Evanston Audiology - Evanston, IL

Man using earplugs to protect his hearing before a concert.

Earplugs can be helpful if you’re subjected to loud sounds, like, something as straightforward as a snoring spouse, or a lawnmower in your backyard, or going to an arena to see a concert. In the first two instances, they can help safeguard your hearing by decreasing the volume. In the last instance, they bring down the decibels plus help protect your sanity (and possibly your marriage) by allowing you to get a good night’s sleep. But are these ear protectors, really, harming your ears?

Why Utilize Earplugs at All?

It’s a fairly simple case for wearing earplugs: When used properly, earplugs can minimize your exposure to excessive volume levels and thereby protect your hearing. After you leave a loud venue, say a football game where the announcer keeps telling the crowd to, GET LOUD, whenever the opposing team kicks off, you’ve most likely noticed that your hearing seems different, and you may also experience symptoms of tinnitus. Those tiny hairs are bent by this sort of noise exposure and that’s the reason why this happens. In a day or two, when the hairs have recovered, it generally goes back to normal.

But in certain situations, there is a relentless attack on those tiny hairs, this is especially true if you work in a noisy trade like construction or in an airport. In this case, those hairs never recover, they are permanently damaged. There are just about 16,000 of those little cells inside each cochlea, but up to 50% of them can be destroyed or at least damaged before you would see the change in a hearing test.

How Could Your Ears be Harmed by Using Earplugs?

In terms of safeguarding your hearing, you’d think it would be a no-brainer to utilize earplugs. But if your subjected to loud noises on a regular basis, this seems even more obvious (like on the job or with the aforementioned snoring significant other), headphones that limit, but don’t completely cancel, sound or over the head earmuffs are a much better idea. Earplugs aren’t the best choice for daily use but are a smarter choice for one time occasions like a sports event or a concert.

Why? For one, earwax. In order to protect themselves, your ears produce earwax, and if you’re constantly wearing earplugs, they will make more of it, and the earplugs will push it in further. Tinnitus and other concerns can be the result of impacted earwax.

An ear infection can also be the result from overuse of earplugs. If you continually wear the same pair, and you don’t clean them properly from use to use, they can become breeding grounds for bacteria. Ear infections are, at a minimum, an uncomfortable inconvenience. If neglected, in the worst situations, they can cause an ear infection.

How Can You Make Use of Earplugs Safely?

Earplugs nevertheless have a strong positive, whether it’s protecting your ears or getting a good night’s sleep. Using them in the proper way and using the correct kind is the key to success. Foam earplugs are the least costly, which is helpful because you really shouldn’t use them more than once, the cushy, porous material is a germ’s paradise. Wax or silicone earplugs are reusable, but you have to keep them clean, use warm water and mild soap to wash them, and don’t put them back in your ears until they’re thoroughly dry. Accumulation of moisture can cause mold and bacteria so store your earplugs in a well ventilated container.

If you want or need to wear earplugs regularly, you might want to consult us about having custom-made earplugs. These are constructed from unique molds of your ears, they can be reused and because they’re fitted to your ears, their comfortable. But it’s important not to forget, good earplug hygiene can prevent hearing damage.

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.
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