Posted on Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Earplugs and Noise Induced Hearing Loss


According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 1.1 billion young people worldwide are at risk of hearing loss due to unsafe exposure to damaging levels of sound. But there's good news in the fight against Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL). A new research study suggests earplugs can be a real protection against these damaging noise levels.

Noise induced hearing loss can be caused by the exposure to loud noises either instantly or that are listened to for too long of a time. With the advent of earbuds and the increasingly irreverent use of today's advanced speaker technology in sporting events and concerts the incidence of NIHL has risen by 30%. And, as the WHO report suggests, NIHL will continue to rise as young people seek out more aggressive forms of music consumption.

If you've ever been exposed to loud sounds at a concert, you might be familiar with the temporary sensation of muffled ears and tinnitus or ringing of the ears that can occur afterward. This muffling is called a temporary threshold shift (TTS) and is due to a chemical compound called ATP. ATP is the ear's way of protecting the cochlea from damage. Sadly, the amount of ATP each person has varies and some people might not have any at all. This means efforts by the ears to protect you from loud noises can't provide adequate longterm protection from repeated exposure. In other words, it's up to you to protect your hearing. The good news is when it comes to taking precaution to prevent NIHL, a new study suggest using earplugs really can help.

A study on the effectiveness of earplug use for preventing NIHL was conducted on young people in the Netherlands. The outdoor music festival in Amsterdam lasted for over four hours and during that time participants in the study were exposed to sounds capable of causing hearing loss, measured to be around 110 decibels. The study tested the amount of temporary threshold shift (TTS) that participants experienced since this indicates the amount of pressure put on the ears during the noisy event. The results showed that only 8% of participants who used earplugs had a significant temporary threshold shift (TTS) while 42% of people who used no ear protection had a TTS. In addition 12% of earplug users experienced tinnitus compared with 40% of the people in the unprotected group. These early findings indicate that earplugs can make a real difference for young people who attend concerts. If you intend to use earplugs at your next concert or sporting event, it's important to know the proper way to use and insert them.

This video shows the following steps:
1.Roll the earplug
2.Pull to open the ear. This step is
especially important. You should pull up and away on the top of your ear with the opposite hand so the earplug can slide in easily.
3.Hold the earplug after inserting it.

One final note, the earplug rating system isn't as straightforward as you would suspect. You can learn more by reading this article on The Do's and Don'ts of Earplug Use. Another important thing to remember about earplugs is that use of them can sometimes impact earwax. Hearing can be compromised by built up earwax, so make sure to use Ear Wax Removal Best Practices or see a hearing health professional to have your ears professionally cleaned and cared for.

If you'd like to learn more, see your hearing health provider. If you need help finding a hearing health provider click HERE to be connected with the largest network of trusted hearing health professionals in the nation!


Wilko Grolman, MD, PhD et al. Effectiveness of Earplugs in Preventing Recreational Noise–Induced Hearing Loss: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery, April 2016 DOI: 10.1001/jamaoto.2016.0225

The JAMA Network Journals. "Study shows effectiveness of earplugs in preventing temporary hearing loss after loud music." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/04/160407115910.htm (accessed April 12, 2016).

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