As you read this, you probably imagine hearing it. You can hear someone's voice speaking the words.
Or maybe your friend is reading it aloud to you. Whatever the case may be, you're probably hearing the words.
Think about the sounds you hear on a daily basis. From pleasant, like hearing a sunny greeting, to helpful, like listening to a self-help podcast. Maybe even a dog, playing piano...
That's probably not the best example, but...a dog playing piano is too cute to pass up. From music to hearing the words, "I love you," sounds in our lives really make a difference.
You have your ears to thank for that.
That said, many of us abuse our ears, daily.
Your ears deserve to be treated well. Without your ears, you wouldn't be able to hear.
But that's not all: you also wouldn't be able to maintain your balance. You read that right. Your ears even help you stay balanced.
They're pretty amazing body parts: but the fact is they are also very delicate. Caring for your hearing right is essential, and part of them means protecting it.
Every Ear Needs Earplugs
A good pair of earplugs can do wonders for your hearing.
Now, to be clear, earplugs won't improve your hearing.
However, they can protect your hearing from loud noises. That is why noise reduction is the most common use for earplugs...
but that's not all they can do for you.
You can also use earplugs for other reasons, such as when swimming or flying on a plane.
Earplugs are small enough to fit in your ear canal, and they can keep out sound or even water. They can also regulate the pressure in your ears when on a plane.
But why do we need to use earplugs? You'd think humans would have adapted to loud sounds.
That would make sense, but our eardrums haven't adapted to processing loud sounds. Especially not the sounds produced by our machinery and modern life.
Earplugs are the perfect solution to this problem, and they've been around for longer than you think. The first patent on earplugs was filed in 1884. Thirty years later, disposable earplugs also received a patent.
That means disposible earplugs have been around for over 100 years.
Before we had earplugs, people would close the tragus (that small part of cartilage in front of your ears).
Only a small percentage of humans can wiggle their ears. If you can, that makes you pretty special. Many can't wiggle their ears because while there are muscles attached to the ear, most people can't control them.
If that didn't work to block out sound, you could place your fingers in your ears. Just like you were saying "nanny-nanny-boo-boo."
Neither is really effective, and we need to use our hands.
While we often think of the negative consequences of World War I, earplugs were a surprisingly positive outcome.
The military used earplugs in both world wars, and that set off the development of better hearing protection.
By the 1970s, we started using foam earplugs. Now, you can find a variety of earplugs in all shapes, sizes, and prices.
Did You Know?
Your ears clean themselves. You might think earwax is gross, but it does a great job keeping your ears clean and free of dust particles.
Protect your senses
Your hearing is one of your five basic senses. Arguably, it's your most important sense. Hearing loss is a common yet preventable problem.
That's why you have to protect your hearing now so that you can still hear the music later.
The primary purpose of earplugs is to protect your inner ears from loud noises.
In your inner ear, you have the eardrum and cochlea. These two tiny organs transmit sound waves into electrical signals.
Our brains can't process sound waves, so if this system is damaged, you won't be able to hear.
Some earplugs will block out sound completely. These are perfect for sleeping and construction work.
But you might want to hear some sounds.
If you're at a concert, you shouldn't risk your hearing just to get the full concert experience.
In this case, you can wear earplugs that dampen the sound. Instead of blocking it entirely, these plugs will lower the volume.
In other words, they take the edge off of the sound.
But wait, there's more.
Other earplugs aren't meant for hearing, but they do still protect your ears.
Let's take a look.
Even healthy ears need protection
So earplugs aren't always about protecting your hearing, but they all work to protect your ears.
Besides protecting your hearing, earplugs are great for keeping water out of your ears. If you swim a lot, your ears can get infected.
Earplugs do away with that issue.
And do you hate that awful popping your ears get when a plane takes off or lands?
In that case, earplugs can regulate the pressure in your ears. The change in pressure is what causes that painful pop.
Even if you're hardly ever around loud noises, you can still benefit from protecting your inner ears.
Young or old, every ear needs some sort of protection.
Small Bones, Big Job
Your ears have three of the tiniest bones in your body. These ear bones capture sound waves and send signals to your brain that there's sound around you.
Once it's gone...
Once you lose your hearing, it's gone for good. Yes, there are hearing aids and other devices that can help.
But do you really want to use those?
No. You shouldn't have to use those things to hear. Especially when you can hear on your own right now.
