Cedar Audiology Associates - Cleveland, OH

Man using earplugs to protect his hearing before a concert.

Earplugs can be practical if you’re subjected to loud sounds, such as, something as simple as a snoring spouse, or a lawnmower in your yard, or going to an arena to see a concert. Turning down the sound level is how earplugs can help in the first two circumstances. In the last circumstances, they lower the decibels and help save your peace of mind (and possibly your relationships) by allowing you to get a good night’s sleep. But are these ear protectors, actually, harming your ears?

What’s The Purpose of Utilizing Earplugs?

It’s a pretty simple case for wearing earplugs: Properly used, earplugs can minimize your exposure to excessive 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 loud crowd, and you could also suffer from symptoms of tinnitus. Those small hairs are bent by this sort of noise exposure and that’s why this occurs. In a couple of days, when the hairs have recovered, it often goes away.

But if you’re exposed to extreme decibels continually, say you work on a construction site or at an airport, the aural attack on those tiny hair cells is constant. Instead of recovering after bending, the cells are damaged permanently. you have just about 16,000 of those little cells inside each cochlea, but up to 50% of them can be damaged or ruined before your hearing has altered enough for the deficiency to appear in a hearing assessment.

How Might Your Hearing be Harmed by Wearing Earplugs?

With regards to protecting your hearing, it seems like it would be a no-brainer to make use of earplugs. But primarily if you’re in scenarios where you’re subjected to loud noises all the time (like on the job or when your spouse snores as previously stated), over-the-head earmuffs or noise-reducing (but not completely blocking) headphones are a smarter choice. Earplugs are better applicable to one-off scenarios such as a sporting event or concert than for everyday use.

Why? For one, earwax. Your ears generate wax to defend themselves, and if wearing earplugs is something you do constantly, more earwax will be produced, and the earplugs will push it in further. This can result in problems like impacted earwax, which can cause tinnitus and other hearing problems.

An ear infection can also be the result from overuse of earplugs. If you frequently use the same pair, and you don’t clean them between uses, they can become breeding grounds for bacteria. Certainly, ear infections can be a disturbance of your day to day life. But at the worst-case-scenario end of the spectrum, they can also result in hearing loss if left untreated.

How Can You Safely Use Earplugs?

Whether it’s a good night sleep or safeguarding your ears, there’s still a big upside to wearing earplugs. You just need to be certain you’re using the proper kind and utilizing them the proper way. Foam earplugs are the least expensive, which is helpful because you really shouldn’t reuse them, the soft, porous material is a germ’s haven. Silicone or wax earplugs are reusable, but you have to keep them clean, use warm water and mild soap to wash them, and you shouldn’t put them back in your ears until they’re thoroughly dry. Accumulation of humidity can cause mold and bacteria so keep your earplugs in a well ventilated container.

If you need or want to use earplugs regularly, you might want to get in touch with us about getting custom-made earplugs. These are constructed from unique molds of your ears, they can be reused and since they’re fitted to your ears, comfortable. But it’s important not to forget, smart earplug hygiene can stop hearing damage.

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