CAN EARPLUGS DAMAGE EARDRUM

CAN EARPLUGS DAMAGE EARDRUM?

 

Do you have a fear as well as the question in your mind “can earplugs damage eardrum?” How much truth does the statement hold?

How can earplugs damage eardrum?

What are the factors that can cause the damage?

Eardrum is called as tympanic membrane.

This membrane separates the external ear canal with the inner space of ear.

This eardrum has small bones or ossicles attached to it that transmit the sound from the outer part to the inner side.

It looks like a cone flattened with its tip inwards and the edges of membrane are attached to a bony ring called the tympanic annulus.

The drum is made of three layers and is supplied by blood vessels and nerves which makes it sensitive to pain.

When do we use earplugs?

How are earplugs useful and when does it cause harm?

How should you use earplugs?

All of your queries will be addressed in the article below.

Contents discussed in the article:

 

When are earplugs used?

When to wear earplugs/Benefits

Downsides of earplugs/Risks associated with earplugs

Some tips to be considered before using earplugs

Takeaway

 

 

When are earplugs used?

Earplugs are devices that provide different level of protection to eardrums from noise and different other hazardous sounds.

There are different types of earplugs, some are made of plastic while others are made of silicone providing different level of protection.

Some can be named as: foam plugs, silicone plugs, flanged plugs, custom molded plugs etc.

Foam plugs: These plugs are inexpensive and made of poly vinyl chloride.

These can be inserted on one side of the ear and ready and easy to use.

Silicone plugs: These are comparatively softer plugs and take the shape of the ear canal and thus fit in properly.

Flanged plugs: These are stronger earplugs and are made of three rings and does not let the ear plugs fallout from the canal.

Custom molded plugs: These are made based on the mold taken from the ear plugs canal of the user, so that the plunge into the ear canal perfectly.

 

When to wear earplugs/Benefits:

1)Protection from loud sound:

Loud sounds for prolonged time can damage the eardrum and hearing loss. This hearing loss can affect the quality of life and cause distress to the person. Thus, in rock concerts where high, loud music last for longer durations in these settings, use of earplugs can really help to protect the eardrum from damage.

2)Heavy machinery:

Occupation of the people can expose them to high sounds, hazardous noises and thus the damage.

People working in industries, construction areas are at high risk due to repeated and cyclic traumas caused by high loud noises thus eventually leading to eardrum damage. These occupational workers and any person working in such conditions sometimes or more often should take special care by using the earplugs.

3)Sleeping:

Sleep is a normal physiological process and normal sleep leads to a normal and healthy life. A number of hormones are released during sleep that helps the body to grow in enormous ways.

Thus the light sleepers can efficiently use the earplugs particularly for night time to block the noise coming from any side like road from the roadside, loud neighbors, children at home or music or tv playing in adjacent room, and if your bedpartner snores this can really help in reducing and cancelling the noise to get efficient night hours of sleep.

  Sleep deprivation can lead to symptoms like:

  • Concentration issues
  • Reduced strength
  • Infections
  • Hallucinations
  • Mood swings
  • Drowsiness

All of these symptoms mentioned above can lead to disrupted life. Normal hours of sleep in adults are 7  hours and children need 8-13 hours of sleep.

Since a low-quality sleep over time can increase the risk of several diseases like:

  • High blood pressure
  • Strokes
  • Diabetes
  • Heart attacks
  • Obesity
  • Depression

Also, incidence of inflammation and decreased immune function has been seen which has a negative impact on their health.

4)Swimming:

There is a type of ear-plugs made specifically for swimming called swimming ear plugs. Swimming done without protecting your ears may result in a condition known as Otitis Externa, or Swimmer’s ear.

This infection is extremely painful, and may lead to hearing loss if left untreated. This is why swimming ear plugs were made, so as to protect people from this dangerous infection.

Apart from swimming, these plugs can be worn when going to shower as well. Swimming ear plugs must specifically be used by those who swim for sports, and not by divers as it may result in damage to ear because of pressure changes.

Downsides of earplugs/Risks associated with earplugs

While earplugs are designed to protect the eardrums from damage but in some cases, it can cause hearing loss damage. These damages can be classified as:

1)Impacted ear wax:

Ear structures are usually protected by a thin layer of wax produced by ceruminous glands in the skin of externa auditory canal. Normally this ear wax protects the ear from dirt, debris and damage.

When this ear wax gets accumulated due to any reason in the ear canal it results in wax impaction and a number of manifestations along with it.

This impaction can be caused by prolonged use of earplugs since the ear wax cannot be drained on regular basis. Thus, in order to avoid this condition, we should minimize the use of earplugs and clean it on regular basis.

Moreover, if any such situation occurs it is better to get it checked by a specialist and get the wax removed with regular check-up.

Impacted ear wax can result in tinnitus or ringing sound in the ear that can cause discomfort to the patient. Minimizing the use and regular check-up of the canal can help get rid of the problem and make the appropriate use of earplugs.

 

2)Muffled hearing:

While using earplugs can be of great help in situations where the loud noise can be hazardous and harmful but we have to careful of the sounds and even the noises that are necessary and bearable to some extent.

These noises can include crying of a child, while driving, or in an environment where the sounds can be alarming and necessary.

Thus, to be cautious of the happenings around in certain environments and situations earplugs should not be used. These, necessary sounds if missed can land you into trouble.

 

3)Ear infections: Ear infections can be caused by a number of factors and can cause significant damage if not approached and treated on time.

When earplugs are used in any setting of workplace, hazardous environment, repeated use can cause bacteria to pile up on the surface and when the same earplugs are used inside the ear canal, the moist environment in the ear canal can help the bacteria and other micro-organisms to grow and lead to infections.

These ear infections can cause significant damage if not treated on time.

Ear infection is marked by throbbing pain, fever, hearing loss of the area, secretions might be found as well.

Ear infections are self-limited but if the pain doesn’t subside in few days you might need to see a specialist and he may prescribe you with antibiotics. Ear infections can manifest as:

  • Severe itching
  • Discomfort in the ear
  • Cough
  • Dizziness
  • Tinnitus- ringing sound
  • Hearing difficulties
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea

 

Some tips to be considered before using earplugs

Earplugs though are beneficial but excess of everything is bad and are to be used for specific purpose and for certain decibels.

These decibels are categorized as if over 97 decibels can damage the ear drums but even low level of noises for longer hours can be harmful such as noise of vacuum cleaner or leaf blower.

Earplugs can be avoided as well by taking a break from the environment on regular basis and thus taking rest from the noisy and hazardous environment, thus avoiding the use of earplugs.

But in unavoidable circumstances if earplugs are use, before using earplugs some precautions should be taken:

  • Clean and dry the earplugs before use
  • Choosing right activity for use of earplugs
  • Choosing right size for earplugs for yourself
  • Choosing a ventilated case to keep the earplugs of infections and moisture.

 

Takeaway

As stated, the use of earplugs is beneficial but proper use and in proper and suitable situation can have more benefit over risk.

The use of earplugs can be beneficial in situations where the noise can be hazardous and carry high risk for a person. Earplugs can be used to increase the quality of sleep which in turns leads to a healthy life.

In high risk occupations, the use of earplugs can be highly beneficial and protects the workers from ear damage and hearing loss.

But overuse and inappropriate use can cause more damage than benefit. Like in situations where earplugs can be avoided and rest can be taken from the environment it is better to choose it over earplugs. 

 

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