What you should do is protect your hearing before you lose it.
If you're around loud noises a lot, you don't have to condemn yourself to a life of ringing ears and repeatedly asking friends and family to repeat themselves.
The When and Who of It
As we mentioned, there are tons of uses for earplugs. We all know they're great for drowning out loud noises.
But what makes a noise loud?
The number one cause for hearing loss is excessive exposure to loud sounds at 85 decibels or higher
If loud noises aren't a problem for you, why else should you use earplugs?
Let's take a look and who should use earplugs and when.
You know the feeling. You're lying in bed, half asleep, and then it happens.
You hear a loud crash or large gust of wind. Maybe a neighbor just got home, and they locked their car.
Whatever it was, you're wide awake now. It could be forever until you get to sleep.
Now just imagine that same scenario. You're in bed with all of the lights out, and you drift smoothly off to sleep.
Wasn't that better? Of course, it was. But what changed?
In the second scenario, you were wearing a fantastic pair of noise-canceling earplugs.
That's right. Thanks to the earplugs, you couldn't hear a thing. Your plans to fall asleep early fell right into place.
In the hustle and bustle of our busy world, it can be hard to get to sleep. If you live in a large city, you're bound to have some ambient noise at night.
So if you're the type of person who needs absolute quiet, noise-canceling earplugs will save your night routine.
our ears can always hear noises. But when you sleep, your brain actively ignores the signals that your ears send to it.
You had a good night's sleep. And now you're excited for the day ahead. You're going to see your favorite band live in concert. Or maybe your band is playing a live concert.
You know the venue will be packed. And the music will be loud. You don't want to miss anything, but you don't want your ears to ring for days afterward.
This is another great time to use earplugs. Now, you don't want the same pair as you would use for sleeping. You still want to hear the music.
Instead, you can get a pair of earplugs that dampens the sound. You can still hear everything from the bass to the singer's high note.
But you don't have to worry about damaging your ears for a good night out.
Whether you're in the audience or on stage, a pair of earplugs is a must for your next concert.
You had an amazing time at the concert last night, but now it's back to the real world.
As a construction worker, you're around loud noises day in ad day out. You use loud tools from drills to jackhammers.
You've learned how to read your boss's lips, so you don't have to step away from the worksite when they stop by to give you a message.
But you know you need to protect your hearing.
So you head on your lunch break and think about those earplugs you wore to the concert. Would they work at the construction site?
They definitely could.
But it may not be the best option.
When you're working around loud noises, you can choose between earplugs that dampen or block out the sound.
If you want to hear a little, pick the dampening pair.
In fact, a bit of hearing is good, because you can stay aware of your surroundings. You'll know when a coworker is about to move equipment your way.
But you can also cancel out the noise completely. Just make sure your eyes are on full alert.
Oh, and don't forget, you can use those earplugs at home too. Whether it's for mowing the lawn or completing a woodworking project, you can never be too careful.
The work week is over, and you're anticipating your trip to the shooting range.
You've never shot a gun before, but you'll try anything once. You get a message from the range telling you about hearing protection.
The shooting range might have a few options, but you decide to bring your own just in case.
You show up to the shooting range, and you bring a couple of earplugs.
The shooting instructor tells you to also grab some earmuffs. This could get loud.
Even Riggs wears ear protection at the range, afterall:
Gunshots can be very loud. So you want to make sure you don't skimp on hearing protection.
You head home, free from ringing ears.
Now, it's time to pack for vacation.
It Only Takes One
You can damage your hearing even with exposure to one loud noise (like a gunshot). Don't go to the shooting range without hearing protection.
Stop the pop
You make it to the airport, and you're headed somewhere amazing. A beach resort, perhaps?
As you board the plane, your seat neighbor tells you about their in-flight earplugs.
Earplugs on a plane? That sounds odd. Planes aren't that loud.
Your neighbor informs you that the plugs aren't for noise. They're to avoid that awful popping sensation during takeoff and landing.
You're in luck. Your neighbor has an extra pair for you to borrow.
Take off is smooth, no need to constantly swallow or chew gum. You can enjoy the flight.
Landing is just as comfortable.
When you get off the plane, your family complains about their ears hurting. Meanwhile, you stay silent about the friendly person you sat next to on the flight.
That evening, you've checked into the hotel, and you decide to stay on site for the night. You can explore the city tomorrow.
