Tinnitus and Ear Plugs for Hearing Protection

When having tinnitus protecting the ears from loud sounds can help to prevent it from getting worse and even lead to improvement.

Staying away from places where loud sounds occur is theoretically possible, but it would result in a stark loss of life quality for most people. Imagine to never again attend a concert or having to avoid loud gatherings with many people.

Fortunately, there is a solution: earplugs. They are small and can be carried in the pocket. There are different kinds available with different protection levels, prices, sound quality, and even invisible earplugs.


I have had tinnitus for many years. It is not a very loud one, but needless to say, I still do not want it and I want it to get better.

I noticed that my tinnitus improves if I protect my ears for about 3 months from any loud noises.

Attending a loud gathering with many people talking for hours results in increased tinnitus for approximately 1-3 weeks afterwards for me.

Going to loud concerts without earplugs results for me in loud, very noticeable, and uncomfortable piping in my ears for many days afterwards.


Situations where hearing protection can be desirable:

  • Travelling by foot in a large city with noise from unexpectedly honking cars, metro, train noises, etc.
  • A gathering where many people that talk with each other. It may get so loud that it is difficult to understand other people as soon as they are not standing right next to one.
  • Going to a loud bar, with many people or with music
  • Work related exposures, construction sites, etc.
  • Going clubbing in a night club
  • Going to a concert


The best choice of which earplug to wear depends on the situation. The alternatives are as follows:


Foam Ear Plugs

Foam ear plugs are very cheap to buy.

They provide strong hearing protection and can therefore be worn at loud events like concerts, clubs, or construction sites.

When wearing them, one is still able to converse with other people at loud events – it is even easier than without wearing them given the environmental noise is loud.

They are only available with strong hearing protection. They are, therefore, not suited for not-so-loud environments if one still wants to be able to converse with other people. You will not hear the other person that well any more.

They do not have a good sound quality and they muffle sound, but the difference between different brands is huge as described in our article: Best Foam Earplugs for Concerts. This is only important for events like concerts or similar.

Foam earplugs can be completely hidden such that they become invisible as described in out article: How to Make Foam Earplugs Invisible.


Reusable Ear Plugs

Reusable earplugs provide significantly less hearing protection compared to the strong foam earplugs.

They are, therefore, suited for not-so-loud environments like restaurants or noisy gatherings, where one still wants to converse with other people.

They cost a bit more with up to USD 20 per pair, but they are reusable for months.

They have much better sound quality than foam earplugs, if you choose the right brand. The Etymotic Research ER20XS has a very good sound quality.

There are also some not-so-visible reusable earplugs available, such as the Party Plug from Alpine Hearing Protection. See what the plugs look like being worn here for the ER20XS and the Alpine.


Custom Made Ear Plugs

The main benefit of custom made earplugs is the superior sound quality. Etymotic Research is the leading producer of these plugs.

The sound quality is in one word: amazing. It is just like the volume knob turned down a bit on a sound system.

Unfortunately, they cost around USD 200. They are produced especially for you ears. They are reusable for a few years – until your ear shape changes and they do not fit any more.

They are available with 15dB sound reduction and 25dB. With the 15dB version you will not have any issues talking with another person, even in an otherwise quite environment. The 15dB version is perfect for any not-so-loud environment. The 25dB version is stronger and is recommended for loud environments. The 15dB and 25dB filters are exchangeable, so you can buy them both at less than double the cost of one.

The Etymotic Research earplugs are somewhat visible when worn, have a look at the pictures for the ER15 or ER25 (they look both the same).


Other Types of Earplugs

There are other types of earplugs available such as wax earplugs. They will not be discussed any further here, as they do not have any advantages for protection from loud noises during events compared to what is presented here.


Summary

How much hearing protection you want to wear in each situation it up to you. Many people use reusable earplugs at concerts. Although the producers advertise them for exactly this type of event, it will not be sufficient protection to keep your ears 100% save, but it is still much better than wearing nothing. Foam earplugs and custom made earplugs can provide more protection. Try it out yourself.


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