If you’re subjected to loud sounds, say using a lawnmower in your backyard, going to a venue to see your favorite band in concert, or merely sleeping at home beside a snoring spouse, earplugs might be practical. Turning down the volume is how earplugs help in the first two instances. In the last situation, they decrease the sound levels and help save your sanity (and maybe your relationships) by permitting you to get a good night’s sleep. But is your hearing being injured by these protectors?
What’s The Point of Wearing Earplugs?
It’s a pretty simple argument for wearing earplugs: When used properly, earplugs can help to protect your hearing by reducing your exposure to extreme decibel levels. Maybe you’ve observed that your hearing sounds different when you leave a loud venue, say, a football game with a loud crowd, and you might also suffer from symptoms of tinnitus. Those little hairs are bent by this kind of noise exposure and that’s why this occurs. It often vanishes within a couple of days, because the hair cells have recovered.
But if you’re subjected to extreme decibels continuously, for instance, if you work on a construction crew or at an airfield, the aural assault on those tiny hair cells is constant. As opposed to recovering after bending, the cells are damaged permanently. Inside each cochlea, you have about 16,000 of these little hair cells, but up to 50% of them can be injured or destroyed before your hearing has altered enough for the deficiency to show up in a hearing assessment.
Is it Possible That Your Hearing Could be Damaged by Earplugs?
When it comes to protecting your hearing, it seems like it would be a no-brainer to make use of earplugs. But if your subjected to loud noises on a day to day basis, this seems even more obvious (like on the job or when your spouse snores as mentioned), over-the-head earmuffs or noise-reducing (but not completely stopping) headphones are a smarter choice. Earplugs aren’t the best choice for day to day use but are a smarter choice for one time occasions like a sports event or a concert.
Why? The first problem is, earwax. In order to protect themselves, your ears create earwax, and if you’re always wearing earplugs, more earwax will be produced, and you probably will push it in with the plugs. Tinnitus and other complications can be the outcome from impacted earwax.
Ear infections can be another problem for people who wear earplugs. They can become bacteria breeding grounds if you use the same pair but fail to properly clean and disinfect them. Ear infections are, at a minimum, a painful annoyance. But at the worst-case-scenario end of the scale, they can also result in hearing loss if left untreated.
How Can You Safely Use Earplugs?
Earplugs nevertheless have a strong upside, whether it’s protecting your ears or enjoying a good night’s sleep. You just need to be certain you’re using the proper kind and using them the right way. The porous material of foam earplugs is a germ paradise so it’s a helpful thing they are the least expensive. Don’t put silicone or wax earplugs back in your ears until they are thoroughly dry after utilizing warm water to completely sanitize them. It’s also a good idea to store earplugs in a ventilated place to discourage moisture, or worse, bacteria or mold, from building up.
You might want to speak with us about custom fit earplugs if you want or need them frequently. They are comfortable because they’re made from molds of your ears and they are reusable. Again though, to stop any potential hearing damage, it’s important to practice smart earplug hygiene!