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Man using earplugs to protect his hearing before a concert.

Earplugs can be practical if you’re exposed to loud noises, such as for example, something as simple as a snoring spouse, or a lawnmower in your yard, or going to a concert at an arena. Lowering the volume is the way earplugs can help in the first two cases. They assist in saving your peace of mind and possibly even your marriage, in the last situation, by allowing you to get a good night’s sleep. But is your hearing being damaged by these protectors?

Why Utilize Earplugs at All?

The case for earplugs is pretty simple: When used properly, earplugs can help to protect your hearing by minimizing your exposure to extreme decibel levels. When you leave a loud venue, like a football game where the Jumbotron keeps telling the crowd to, GET LOUD, when the opposing team kicks off, you’ve probably observed that your hearing seems off, and you could also experience symptoms of tinnitus. This occurs because those super-loud noises actually bend the little hair cells inside of your inner ear. In a couple of days, when the hairs have recovered, it usually goes back to normal.

But if you’re subjected to excessive decibels continuously, for instance, if you work on a construction site or at an airport, the audio attack on those tiny hair cells is constant. In this circumstance, those hairs cannot get better, they are permanently damaged. There are 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 problem to show up in a hearing test.

Is it Possible That Your Ears May be Harmed by Earplugs?

With regards to protecting your ears, you’d think it would be obvious to use earplugs. But if your exposed to loud noises on a regular basis, this seems to be even more obvious (like on the job or when your significant other snores as mentioned), over-the-head earmuffs or noise-reducing (but not completely blocking) headphones are a better option. Earplugs are better suited to one-off scenarios like a sporting event or concert than for everyday use.

Why? For one, earwax. In order to protect themselves, your ears make earwax, and if using earplugs is something you do constantly, more earwax will be produced, and you’ll probably jam it in with the plugs. Tinnitus and other complications can be the outcome from impacted earwax.

Ear infections can also be the consequence from too much use of earplugs. They can become bacteria breeding grounds if you use the same pair without proper cleaning and disinfecting. At the very least, ear infections can be a disturbance to your day to day life. If neglected, in the worst situations, they can trigger an ear infection.

How Can You Safely Use Earplugs?

Whether it’s a good night sleep or protecting your ears, there’s still a big upside to using earplugs. You just have to be sure you’re using the proper kind and utilizing them the right way. The porous material of foam earplugs is a germ haven so it’s a good thing that they are the least expensive. Don’t put wax or silicone earplugs back in until they are thoroughly dry after using warm water to entirely clean them. Buildup of dampness can cause mold and bacteria so keep your earplugs in a well ventilated place.

You might want to talk to us concerning custom fit earplugs if you want or need them frequently. They’re comfortable since they’re crafted from molds of your ears and they are reusable. Again though, to prevent any possible hearing problems, it’s important to practice smart earplug hygiene!

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