But the kids want to go swimming.
So, you gather everyone's bathing suits and towels. Everyone gets dressed, and you head down to the pool.
You see the pool but remember a time when you heard that you could get an ear infection from swimming.
To avoid this, you give your family some earplugs that are perfect for swimming.
Like the in-flight pair, these aren't for canceling or reducing noise. Ear infections can be painful and hard to treat.
So why risk it when you have the perfect solution right at your fingertips.
For the kiddos
It's the next morning, and you wake up your family for the first full day of your trip. First up on the agenda is the local amusement park.
The kids are going to love all of the rides. But amusement parks can be loud and overwhelming.
This is where you need earplugs, especially for kids.
These kinds of earplugs are usually smaller since kids have smaller ears and ear canals.
And yes, they do protect your hearing.
Like the earplugs you used at the concert, these plugs shouldn't take away all of your hearing. The kids want to hear what goes on.
But they don't have to risk their hearing just to have a fun time at the park.
At first, the kids struggle to put in the earplugs, but they end up liking them. As the day ends, they thank you for thinking of their wellbeing.
The rest of your trip goes according to plan. And you make sure to buy extra earplugs for the flight home.
It can take over a decade to catch hearing loss. So check your hearing, and if you have a kid, get theirs checked, too.
Before you choose a pair of earplugs, there are a few things to consider.
First, think about what you plan to use them for. Different purposes require different types of earplugs.
Second, you need to think about your budget. You can find some hearing protection for very cheap, but other options can cost hundreds of dollars.
Last but not least, you should consider convenience. Some types of earplugs are much easier to find than others. So if you need to buy a new pair, you should know how easy or difficult it will be.
If you want to use earplugs for sleeping, you need a pair that will cancel out all sounds. When you sleep, you want to block out as many distractions as possible.
So it doesn't make sense to let in excess sound.
You should also choose a pair that fits your ears comfortably. If you have the best noise-canceling earplugs, they also need to fit.
The last thing you want when you fall asleep is to be uncomfortable.
If your partner snores or you live in a noisy area, then you will probably want to use earplugs when you sleep.
The better you sleep, the better you will feel overall.
Sleep deprivation can lead to numerous health problems. So give yourself the best environment possible, and get some noise-canceling earplugs.
Good plugs for sleeping include anything from disposable foam plugs to custom plugs that you can get from an audiologist.
So take a look at your budget. If you can afford to spend more, go to the ear doctor. But don't feel bad if you have to start with a cheap pair of foam earplugs.
You probably know music can be loud. Pianos are often soft at only 60 decibels. But a rock concert can top 120 decibels. For reference, the pain threshold sits at 125 decibels.
At a concert
Whether you're a musician or a music fan, you know that concerts can be loud.
You don't want to damage your hearing, but you still need to hear the show.
If you're on stage, you need to hear the other musicians so you know how to play your own part.
Audience members should be able to enjoy the show.
That's where noise dampening earplugs come into play. These plugs reduce the noise level just enough so that you can still hear, but your hearing won't get damaged.
If you want earplugs for concerts and loud music, you want to avoid noise-canceling plugs. You need to hear some of the music.
Anyone around loud music, musician or audience member, should wear noise dampening earplugs. You can choose from custom plugs and non-custom reusable plugs.
There are also adaptive earplugs that let you hear normal speaking, but they take the edge of off loud frequencies.
These plugs are perfect for rehearsals when you might need to talk to the musicians about the song you're practicing.
Especially if you're a professional musician, you should invest in a good pair of earplugs. Yes, it might seem expensive, but it will be worth it. While Beethoven continued working after he went deaf, that isn't common.
Keep your hearing intact, so you can maintain your musical career.
Hard at work
If you work on a construction site or in another loud environment, you need good earplugs.
Odds are you're at work for many hours. Over that time, your hearing can slowly deteriorate.
The worst part? You might not even notice the damage.
Whether you work in construction, in a processing plant, or simply a loud office, get yourself a pair of earplugs.
You can choose any type of earplugs from disposable to custom.
If you only need the plugs occasionally, then go for the disposable pair. However, daily use requires an investment pair.
Believe us. You'll save money in the long run if you pay upfront instead of relying on cheap or free plugs.
Did You Know?
Sailors used to believe that piercing one ear would improve their vision.
