplugs is something you do regularly, more earwax will be produced, and you’re likely to jam it in with the plugs. This can result in troubles such as impacted earwax, which can trigger tinnitus and other hearing problems.

An ear infection can also be the outcome from overuse of earplugs. They can become bacteria traps if you regularly use the same pair without proper cleaning and disinfecting. Certainly, ear infections can be a disturbance to your life. If neglected, in the worst instances, they can trigger an ear infection.

How Can You Safely Utilize Earplugs?

Whether it’s a restful night sleep or protecting your ears, there’s still a big positive to wearing earplugs. You just have to be sure you’re using the correct kind and utilizing them the correct way. The porous material of foam earplugs is a germ sanctuary so it’s a helpful thing that they are the least expensive. Silicone or wax earplugs are reusable, but you need to keep them clean, wash them with warm water and mild soap to clean them, and you shouldn’t put them back in your ears until they’re completely dry. Buildup of dampness 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 need or want them regularly. These are crafted from unique molds of your ears, they’re reusable and because they’re fitted to your ears, comfortable. Again though, to avoid any possible hearing problems, it’s important 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.