Djembe Players - Caring for Your Ears
In case you hadn't heard, exposure to high levels of sound for long periods (like drumming) can cause irreparable damage to the eardrums.
Against this horrible truth you have to weigh the fact that playing with earplugs takes some of the fun out of it. However, many professionals use them all the time, because tinnitus (a condition causing constant ringing in the ears) is a real risk to drummers.
Even if you play only occasionally, you should at least have a pair to give your ears a rest from time to time.
Custom made ear plugs that fit the shape of your ears properly provide better protection that the over-the-counter type.
Initially I would see a specialist for an assessment of your hearing, and then if you want to save a bit, look for colleges or universities that give free 6-month check-ups from Audiology students (part of the Linguistics Department).
In between, be wary of damage and if you experience any deterioration consult an ear specialist immediately.