On the range
Do you like to shoot a gun? Then you probably know how loud they can be.
Most professionals recommend that you wear hearing protection when you're at the shooting range.
Those professionals aren't just saying that for grins. Your hearing is at stake.
In this case, you want earplugs that will block out as much noise as possible.
There are special earplugs for shooting. Like other types of plugs, you can get disposable or custom plugs.
That means that the cost can vary a lot.
Under the sea
If you swim a lot, you should consider a pair of specialized earplugs. Often called swim plugs, they protect your ears when you're in the water.
Swim plugs don't protect your ears from noise. Instead, they keep water out of your ears.
If you swim often, you can develop an ear infection. Wearing swim plugs can lower your risk of getting an ear infection.
Also, if you have pressure equalization tubes in your ears (usually from chronic ear infections), you should wear swim plugs.
Lastly, you should wear swim plugs if you swim in dirty or cold water.
Ear infections can be quite painful. So you want to keep your ears safe when you're in the water.
You can choose from custom and moldable earplugs. Moldable earplugs are great, because you can make them fit your ear without the cost of getting custom plugs.
If you lose your hearing, you could qualify for a cochlear implant. These devices help you hear electronically. But here's hoping it never comes to that.
On a plane
One of the worst parts of flying is the pressure change at takeoff and landing. Your ears start to pop, or maybe they don't pop. They just hurt for a long time.
If you have a history of ear infections or you have sinus or allergy issues, consider wearing earplugs on your next flight.
Like with swimming, the purpose isn't to protect your hearing. However, wearing earplugs on a plane can protect your ears.
The brand earPlanes make disposable earplugs that you can wear for two flights. If you're in a crunch, you could use another type of plug.
For young ears
If you want to protect your kid's hearing, you might want to look at earmuffs instead of earplugs. Even the most comfortable earplugs can be hard to use.
Earmuffs, however, are easy to use and they fully cover your ears.
Kids' ears are still developing, so you definitely want to protect their hearing.
You want to look for earmuffs that fit well and are comfortable for your baby or child.
The cost can vary, but it's worth it.
You wouldn't let your child go hungry, so why let them go without hearing protection?
Did You Know?
Hearing loss is becoming more common in children and adolescents thanks to the rise in recreational noise.
Stash or Trash?
Not all earplugs are created equal. Some cheap options are just that. They're cheap. They won't last you very long.
On the other hand, you can find some amazing earplugs that will last you a lifetime.
So, let's look at the differences between disposable and reusable earplugs.
On disposable earplugs
If you need earplugs fast and you're on a budget, you can start with a pair of disposable plugs. A lot of places actually have foam earplugs for free.
You can get free earplugs at concerts, shooting ranges, and other loud spaces or events.
Don't make disposable earplugs your go-to solution though.
If you need hearing protection on a daily basis, you'll be going through a ton of disposable plugs.
So make the upfront investment in a pair of reusable earplugs.
Reduce and reuse?
Reusable earplugs do cost more than disposable ones. However, reusable earplugs are better for long term use.
Not only can you use the same pair over and over, but you won't be going through a ton. You'll cut down on waste.
But that's not all. Over time, you'll actually SAVE money.
Think about it. If you buy a pair of cheap earplugs once per week at $1 per pair, that's $52 in a year.
There are tons of reusable earplugs available for less than that. And they last much longer than one year.
Of course, you have to keep track of reusable earplugs. You can't just throw them out after each use.
Luckily, most reusable earplugs come with a case for storage. You can keep the pair together, and they'll be easier to find.
Custom plugs for custom hearing
If you really want to go big with your earplugs, consider a custom pair.
Custom earplugs are perfect for professional musicians, construction workers, or pretty much anyone.
You see, reusable earplugs are supposed to be one size fits all. But we all have different ears and ear canals.
Maybe your ears are small, and most earplugs are uncomfortable if they even fit.
Or maybe you have larger ear canals and earplugs still let air and sound through.
Now, getting custom earplugs does require a trip to the ear doctor. They will take molds of your ears so they can make the earplugs to your specific ears.
Hearing is Serious
Once you lose your hearing, it won't come back.
That's why you need to protect what you've got.
A good pair of earplugs can block out sounds without being uncomfortable. Earplugs come in a variety of shapes and sizes.
It might take some experimenting to find your perfect pair. Once you do, however, your ears will thank you.