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Man using earplugs to protect his hearing before a concert.

If you’re exposed to loud noises, for example running a lawnmower in your backyard, going to a venue to see your favorite band in concert, or merely sleeping in your own bed next to a snoring spouse, earplugs may be practical. Lowering the sound level is how earplugs can help in the first two situations. They assist in saving your peace of mind and possibly even your relationships, in the last case, by allowing you to get a good night’s sleep. But are these ear protectors, actually, injuring your hearing?

Why Utilize Earplugs at All?

The case for earplugs is pretty simple: When used properly, earplugs can help to safeguard your ears by minimizing your direct exposure to excessive sound levels. After you leave a loud place, say a football game where the Jumbotron keeps exhorting the crowd to, GET LOUD, when the other team kicks off, you’ve probably observed that your hearing seems off, and you could also experience 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 high decibels continually, say you work on a construction crew or at an airport, the audio assault on those tiny hair cells is relentless. In this situation, those hairs cannot heal, they are permanently damaged. inside of each cochlea, there are approximately 16,000 of these little hair cells, but up to 50% of them can be destroyed or at least injured before you would see the change in a hearing exam.

How Might Your Hearing be Injured by Using Earplugs?

With all that, you’d think that wearing earplugs would be an obvious choice in terms of protecting your ears. But primarily if you’re in situations where you’re exposed to loud noises every day (like on the job or with the aforementioned snoring significant other), headphones that reduce, but don’t completely cancel, sound or over the head earmuffs are a much better idea. Earplugs are better suited to one-off scenarios like a concert or sporting event than for regular use.

Why? For one, earwax. Your ears generate wax to protect themselves, and if wearing earplugs is something you do regularly, more earwax will be produced, and you probably will jam it in with the plugs. Tinnitus and other problems can be the outcome from impacted earwax.

An ear infection can be another issue for those who use earplugs. They can become bacteria breeding grounds if you regularly wear the same pair without proper cleaning and disinfecting. Certainly, ear infections are a disturbance of your day to day life. If neglected, in the worst cases, they can result in an ear infection.

How Can You Safely Use Earplugs?

Whether it’s a good night sleep or safeguarding your hearing, there’s still a big upside to using earplugs. Using them in the right way and using the most appropriate kind is the key to success. The porous material of foam earplugs is a germ sanctuary so it’s a helpful thing that they are the least costly. Silicone or wax earplugs are reusable, but you have to keep them sanitized, wash them with warm water and mild soap to cleanse them, and you shouldn’t put them back in your ears until they’re totally dry. It’s also a good idea to store earplugs in a well ventilated container to discourage humidity, or worse, bacteria or mold, from building up.

You might want to speak with us concerning custom fit earplugs if you want or need them regularly. They are comfortable since they are made from molds of your ears and they are reusable. Again though, to stop any possible hearing problems, it’s crucial to put into practice good earplug hygiene!

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