Earplugs can be beneficial if you’re subjected to loud sounds, such as, something as simple as a spouse who is snoring, or a lawnmower in your yard, or going to an arena to see a concert. Lowering the volume is how earplugs can help in the first two situations. In the last instance, they decrease the decibels plus help save your peace of mind (and possibly your marriage) by enabling you to get a good night’s sleep. But is your hearing being injured by these protectors?
What’s The Purpose of Using Earplugs?
The case for earplugs is fairly simple: When used properly, earplugs can help to protect your hearing by minimizing your exposure to extreme sound 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 may also experience symptoms of tinnitus. Those little hairs are bent by this kind of noise exposure and that’s why this happens. It often disappears within a day or two, because the hair cells have recovered.
But if you’re exposed to high decibels continually, for instance, if you work on a construction site or at an airport, the audio assault on those tiny hair cells is relentless. As opposed to bending and then recovering, the cells are damaged permanently. Inside each cochlea, there are approximately 16,000 of these little hair cells, but up to 50% of them can be ruined or at least damaged before you would notice the change in a hearing exam.
Is it Possible That Your Ears May be Damaged by Earplugs?
That being said, you’d think that wearing earplugs would be an obvious choice with regards to protecting your ears. But if your exposed to loud noises on a day to day basis, this seems to be even more obvious (like on the job or with the aforementioned snoring partner), over-the-head earmuffs or noise-reducing (but not completely stopping) headphones are a better option. Earplugs aren’t the best choice for day to day use but are a smarter choice for one time events like a sports event or a concert.
Why? For one, earwax. Your ears create wax to protect themselves, and if using earplugs is something you do constantly, they will make more of it, and you are likely to jam it in with the plugs. This can lead to troubles like impacted earwax, which can cause tinnitus and other hearing issues.
An ear infection can be another issue for those who use earplugs. If you continually use the same pair, and you fail to clean them between uses, they can become breeding grounds for bacteria. Certainly, ear infections are a disturbance to your life. But at the worst-case-scenario end of the scale, they can also cause hearing loss if left untreated.
How Can You Safely Use Earplugs?
Whether it’s a restful night sleep or protecting your hearing, there’s still a strong upside to using earplugs. Using them in the right way and using the right kind is the secret to success. The porous material of foam earplugs is a germ haven so it’s a good thing they are the least costly. Don’t put wax or silicone earplugs back in your ears until they are thoroughly dry after using warm water to completely sanitize them. Buildup of humidity can cause bacteria or mold so keep your earplugs in a well ventilated place.
If you need or want to wear earplugs on a regular basis, you may want to get in touch with us about having custom-made earplugs. They’re comfortable since they’re crafted from molds of your ears and they are reusable. Again though, to avoid any possible hearing problems, it’s important to practice good earplug hygiene!