Man using earplugs to protect his hearing before a concert.

If you’re subjected to loud sounds, for example using a lawnmower in your backyard, going to a venue to see your favorite band play, or simply sleeping at home beside a snoring spouse, earplugs can be practical. Lowering the sound level is the way earplugs can help in the first two cases. In the last instance, they lower the sound levels and help save your peace of mind (and possibly your relationships) by allowing you to get a good night’s sleep. But are these ear protectors, in fact, causing damage to your hearing?

What’s The Purpose of Using Earplugs?

The argument for earplugs is quite simple: Properly used, earplugs can reduce your exposure to extreme volume levels and thereby shield your hearing. When you leave a loud place, like a football game where the announcer keeps telling the crowd to, GET LOUD, when the other team kicks off, you’ve probably observed that your hearing seems off, and you could also have symptoms of tinnitus. This occurs because those extremely loud noises actually bend the tiny hair cells inside of your inner ear. It usually goes away within a day or two, because the hair cells have recovered.

But in a number of circumstances, there is a relentless assault on those little hairs, especially if you work in a noisy profession such as construction or in an airport. Instead of bending and then recovering, the cells are permanently compromised. Inside each cochlea, you have about 16,000 of these little hair cells, but up to 50% of them can be injured or destroyed before your hearing has changed enough for the problem to show up in a hearing test.

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

With all that, you’d think that wearing earplugs would be an obvious choice in terms of protecting your ears. But particularly if you’re in situations where you’re exposed to loud noises all the time (like on the job or when your significant other snores as mentioned), headphones that limit, but don’t totally cancel, sound or over the head earmuffs are a much smarter choice. Earplugs are better suited to one-off situations like a concert or sporting event than for day to day use.

Why? The first problem is, earwax. So that they can protect themselves, your ears produce earwax, and if wearing earplugs is something you do all of the time, more earwax will be generated, and you’ll probably push it in with the plugs. This can cause issues such as impacted earwax, which can trigger tinnitus and other hearing disorders.

Ear infections can be another complication for those who wear 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 disruption to your day to day life. But at the worst-case-scenario end of the scale, they can also cause a loss of hearing if you fail to get treatment.

How Can You Use Earplugs Safely?

Whether it’s a restful night sleep or safeguarding your hearing, there’s still a big 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 expensive. Don’t put wax or silicone earplugs back in your ears until they are totally dry after using warm water to completely sanitize them. Buildup of moisture can cause mold and bacteria so store your earplugs in a well ventilated place.

You might want to talk to us concerning custom fit earplugs if you need or want them on a regular basis. They’re comfortable since they’re crafted from molds of your ears and they are reusable. But it’s essential not to forget, smart earplug hygiene can lessen hearing impairment.

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