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Do earplugs work? Are earplugs really worth using?

Are you thinking about investing in some ear plugs?

You’re already aware of earmuffs and how they work, but what about earplugs? Learn more about the different types available and how to use them properly.

Earplugs are the most effective way of protecting your ears from loud noises, so if you’re constantly exposed to loud music, this article is for you. It will explain all you need to know about earplugs and how to use them.

Keep reading to learn more about the best ways to protect your ears.

Table Of Contents

Do earplugs work? Do they really work or are they just a waste of time and money?

Noises may seem insignificant but, in fact, can cause permanent hearing damage. Therefore, it’s so important to protect your ears if you’re regularly exposed to loud sounds. And while you could go the cliche route and wear earmuffs, there’s a better option: Ear plugs!

This article will explain what earplugs are and how they work; it will also mention when and how to use them for maximum effectiveness.

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How do I use them?

There are many types of earplugs, from custom ones made of a soft material to prefabricated plugs that are inserted into the ear canal. Whichever type you choose, here’s how to use them correctly:

1. Take the earplugs out of the packaging and check that they’re clean. If they’re dirty or dusty, wipe them with a wet tissue until they’re free of any particles. Dry it off and place them back in their container to avoid getting dust on them.

2. Pick the right size depending on your individual ear canals. The plugs come in different sizes to suit different people’s ear canals: small for children, medium for average adults and large for those whose ears are slightly larger than average or overweight/obese adults who want to limit their hearing range from loud noises.

3. Gently insert one plug into your outer lining (the skin surrounding your ear). Then, using your opposite hand, place the other plug into your inner lining (the skin within your ear canal). The latter is trickier as you need to grip the plug as you push it in. If you can’t push it any further after about 30 seconds, you may not be inserting it correctly.

4. Insert plugs before exposure to loud and harmful noises. This way, their ability to block out noise and prevent noise-induced hearing loss is maximized.

5. Wash the plugs using a mild soap and lukewarm water after use; then let them dry flat in a clean and dry place free of dust.

What are the benefits?

Aside from keeping your ears safe against hazardous noise levels, earplugs have several other benefits that may be of use to you:

1. They’re reusable. This means you can wear them again and again. Though this may seem counterintuitive, keep in mind that they’re cheap and the cost of buying a new pair each time can add up over time.

2. They block out noise well. It’s worth mentioning that it won’t eliminate surrounding noises but it will significantly reduce how much you’re hearing them by up to 30-35 decibels – an astonishingly high percentage for a simple product!

3. They protect your sleep. If you’re a light sleeper, earplugs are a godsend because they allow you to sleep through the night without being woken by noises.

How effective are they?

Decibel reduction is a very important factor in determining how much protection you’re receiving from earplugs. The higher the decibel reduction, the greater the protection against noise-induced hearing loss. The more sound they block out, the less likely your hearing will be damaged by loud and harmful noises.

The effectiveness of earplugs can be measured using decibel tests. These are carried out in a laboratory using soundproof booths with special equipment; this is how noise levels are measured and tested. The tests are then compared to the loudness of the original noise being produced in the laboratory.

The results are then converted into decibels using a formula, and the final reduction in decibels is shown. For example, if an earplug is said to reduce the noise by 10 decibels, it means that it’s reducing the loudness of a sound by 10 times as much as it was at its original level.

Testing for hearing loss can be done with a tester device where sound waves apply to your ears to check how well they work compared to normal hearing.

What are the side effects?

1. While they’re safe, they may still damage to the ear if they don’t fit securely. When too many of them are inserted too far into the canal, they may block the movement of sound within and outside the ear canals, which can cause ringing or humming noises, a sensation of pressure in your ears or even pain.

2. They’re not suitable for everyone; especially those people with a history of unclogging their ears when inserting ear plugs (called Eustachian tube obstruction).

3. They block noise but they don’t keep your ears warm; so it’s a good idea to wear a hat or scarf on cold days.

4. Certain people, especially those with pre-existing hearing problems and ear injuries, may experience discomfort when wearing ear plugs because of the pressure the plugs exert on their ears. If you experience pain after using earplugs, stop using them at once and consult your physician for advice on acquiring new ones or alternatives.

5. You should never reuse earplugs that have been used in water (such as pools or beaches), unless that is the only type you have. A good rule of thumb is to throw away any earplugs that go into water and replace them with new ones when you get home.

What are the different types of earplugs?

There are several types of earplugs, each with its own unique features that make them ideal for specific uses; here are just a few:

Foam Earplugs

They can be flat or contoured to fit the ear canal, and are made of soft foam. They’re inexpensive and are great for blocking out noise in your ears and protecting them from harm. The problem is that they don’t block out all the harmful sounds; if you’re a heavy sleeper, you’ll still hear surrounding noises even with these plugs inserted.

Custom earplugs:

They are made of soft material (such as silicone) and molded according to a person’s ear canal. They’re the most comfortable to wear and provide the best protection against noise. The downside is that they’re more expensive than other types of earplugs.

Prefabricated earplugs:

They are made of plastic or other materials and available in various shapes, sizes, colors, thicknesses and materials. Most come as disposable plugs or you can buy them in bulk for re-use. They tend to be cheaper than custom plugs but less effective.

Silicon Earplugs:

Made of a soft material, they are molded in various sizes and densities. They’re inexpensive and easy to use but may need to be replaced often, depending on how often they’re being used.

Wax Earplugs:

Made of wax, they’re available in different types and shapes. The most common types are “round” plugs, which are easier to insert, but they don’t provide as great a reduction in loud noises as other plugs.

