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Man using earplugs to protect his hearing before a concert.

Earplugs can be helpful if you’re subjected to loud sounds, such as for example, something as straightforward as a snoring spouse, or a lawnmower in your backyard, or going to an arena to see a concert. Turning down the sound level is the way earplugs can help in the first two circumstances. They help save your sanity and possibly even your relationships, in the last instance, by enabling you to get a good night’s sleep. But are your ears being damaged by these protectors?

What’s The Point of Using Earplugs?

It’s a fairly simple case for wearing earplugs: When used properly, earplugs can help protect your ears by reducing your exposure to excessive decibel levels. Perhaps you’ve noticed that your hearing sounds different when you leave a loud venue, say, a football game with a loud crowd, and you might also experience symptoms of tinnitus. This occurs because those extremely loud noises actually bend the tiny hair cells in your inner ear. In a couple of days, when the hairs have recovered, it often goes back to normal.

But in some circumstances, there is a constant attack on those tiny hairs, particularly if you work in a high volume trade like construction or around jet planes. In this situation, those hairs don’t heal, they are permanently injured. There are about 16,000 of those little cells inside each cochlea, but up to 50% of them can be harmed or ruined before your hearing has altered enough for the problem to appear in a hearing exam.

Is it Conceivable to Harm Your Hearing by Using Earplugs?

With regards to protecting your ears, you’d think it would be a no-brainer to make use of earplugs. But if your exposed to loud noises on a day to day basis, this seems even more obvious (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 are better suited to one-off scenarios like a sporting event or concert than for regular use.

Why? For one, earwax. So that they can protect themselves, your ears generate earwax, and if using earplugs is something you do regularly, more earwax will be created, and you’ll probably jam it in with the plugs. Tinnitus and other issues can be the result of impacted earwax.

An ear infection can be another concern for people who use earplugs. They can become bacteria breeding grounds if you regularly wear the same pair but fail to properly clean and disinfect them. Ear infections are, at a minimum, a painful irritation. If left untreated, in the worst cases, they can trigger an ear infection.

How Can You Safely Use Earplugs?

Whether it’s a restful night sleep or safeguarding your hearing, there’s still a strong benefit to using 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 haven so it’s a good thing that they are the least expensive. Don’t put wax or silicone earplugs back in your ears until they are completely dry after using warm water to completely clean them. It’s also a good idea to keep earplugs in a ventilated container to discourage humidity, or worse, bacteria or mold, from accumulating.

If you want or need to use earplugs on a regular basis, you may want to consult us about having custom-made earplugs. They’re comfortable since they’re made from molds of your ears and they are reusable. Again though, to prevent any possible hearing problems, it’s essential 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.