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Hearing Aids by Tricia Leagjeld - Redmond, OR

Man using earplugs to protect his hearing before a concert.

Earplugs can be beneficial if you’re subjected to loud noises, such as, something as simple as a spouse who is snoring, or a lawnmower in your backyard, or going to an arena to see a concert. Bringing down the volume is the way earplugs can help in the first two situations. They help save your peace of mind and perhaps even your marriage, in the last situation, by enabling you to get a good night’s sleep. But are your ears being harmed by these protectors?

Why Utilize Earplugs in The First Place?

The argument for earplugs is pretty simple: When used properly, earplugs can help to protect your ears by reducing your direct exposure to extreme decibel levels. Maybe you’ve noticed that your hearing sounds different after you leave a loud venue, say, a football game with a noisy crowd, and you may also suffer from symptoms of tinnitus. This happens because those super-loud sounds can actually bend the small hair cells in your inner ear. It often disappears within a day or two, because the hair cells have recovered.

But in some instances, there is a relentless attack on those little hairs, particularly if you work in a high volume profession like the music business or around jet planes. In this situation, those hairs cannot get better, they are permanently injured. You’ve got about 16,000 of those tiny cells in each cochlea, but up to 50% of them can be harmed or destroyed before your hearing has altered enough for the deficiency to show up in a hearing exam.

How Could Earplugs Lead to Damage?

When it comes to protecting your ears, you’d think it would be obvious to wear earplugs. But primarily if you’re in scenarios where you’re exposed to loud noises on a regular basis (like on the job or with the above mentioned snoring partner), over-the-head earmuffs or noise-reducing (but not completely stopping) headphones are a better option. Earplugs are better suited to one-off scenarios like a concert or sporting event than for regular use.

Why? The first problem is, earwax. Your ears create wax to protect themselves, and if using earplugs is something you do frequently, they will create more of it, and you’re likely to push it in with the plugs. Tinnitus and other issues can be the outcome from impacted earwax.

Ear infections can also result from overuse of earplugs. If you continuously use the same pair, and you don’t clean them from use to use, they can become breeding grounds for bacteria. Certainly, ear infections are a disturbance of your life. But at the worst-case-scenario end of the scale, they can also cause hearing loss if you fail to get treatment.

How Can You Safely Utilize Earplugs?

Earplugs nevertheless have a strong positive, whether it’s protecting your hearing or getting a peaceful night’s rest. Using them in the right way and using the most appropriate kind is the secret to success. The porous material of foam earplugs is a germ sanctuary so it’s a helpful thing that they are the least expensive. Silicone or wax 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 totally dry. Buildup of dampness can cause bacteria or mold so store your earplugs in a well ventilated container.

You might want to talk to us about custom fit earplugs if you want or need them frequently. These are crafted from unique molds of your ears, they can be reused and since they’re fitted to your ears, their comfortable. But it’s important not to forget, smart earplug hygiene can lessen hearing damage.

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