Cotton Earplugs:

They are made of cotton and shaped to fit around the ear canal comfortably without need for additional inserts. They provide little noise reduction, so are often used only for sleeping or moderate noise levels.

Earplugs for swimming:

These keep water from entering the ear canal and damaging the eardrum. They’re made of a soft disposable material that won’t cause irritation to your ears, and don’t require you to remove them when coming out of the water.

They can be worn while diving as they seal off water and provide good hearing protection (the only disadvantage is that they may cut your circulation if worn too long).

Proper fitting is crucial when choosing earplugs to avoid problems such as pain or discomfort. It’s recommended to visit a hearing clinic or audiologist in order to learn exactly how different earplugs should be fitted and used properly.

Reusable earplugs

Reusable ear plugs are available in different types with varying degrees of noise reduction and comfort, however, their effectiveness is only as good as the earplugs (not the person wearing them).

They’re made of various materials, some are more comfortable to wear and others provide better noise reduction.

What are the benefits of reusable ear plugs?

1. They’re more effective at reducing loud noises and they’re very easy to use – just put them in.

2. They can be used over many times without damaging them (unlike disposable ones) so they’re a great bargain to consider if you intend on using them often even if they aren’t reducing loud noises properly.

3. They can be washed properly and sterilized if needed, so you don’t need to worry about germs.

4. They block the noise effectively so they are great for those who are having hearing problems or want to prevent them from happening in the future.

Earplugs and noise reduction ratings

The NRR is a rating system used to compare the effective noise reduction provided by different types of earplugs. It specifies how much sound pressure a set of earplugs can block out, assuming that the ear plugs are properly fitted and positioned in the ear canal.

The more NRR’s a product has, the better they’re rated and they should provide a greater level of protection against loud noises. However, it’s important to remember that an NRR rating is only as good as the ear plugs it uses – not how well it fits or how comfortable they are.

The rating is given out in dB. The higher the number is, the greater the noise reduction provided by the earplugs.

When should you wear earplugs?

Earplugs are best used when you find that you’re exposed to excessively loud noises (such as at concerts or nightclubs) or whenever you want to avoid damage to your hearing. These are examples of situations where earplugs should be used consistently for maximum protection:

You don’t need to wear them all the time if you don’t want to, but if you work in a noisy environment (such as a factory or construction site), it’s a good idea to get some reusable ones and wear them during working time so that your ears can rest in silence when you’re not working. Also, if you have tinnitus or other hearing problems, it’s advisable to use earplugs as part of your treatment plan.

Kids and earplugs 

It’s a good thing to start using earplugs at an early age, especially if you’ve been exposed to excessively loud noise levels. It will help your ears adjust to the decreased volume level and allow you to avoid permanent hearing damage in the future.

Consider taking your kids with you when you’re buying earplugs so that they can be fitted and used properly by an audiologist or hearing care professional. A good idea is to get reusable ones which can be worn at home, school and in noisy environments such as playgrounds, theme parks or fireworks displays.

Children’s earplugs are available in different types, shapes and sizes to fit individual needs and comfort. Some are easy to insert while others are reusable, disposable or fitted with soft foam so that they can be inserted as needed with no need for extra inserts.

Let your kids be part of the decision when you’re buying them and carry them in their school bag when you’re on the move so that they’re always together. This way, you won’t have to worry about any loose earplugs falling out or being lost in the wash.

Conclusion

Earplugs provide the wearer with privacy, soundproofing and protection against loud noises. They are made of various materials with varying degrees of noise reduction. Reusable ear plugs can be used over many times without damaging them and it’s possible to wash them properly and sterilize them if needed.

Adults who are exposed to excessively loud noises or want to prevent hearing damage should make use of earplugs so that it’s easier for their ears to adjust to the environment. It’s best if children use earplugs from a young age so that they’ll avoid permanent hearing damage in the future.

Please Note: Just because an ear defender is marked, for example, "Gunshot" - it will still cover other things, like "explosions"

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Last update on 2022-06-30 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Other Questions

What is considered excessive noise?

The most important is to be reminded of the damaging effects that noise can have on health. Excessive or prolonged noise exposure can lead to hearing loss, tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and other ear disorders.

Frequent exposure to loud noises such as from construction sites or factories exacerbates other problems with the ears, such as otosclerosis (swelling of the ears) and leads to hearing loss.

Exposure to high decibel levels over long periods can also cause damage to other parts of the ear, including natural bone support structures and nerve damage, leading to tinnitus and hearing loss.

How do silicon earplugs work

Silicon earplugs are made from soft, flexible silicone rubber. They attach to the wearer’s ears with a small piece of plastic that fits over the outer ear canal. The plugs are generally small and wear them for short periods when working, exercising or travelling in noisy environments. The wearer can remove and replace them easily as needed.

Silicon earplugs are considered disposable because they wear out quickly and must be replaced after each use. Additionally, they often don’t provide the best level of noise reduction, so they’re usually not recommended for those who want genuine protection against loud noises.

How do wax earplugs work

Wax earplugs are also made from soft, flexible silicone rubber that attach to the wearer’s ears with a small piece of plastic. However, they are meant to be used for long periods.

The wearer can wash them and sterilize them according to the manufacturer’s instructions after each use using warm water and soap. The plugs are generally small, easy to insert and remove but aren’t reusable.

Wax earplugs can provide better noise reduction than silicon earplugs depending on the size of the wax plugs you get, so they’re more suitable for those who want true protection from loud noises.

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