Man using earplugs to protect his hearing before a concert.

If you’re subjected to loud noises, say using a lawnmower in your backyard, going to a venue to see your favorite band in concert, or merely sleeping at home beside a snoring spouse, earplugs might be practical. Bringing down the sound level is the way earplugs can help in the first two circumstances. They assist in saving your sanity and possibly even your relationships, in the last case, by permitting you to get a good night’s sleep. But are these ear protectors, actually, causing damage to your ears?

What’s The Purpose of Utilizing Earplugs?

It’s a fairly simple argument for using earplugs: Properly used, earplugs can limit your exposure to extreme volume levels and thereby safeguard your hearing. Maybe 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 happens because those super-loud noises actually bend the little hair cells inside of your inner ear. In a couple of days, when the hairs have recovered, it generally goes back to normal.

But in certain situations, there is a relentless assault on those tiny hairs, this is especially true if you work in a noisy trade like construction or in an airport. In this situation, those hairs cannot heal, they are permanently damaged. There are about 16,000 of those tiny cells in each cochlea, but up to 50% of them can be damaged or destroyed before your hearing has altered enough for the deficiency to appear in a hearing assessment.

How Could Earplugs Lead to Damage?

With all that, you’d think that using earplugs would be a no-brainer with regards to protecting your ears. But primarily if you’re in situations where you’re exposed to loud noises every day (like on the job or when your spouse snores as mentioned), headphones that limit, but don’t completely cancel, sound or over the head earmuffs are a much smarter choice. Earplugs are better applicable to one-off situations like a sporting event or concert than for everyday use.

Why? The first problem is, earwax. Your ears create wax to defend themselves, and if you’re always wearing earplugs, they’re going to create more of it, and you’re likely to push it in with the plugs. Tinnitus and other complications can be the result of impacted earwax.

Ear infections can be another issue for people who wear earplugs. They can become bacteria breeding grounds if you wear the same pair but fail to properly clean and disinfect them. Ear infections are, at a minimum, an uncomfortable annoyance. If neglected, in the worst instances, they can trigger an ear infection.

How Can You Utilize Earplugs Without Risk?

Whether it’s a restful night sleep or safeguarding your hearing, there’s still a formidable benefit to wearing earplugs. Using them in the right way and using the correct kind is the key to success. Foam earplugs are the least costly, which is helpful 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 have to keep them clean, wash them with warm water and mild soap to clean them, and don’t put them back in your ears until they’re totally dry. Accumulation of dampness can cause bacteria or mold so store your earplugs in a well ventilated place.

You may want to speak with us about custom fit earplugs if you need or want them on a regular basis. They are comfortable because they’re made from molds of your ears and they are reusable. But it’s important not to forget, smart earplug hygiene can stop hearing impairment.