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Dos and Don’ts When Using Earplugs


Earplugs are a valuable tool when it comes to protecting our ears from loud noises. Many people wear them at concerts or at the movies, others find they sleep better with earplugs. But these pieces of foam or plastic might be a bit tricky to use. Here are some dos and don’ts when using earplugs.

Do insert them properly

Foam earplugs are designed to expand in the ear for a custom fit. However, if they’re inserted improperly they can be uncomfortable and have reduced ear protection benefits. It’s important to roll the foam earplugs between your fingers and compress them well before inserting into the ear canal. Many people find it beneficial to pull on the top of their ear a bit with one hand while using the other to insert the earplug.

Don’t forget to clean them

Even disposable earplugs should be cleaned between uses. Before you insert them, wipe off any earwax or dirt. Make sure the foam is still responsive and bounces back. Disposable earplugs may only last for one or two uses. If you have custom earplugs, be sure to clean them every day.

Do check the noise reduction rating

Disposable earplugs come in several levels of noise reduction. Generally speaking, the rating does not directly correspond with decibel reduction, but it’s pretty close. Light sleepers may find that earplugs with a 20 rating will give them the noise reduction they need without blocking out all noise. For other situations, such as going to the movies or a concert, you may want to find earplugs with a noise reduction level of 30 or so.

Don’t ignore cleaning your ears

Your ears don’t need a lot of help when it comes to cleaning. Earwax is actually the agent that keeps your ears clean as it migrates away from your eardrum to the outer ear. Sometimes earplugs interfere with that process. If you wear earplugs every day, it’s important to make sure the plugs aren’t creating an earwax blockage. If you have a stuffy or blocked-up feeling in your ears, it’s time to see your audiologist of primary health care provider to check for any problems.

Do consider custom earplugs

If you wear earplugs every day you may be more comfortable with custom earplugs. These are made of soft silicone and actually are molded to the shape of your ear, much the same as earmolds for hearing aids. Light sleepers or those who work in a noisy environment often find custom earplugs more comfortable to wear for hours at a time. A hearing professional can take the molds and make these earplugs or you may find at-home kits to make them yourself.

Hopefully, these dos and don’ts when using earplugs will help you protect your hearing. Noise-induced hearing loss affects millions of Americans and is preventable with ear protection. Earplugs are one of the easiest ways to reduce your noise exposure.