Are Earplugs Safe?

We write about the importance of sleep frequently. Healthy sleep is so important to every aspect of health. On sleepless nights it’s easy to wonder if you’re doing something wrong. You can follow all the tips of turning off screens, following the right diet, bathing at the right time, exercising correctly and still have problems sleeping. Studies have found that sleeping pills don’t help in the long run. That can make you second guess earplugs. While many people use earplugs to get a good night’s sleep, are they helpful and safe?

Earplugs are great for blocking the noise of a loud road, noisy neighbors or a snoring partner! In studies, when paired with eye masks, earplugs can increase the amount of beneficial REM sleep and melatonin levels in your body. They can also help the overall amount of sleep a person gets, letting them stay asleep longer. Unlike chemical sleep aids, earplugs don’t cause dizziness or drowsiness during the day.

There are some drawbacks to earplugs. You shouldn’t wear earplugs if you have an ear infection. They can make it worse. If your ears itch when you use earplugs, it could be a sign of chronic inflammation, and you should contact your doctor. If you have recently had ear surgery, steer clear. Earplugs can also cause your ear wax to become impacted. Your ear canal is shaped to push wax out, but plugs can force it back in. If your ears feel “full” or you feel dizzy, you should speak to your doctor. And, if you have tinnitus, earplugs will make it worse, not better. You’ll amplify the ringing in your ears instead of making it quieter! If any of those problems apply to you, you might be interested in getting a white noise machine instead of earplugs. They can be great for blocking out sound and helping you get your shuteye! One person on our team has a noisy night owl downstairs neighbor and lives near the airport but sleeps like a baby with the help of a white noise machine!

If you use earplugs, you should be sure not to put them in too deeply. Earplugs shouldn’t hurt!

When something touches the deeper part of the ear canal, it is quite painful,” says neurotologist Dr. Elina Kari, assistant professor of surgery at UC San Diego. “Earplugs are only meant to fit in the first third of the canal.”

And you should be choosy. While the moldable wax or silicone ones might seem great for their tight fit, they can be painful or difficult to remove and may break inside your ear, needing to be removed by a doctor. The expandable foam ones that you squish to insert that then puff up in your ear are safer. An earplug should cut down on noise and be comfortable enough to sleep in, even if it feels a little odd at first. If it hurts, it’s in too deeply or not suitable for you!  

And, when you remove them, do so slowly. “If your earplugs have a nice, tight seal around the opening of your ears and you rip them out really quickly without first breaking the seal, it can lead to micro-hemorrhages in the blood vessels of the eardrum,” Dr. Kari says. “This will cause a very small hematoma, or bruise, which is quite painful, and you may lose your hearing temporarily.”

You should grab one edge and lift it slowly. You’ll actually hear air enter your ear canal and know that the seal has been broken. Then, you can remove the earplug safely without causing suction.

Following these steps, you can use earplugs safely to enjoy better sleep. For most people, they are safe to use regularly and can help you get a great night’s sleep every night. You just have to pick the right ones, pay attention to how they feel and use them correctly!

Banner image: Kindel Media via Pexels

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