Are Custom Earplugs Effective?

a pair of standard orange foam ear plugs

If you’ve experienced some degree of hearing loss, you may be considering ways to reduce your hearing from becoming diminished further. Of course, you’ll discuss this with your audiologist to come up with a plan for your hearing, including possible treatments, but if you’re looking for something in the meantime, many patients with hearing loss swear by custom ear plugs. 

Custom earplugs are exactly what they sound like: earplugs that are custom-fitted to an individual’s ear canal, providing an added measure of hearing protection and safeguarding the delicate parts of the ear from damage that can be done by loud sounds. They are especially good for those who work or live in areas with lots of loud sounds and disruptions that can further damage your hearing. Think musicians and concert-goers, as well as construction workers who work with loud equipment. 

Do custom earplugs really make that much of a difference when say, compared with regular earplugs that you can buy in any store? 

The answer to that question depends on your particular needs and what you’re hoping to accomplish by wearing earplugs. Regular earplugs that you can purchase anywhere will muffle sound, true. But there are many different types of sound, at different frequencies and decibels. The earplugs you wear must dim all of those sounds to truly protect your hearing from further damage – regular earplugs don’t always do this. They might help the problem a little but fail to truly extinguish all the sounds from reaching your ear. 

The second issue many people have with regular earplugs is the fit, comfort and life of the earplug. For those who have especially small ear canals, the squishy, flimsy earplug can easily keep popping out, leaving your ear unprotected. That, or they don’t quite fit properly, leaving your ear partially exposed. That is one of the main complaints about regular earplugs; they simply don’t fit many ear canals, or they fall out constantly. Who wants to keep putting in earplugs over and over? Some find them to be painful, uncomfortable or aggravating. A one-size-fits-all earplug is generally meant to be temporary, only used once or twice and those with hearing loss wish to wear them more often. For this reason, many people prefer custom earplugs that are specifically designed to fit them, that last a long time and drown out all the noise. 

There’s another aspect of foam earplugs that some find disagreeable – the amount of waste they cause. Because foam earplugs are considered disposable or temporary, many people throw them away after one use. They don’t break down easily and therefore are considered harmful to the environment. Custom earplugs, which are used over and over again, definitely help you reduce waste. 

These are just a few of the pros, reasons that many patients prefer custom fitted earplugs.

What are the downsides?

There are cons to custom earplugs, as you might imagine. The main one for most people is the cost. But are you really saving anything if your hearing loss is getting worse? At the end of the day, it’s up to you whether it’s a worthy investment or not, but many patients have found that custom earplugs have helped them to drown out the sounds that were harming their ears and combatting further hearing damage. 

You’ll also need to schedule an appointment for a fitting and your insurance may or may not cover this process, or the ear plugs themselves.

If you’re still on the fence about a pair of custom earplugs, speak to your audiologist. They’ll talk with you about your hearing problems, administer a test and devise a course of treatment to help you manage your hearing loss. They can guide you every step of the way in finding the best custom earplugs, arrange for you to get fitted for them and help you learn to wear them. They may also recommend a hearing aid or device such as the ITE, BTE or ITC variety, or they may recommend other forms of treatment. You can manage your hearing loss and decrease the risk of further damage with earplugs, but long term, you’ll want to try more permanent treatments. 

To find out more about custom earplugs, hearing aids and more, give the friendly and knowledgeable team at The Hearing Doctors a call at (630) 315-2899.