Man using earplugs to protect his hearing before a concert.

If you’re exposed to loud noises, for instance using a lawnmower in your backyard, going to an arena to see your favorite band in concert, or simply sleeping at home beside a snoring spouse, earplugs might be helpful. Bringing down the sound level is how earplugs help in the first two situations. They help save your peace of mind and possibly even your marriage, in the last circumstances, by allowing you to get a good night’s sleep. But is your hearing being harmed by these protectors?

Why Utilize Earplugs at All?

The case for earplugs is quite simple: When used properly, earplugs can minimize your exposure to extreme noise levels and thereby safeguard your ears. After you leave a loud place, like a football game where the announcer keeps exhorting the crowd to, GET LOUD, every time the other team kicks off, you’ve most likely noticed that your hearing seems off, and you may also suffer from symptoms of tinnitus. Those small hairs are bent by this type of noise exposure and that’s why this happens. It often goes away within a day or two, because the hair cells have recovered.

But in certain situations, there is a persistent assault on those tiny hairs, especially if you work in a noisy trade such as construction or around jet planes. As opposed to recovering after bending, the cells are damaged permanently. You’ve got just about 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 notice the different in a hearing assessment.

Is it Possible That Your Hearing Could be Damaged by Earplugs?

With all that, you’d think that wearing earplugs would be a no-brainer with regards to protecting your hearing. But primarily if you’re in situations where you’re exposed to loud noises on a regular basis (like on the job or with the above mentioned snoring significant other), over-the-head earmuffs or noise-reducing (but not completely blocking) headphones are a better option. Earplugs aren’t the best choice for day to day use but are better suited to one off occasions like a sports event or a concert.

Why? The first problem is, earwax. Your ears produce wax to protect themselves, and if you’re regularly using earplugs, more earwax will be produced, and you are likely to jam it in with the plugs. Tinnitus and other complications can be the result of impacted earwax.

Ear infections can be another problem for people who use earplugs. If you continuously use the same pair, and you don’t clean them properly between uses, they can become breeding grounds for bacteria. At the very least, ear infections are a disruption to your day to day life. If left untreated, in the worst situations, they can result in an ear infection.

How Can You Use Earplugs Without Risk?

Whether it’s a restful night sleep or safeguarding your ears, there’s still a big benefit to wearing earplugs. You just need to be certain you’re using the proper kind and utilizing them in the proper way. The porous material of foam earplugs is a germ haven so it’s a good thing that they are the least costly. Wax or silicone 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 completely dry. It’s also a good plan to keep earplugs in a ventilated place to prevent humidity, or worse, bacteria or mold, from accumulating.

You might want to speak with us concerning custom fit earplugs if you want or need them frequently. These are crafted from unique molds of your ears, they’re reusable and since they’re fitted to your ears, their comfortable. But it’s important not to forget, good earplug hygiene can lessen hearing impairment.

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.