Man using earplugs to protect his hearing before a concert.

If you’re exposed to loud noises, say running a lawnmower in your yard, going to a venue to see your favorite band in concert, or merely sleeping at home next to a snoring spouse, earplugs may be practical. In the first two instances, they can help protect your hearing by decreasing the volume. In the last situation, they low the decibels plus help protect your sanity (and maybe your relationships) by allowing you to get a good night’s sleep. But are these ear protectors, actually, causing damage to your hearing?

What’s The Purpose of Using Earplugs?

The argument for earplugs is quite simple: When used properly, earplugs can limit your exposure to extreme noise levels and thereby shield 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 experience symptoms of tinnitus. This happens because those extremely loud sounds actually bend the little hair cells inside your inner ear. It often vanishes within a day or two, because the hair cells have recovered.

But if you’re subjected to excessive decibels frequently, for instance, if you work on a construction site or at an airport, the audio assault on those tiny hair cells is unyielding. As opposed to recovering after bending, the cells are permanently damaged. You’ve got around 16,000 of those tiny cells inside each cochlea, but up to 50% of them can be injured or ruined before your hearing has changed enough for the problem to show up in a hearing test.

How Can Earplugs Lead to Injury?

With regards to safeguarding your hearing, you’d think it would be a no-brainer to use earplugs. But if your subjected to loud noises on a day to day basis, this seems 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 are better suited to one-off situations such as a sporting event or concert than for day to day use.

Why? For one, earwax. In order to protect themselves, your ears make earwax, and if using earplugs is something you do all of the time, they’re going to create more of it, and you are likely to jam it in with the plugs. Tinnitus and other concerns can be the result of impacted earwax.

An ear infection can also be the consequence from overuse of earplugs. If you continually wear the same pair, and you fail to clean them between uses, they can become breeding grounds for bacteria. Certainly, ear infections are a disruption of your life. If neglected, in the worst situations, they can cause an ear infection.

How Can You Safely Utilize Earplugs?

Whether it’s a restful night sleep or safeguarding your hearing, there’s still a formidable benefit to wearing earplugs. You just have to be sure you’re using the correct kind and using them the correct way. Foam earplugs are the least costly, which is good because you really should not use them more than once, the soft, porous material is a germ’s paradise. Don’t put wax or silicone earplugs back in your ears until they are totally dry after using warm water to entirely sanitize them. Buildup of moisture can cause bacteria or mold so store your earplugs in a well ventilated container.

You might want to talk to us concerning custom fit earplugs if you need or want them on a regular basis. These are made from unique molds of your ears, they can be reused and since they’re fitted to your ears, their comfortable. But it’s important not to forget, smart earplug hygiene can stop hearing impairment.