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In-ear ear plugs are small devices designed to be inserted into the ear canal to protect the eardrums from loud noises and foreign objects. Basic earplugs are elastic and made of memory foam. They are rolled into a cylinder shape by the user before being inserted into the ear canal, where they expand to fit.
These earplugs are widely used by machinists and industrial workers who are subjected to loud noise for long periods of time. They can also be used by soldiers while firing weapons. The British Ministry of Defense (MOD) often utilizes in-ear ear plugs for this purpose.
Some in-ear ear plugs are designed specifically for use by swimmers and other participants in water sports. These are typically made of silicone or wax and custom made to fit the individual’s ear. Divers and scuba divers, however, can sustain damage from using earplugs. Pressure that builds behind the eardrum cannot escape and causes the eardrum to burst.
Musician ear plugs are another type of in-ear ear plugs. These are used by musicians who play loud music to prevent damage to their hearing. They are designed to weaken sounds by using a tiny diaphragm which reduces low frequencies and absorbs high frequencies.
Other in-ear ear plugs are available to reduce pain caused by airplane cabin pressure. These earplugs contain an insert made of porous ceramic material to equalize pressure between the inner and outer ear. This material effectively decreases the pain experienced during airplane landing and take-off.
Electronic in-ear ear plugs are sometimes used to reduce the loud noise associated with gun shots. They also amplify softer background sounds to a normal level. These devices are much more expensive than the disposable type of earplugs, but contain many features that the less expensive types do not.
Snoring relief earplugs are designed to reduce external noises such as a partner’s snoring. They cannot completely block all outside noise but can significantly reduce the sound that passes through the ear. Most snoring relief earplugs can block sound levels up to 33 decibels.
Earplugs are subject to a rating system which measures the level of their noise protection. Noise Reduction Ratings (NRRs) provide a guide to the level of decibels a particular earplug can filter. Ratings are typically in the range of 26-33 decibels.
In-ear ear plugs are generally safe to use but there are some risks associated with them. Pushing them too far into the ear canal can push wax and debris against the ear drum. For this reason, they should never be pushed so far into the ear that they cannot be easily removed or rotated. There is also a chance of allergic reaction experienced by the wearer, but this is a rare occurrence.
Prolonged use of earplugs can have other risks. Bacteria can grow on foam plugs and cause inflammation of the ear, or otitis externa. They can also cause ear wax to build up and plug the outer ear. Hearing loss, infection and pain can be the result of this build up. These problems can usually be avoided by never re-using disposable earplugs and regular cleaning of non-disposable earplugs.