Reusable Ear Plugs

Last week — to coincide with our new technology spotlight — we wrote about the uses and benefits of disposable earplugs. This week we’re focusing on reusable protection, similar to the disposables, but different in some very key ways.

Similarities

Like disposable plugs, you can purchase reusables from your local pharmacy or online, for around the same price. They, too, are inserted into your ear canal, where they help attenuate the noise around you to a more comfortable level. With either product, it’s up to the consumer to decide on the best fit.

The noise reduction rating*, or NRR, are similarly scaled for each.

Differences and Non-Moldable vs. Moldable

The main difference is right there in the name. You can reuse multiple-use plugs without worry, though it’s recommended you wash them in non-chlorinated water after each use.

The material is also different. While disposable protection is often made of memory foam, most non-moldable reusable varieties are made from “pre-molded silicone rubber, vinyl, and other hypoallergenic synthetic rubbers.” Moldable plugs are often a softer silicone or plastic.

Moldable plugs resemble a putty, and are used similarly to single-use ear protection (pinch, roll, and insert). Non-moldable plugs, on the other hand, have a set shape, and are simply inserted into the ear canal.

Mack’s Pillow Soft Silicone Putty Ear Plugs is a good example of a reusable, moldable plug. For non-moldables, 3M offers several — some that even come with a cord — that are very popular.

Maintenance

Though these plugs can be used multiple times, they should be thrown away if you notice any visible wear and tear, including any small fissures or discoloration. As we mentioned above, a daily wash is recommended for non-moldable protection.

Moldables, generally, will not last as long non-moldables, and shouldn’t be washed (they will break apart in water). These you should treat carefully. Be sure to keep them clean and dry, and wash your hands before taking them in and out of their case.

Types and Their Uses

Reusable ear plugs are useful for those who know what they need protection for, and for those who need protection often. There are reusable plugs made for musicians, for the workplace, for outdoor activities (like hunting, skeet shooting, or swimming), and for casual use (such as sleeping or city living). Much like the single use foam plugs, its best to try out a few brands to see which best suits your lifestyle.

Some resources to help you decide:

1. Musicianonamission.com has a helpful list of their favorite earplugs from 2018 for the music lover.
2. Tuck’s “Best Earplugs for Sleeping”, a list for 2019 (9)
3. Everydayhearing.com has an impressive breakdown of all their favorite non-custom brands of earplugs, disposables included.

Reusable plugs can help protect your hearing and can help make the world a little more comfortable.

Next up: over-the-ear protection.

*The noise reduction rating is the “unit of measurement used to determine the effectiveness of hearing protection devices to decrease sound exposure within a given working environment”. Earplugs reach up to 33, while ear-muffs (or over-the-ear protection) reach up to 30 or 31. The NRR ratings help you determine how much noise is being reduced, and is a good thing to keep in mind when purchasing earplugs.

Portable Music Device Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is on the rise! For children, exposure to loud, constant noise is more prevalent than ever. A recent study, undertaken by researchers from Erasmus University, links portable music devices to future hearing problems in children. According to the ASHA Leader article that breaks down the study:

“Even using the portable music players just one or two days per week (regardless of how long they wore headphones or how high the volume setting), these children were more than twice as likely to have hearing loss when compared to children who did not use these devices at all.”

That’s a bold, frightening claim, but parents should realize there are still ways to help protect their children’s hearing. Volume level and length of exposure — despite the prevalence conclusions of the study — are still major determining factors in later-life hearing loss. Limiting time and sound level is strongly advocated. It will help!

When asking your children to turn down their music or take out their earbuds for a while, REM recommends explaining why you’re telling them to do so. Teach them good hearing etiquette early in life, lessons they can apply years down the road. Teach your children (and other adults you may know) to take care of their hearing now.

For more information about how long it takes (and how loud it needs to get) before sound causes hearing loss, you can check out one of our past blogs.

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