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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 basic as a snoring spouse, or a lawnmower in your backyard, or going to an arena to see a concert. Lowering the sound level is the way earplugs help in the first two cases. In the last case, they reduced the sound levels and help protect your peace of mind (and possibly your relationships) by letting you get a good night’s sleep. But are these ear protectors, in fact, harming your hearing?

Why Utilize Earplugs in The First Place?

The case for earplugs is fairly simple: When used properly, earplugs can minimize your exposure to extreme sound levels and thereby shield your ears. After you leave a loud venue, like a football game where the Jumbotron keeps telling the crowd to, GET LOUD, when the opposing team kicks off, you’ve probably observed that your hearing seems different, and you could also experience symptoms of tinnitus. This happens because those super-loud sounds can actually bend the little hair cells inside your inner ear. In a couple of days, when the hairs have recovered, it often goes away.

But if you’re exposed to excessive decibels frequently, for example, if you work on a construction crew or at an airport, the audio attack on those tiny hair cells is unyielding. In this case, those hairs don’t recover, they are permanently damaged. inside of each cochlea, you have about 16,000 of these little hair cells, but up to 50% of them can be damaged or destroyed before your hearing has changed enough for the problem to appear in a hearing assessment.

Is it Possible That Your Hearing May be Harmed by Earplugs?

That being said, you’d think that using earplugs would be an obvious choice when it comes to protecting your hearing. But if your exposed to loud noises on a regular basis, this seems even more obvious (like on the job or when your significant other snores as mentioned), headphones that decrease, but don’t completely cancel, sound or over the head earmuffs are a much better idea. Earplugs are better suited to one-off scenarios like a concert or sporting event than for day to day use.

Why? For one, earwax. So that they can protect themselves, your ears make earwax, and if using earplugs is something you do all of the time, they will generate more of it, and the earplugs will push it in further. This can cause issues such as impacted earwax, which can trigger tinnitus and other hearing disorders.

Ear infections can also be the result from too much use of earplugs. They can become bacteria breeding grounds if you use the same pair but fail to properly clean and disinfect them. Certainly, ear infections are a disturbance to your day to day life. If neglected, in the worst cases, they can trigger an ear infection.

How Can You Make Use of Earplugs Without Risk?

Whether it’s a restful night sleep or protecting your hearing, there’s still a strong upside to wearing earplugs. You just have to be certain you’re using the correct kind and using them in the proper way. Foam earplugs are the least expensive, which is good because you really should not use them more than once, the soft, porous material is a germ’s haven. Silicone or wax earplugs are reusable, but you need to keep them sanitized, use warm water and mild soap to wash them, and you shouldn’t put them back in your ears until they’re thoroughly dry. Buildup of moisture can cause mold and bacteria so store your earplugs in a well ventilated place.

If you need or want to use earplugs regularly, you might want to get in touch with us about getting custom-made earplugs. These are made from unique molds of your ears, they can be reused and because they’re fitted to your ears, comfortable. But it’s important not to forget, smart earplug hygiene can stop hearing impairment.