If you’re exposed to loud noises, for example running a lawnmower in your yard, going to a venue to see your favorite band in concert, or simply sleeping in your own bed beside a snoring spouse, earplugs might be helpful. In the first two instances, they can help protect your ears by decreasing the volume. In the last instance, they bring down the sound levels plus help save your peace of mind (and possibly your marriage) by permitting you to get a good night’s sleep. But are these ear protectors, in fact, injuring your hearing?
What’s The Purpose of Using Earplugs?
The argument for earplugs is quite simple: Properly used, earplugs can help protect your hearing by reducing your direct 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 loud crowd, and you could also have symptoms of tinnitus. Those small hairs are bent by this sort of noise exposure and that’s the reason why this happens. In a couple of days, when the hairs have recovered, it usually goes away.
But in a number of instances, there is a persistent attack on those tiny hairs, this is especially true if you work in a noisy industry such as the music business or around jet planes. Instead of bending and then recovering, the cells are permanently compromised. You’ve got around 16,000 of those tiny cells inside each cochlea, but up to 50% of them can be harmed or ruined before your hearing has changed enough for the deficiency to show up in a hearing exam.
How Might Your Hearing be Damaged by Wearing Earplugs?
That being said, you’d think that wearing earplugs would be an obvious choice with regards to protecting your ears. But primarily if you’re in scenarios where you’re exposed to loud noises regularly (like on the job or when your spouse snores as previously stated), over-the-head earmuffs or noise-reducing (but not completely stopping) headphones are a smarter choice. Earplugs are better suited to one-off situations such as a concert or sporting event than for everyday use.
Why? The first problem is, earwax. So that they can protect themselves, your ears make earwax, and if you’re constantly wearing earplugs, they will make more of it, and the earplugs will push it in further. This can lead to problems such as impacted earwax, which can cause tinnitus and other hearing concerns.
Ear infections can also be the result from overuse of earplugs. If you continuously wear 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 can be a disruption of your day to day life. If neglected, in the worst cases, they can cause an ear infection.
How Can You Safely Utilize Earplugs?
Whether it’s a good night sleep or protecting your ears, there’s still a formidable benefit to wearing earplugs. Using them in the proper way and using the right kind is the key to success. Foam earplugs are the least expensive, which is helpful because you really should not reuse them, the cushy, porous material is a germ’s haven. Silicone or wax earplugs are reusable, but you need to keep them clean, wash them with warm water and mild soap to wash them, and you shouldn’t put them back in your ears until they’re thoroughly dry. It’s also a good idea to store earplugs in a well ventilated container to prevent humidity, or worse, mold or bacteria, from accumulating.
If you want or need to wear earplugs regularly, you may want to talk to us about getting custom-made earplugs. They are comfortable since they’re made from molds of your ears and they’re reusable. Again though, to prevent any possible hearing damage, it’s important to practice good earplug hygiene!