Earplugs can be practical if you’re exposed to loud noises, such as for example, something as simple as a spouse who is snoring, or a lawnmower in your backyard, or going to a concert at an arena. Turning down the sound level is the way earplugs can help in the first two situations. In the last circumstances, they reduce the decibels and help protect your sanity (and maybe your marriage) by letting you 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 quite simple: Properly used, earplugs can help to protect your hearing by reducing your exposure to excessive sound levels. Perhaps you’ve observed that your hearing seems different when you leave a loud venue, for instance, a football game with a noisy crowd, and you could also suffer from symptoms of tinnitus. This occurs because those super-loud sounds actually bend the tiny hair cells inside of your inner ear. It often disappears within a day or two, because the hair cells have recovered.
But in a few particular circumstances, there is a relentless attack on those little hairs, particularly if you work in a high volume industry such as construction or around jet planes. As opposed to recovering after bending, the cells are damaged permanently. There are around 16,000 of those tiny cells inside each cochlea, but up to 50% of them can be ruined or at least damaged before you would see the different in a hearing test.
Is it Possible That Your Ears Could be Harmed by Earplugs?
That being said, you’d think that using earplugs would be an obvious choice with regards to protecting your hearing. But if your subjected to loud noises on a day to day basis, this seems even more obvious (like on the job or with the previously mentioned snoring spouse), over-the-head earmuffs or noise-reducing (but not completely blocking) headphones are a better choice. Earplugs aren’t the best choice for day to day use but are a smarter choice for one off events such as a sports event or a concert.
Why? The first problem is, earwax. Your ears create wax to defend themselves, and if you’re constantly using earplugs, they will make more of it, and the earplugs will push it in further. This can cause issues like impacted earwax, which can trigger tinnitus and other hearing concerns.
An ear infection can also be the outcome from too much use of earplugs. If you frequently use the same pair, and you don’t clean them between uses, they can become bacteria traps. Ear infections are, at the very least, an uncomfortable irritation. If left untreated, in the worst situations, they can result in an ear infection.
How Can You Use Earplugs Without Risk?
Earplugs still have a strong benefit, whether it’s safeguarding your ears or enjoying a peaceful night’s rest. Using them in the proper way and using the right kind is the key to success. The porous material of foam earplugs is a germ sanctuary so it’s a good thing they are the least costly. Don’t put silicone or wax earplugs back in your ears until they are totally dry after using warm water to completely sanitize them. It’s also a good plan to keep earplugs in a well ventilated container to discourage moisture, or worse, bacteria or mold, from building up.
If you want or need to wear earplugs regularly, you may want to talk to us about getting custom-made earplugs. They’re comfortable because they are crafted from molds of your ears and they are reusable. But it’s important not to forget, good earplug hygiene can stop hearing damage.