Man using earplugs to protect his hearing before a concert.

If you’re exposed to loud sounds, for instance using a lawnmower in your yard, going to a venue to see your favorite band play, or merely sleeping in your own bed next to a snoring spouse, earplugs can be practical. Decreasing the sound level is how earplugs help in the first two instances. In the last case, they reduced the decibels plus help protect your peace of mind (and maybe your relationships) by enabling you to get a good night’s sleep. But are these ear protectors, really, harming your hearing?

What’s The Point of Using Earplugs?

It’s a pretty simple argument for wearing earplugs: When used properly, earplugs can help to safeguard your ears by minimizing your exposure to extreme sound levels. Maybe you’ve observed that your hearing sounds different when you leave a loud venue, say, a football game with a noisy crowd, and you could also experience symptoms of tinnitus. This happens because those extremely loud sounds actually bend the small hair cells in your inner ear. It often goes away within a couple of days, because the hair cells have recovered.

But in many situations, there is a constant assault on those little hairs, this is especially true if you work in a high volume trade such as the music business or in an airport. In this instance, those hairs never recover, they are permanently damaged. You’ve got about 16,000 of those little cells in each cochlea, but up to 50% of them can be injured or destroyed before your hearing has changed enough for the deficiency to appear in a hearing assessment.

Is it Conceivable to Damage Your Hearing by Wearing Earplugs?

With all that, you’d think that using earplugs would be a no-brainer when it comes to protecting your hearing. But if your subjected to loud noises on a regular basis, this seems even more obvious (like on the job or with the above mentioned snoring spouse), over-the-head earmuffs or noise-reducing (but not completely stopping) headphones are a smarter choice. Earplugs are better applicable to one-off situations like a concert or sporting event than for everyday use.

Why? The first problem is, earwax. In order to protect themselves, your ears generate earwax, and if wearing earplugs is something you do all of the time, they’re going to generate more of it, and the earplugs will push it in further. This can lead to troubles like impacted earwax, which can cause tinnitus and other hearing concerns.

Ear infections can also be the outcome from overuse of earplugs. If you continually use the same pair, and you fail to clean them properly from use to use, they can become bacteria traps. At the very least, ear infections are a disturbance to your life. But at the negative end of the spectrum, they can also be the cause of hearing loss if neglected.

How Can You Safely Utilize Earplugs?

Earplugs nevertheless have a strong benefit, whether it’s safeguarding your hearing or getting a restful night’s rest. You just have to be certain you’re using the right kind and using them the proper way. The porous material of foam earplugs is a germ haven so it’s a helpful thing they are the least costly. Don’t put wax or silicone earplugs back in your ears until they are thoroughly dry after utilizing warm water to completely sanitize them. It’s also a good idea to store earplugs in a ventilated place to prevent moisture, or worse, mold or bacteria, from accumulating.

If you need or want to wear earplugs regularly, you may want to talk to us about having 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. Again though, to avoid any potential hearing problems, it’s essential to practice good earplug hygiene!