There are many reasons why we might choose to wear earplugs when in bed. A partner, snoring neighbors or heavy traffic in the street outside your bedroom may be good examples of why you would need to shut out unwanted noise.
Wearing earplugs can be slightly uncomfortable for some and an irritant for others. But weighing this against getting a good nights sleep is something you just have to do. Some tend to request a course of sleeping tablets or sedatives from a doctor – often as a more comfortable way to get to sleep at night. However, this method is not without unwanted side effects.
They are easy to use, small and a lot more comfortable. Modern designs have been designed with comfort in mind, as well as practicality. Not only that, but earplugs are cheap and can be purchased in large quantities.
Naturally, there are some reasons why wearing earplugs is not right for some. We will explore these disadvantages later in our guide. For one, earwax can build up and pushing it further into the ear canal is not a good idea. The inner ear and sensitive structure of the canal mean there is always the potential for infection. Earaches are common, and infections can be painful, so the proper use of earplugs is highly recommended.
So, if you’re wondering ‘Is it bad to sleep with earplugs every night? read our guide below.
Why Shouldn’t You Wear Earplugs?
There are many reasons why misusing earplugs might damage your ears or hearing.
Combating ear infections and maintaining good ear health are vital to keeping your hearing at its best. Cerumen is a type of mucus that builds up in the ear canal. You may be more familiar with the term ‘earwax. Its produced as a protective liquid against germs, grime, dirt, and dust. Earplugs can push earwax further into your ear canal, and make it more difficult to get rid of it.
You also have to make sure that you can still hear your fire or smoke alarms. Aside from these two points, consider the following reasons why earplugs might not be the best choice:
- Discomfort: They can be very uncomfortable for those sleeping on their side. Larger earplugs can push deeper into the ear canal and cause pressure build up. Removing the earplugs very quickly can cause the pressure to suddenly drop which can be very painful on the ears somewhat sensitive skin surround.
- Dependency: Wearing earplugs at night regularly can cause dependence on them. In a similar way to sleeping tablets, earplugs are something light sleepers can become accustomed to. When you run out of spare plugs or forget to take them away with you when traveling, a night in bed without them could mean that you have difficulty sleeping.
- Dirty Earplugs: Some are ‘multiple-use, and others are disposable. It is important to keep them clean, but its impossible to see tiny germs with the naked eye. This could mean that you don’t keep your earplugs properly clean and risk infection.
Earwax Build-Up and Why You Have To Avoid It
If you do want to keep using them, you have to know how to avoid earwax build-up. This will prevent many of the problems of using earplugs.
It’s important to note that earwax gets rid of germs and infected matter deep in the ear canal. To prevent it from building up, its vital that you avoid poking your ear with a Q-Tip or your finger. This pushes the wax further into the canal. This makes an ear infection more and more likely the more that you do it.
In the same way, wearing earplugs at night when your ear produces earwax could prevent the wax from doing the job of getting rid of infections properly. Earwax naturally flows out towards the ear, and this is why many patients with infected ear canals find the lobes very greasy. As such, earplugs present a risk of earwax build-up.
There are plenty of ways to tackle earwax. Candles or ear vacuums are often recommended, but there is no medical evidence these methods are effective. Chemical drops are a better choice. They allow earwax to break down and flow out of the ear. Some doctors can use a form of ear irrigation where water flushes earwax out.
Poor Hygiene Can Cause Infections and Earache
It may surprise you to learn that nothing smaller than the elbow should be inserted into the ear. This makes cleaning your ear difficult, and ear hygiene very important. This brings us to the question: can earplugs cause an ear infection? Yes, they can.
If you’re worried that you may have an ear infection, consider whether you experience these symptoms:
- Can earplugs cause headaches? Yes, they can.
- Can the wearing of earplugs cause vertigo? Yes, they can.
- Can earplugs cause tinnitus? Yes, if they cause an infection.
Earplugs can also cause the following:
- A feeling of dizziness
- Nauseous feeling
- Feeling sick
- Poor balance or difficulty walking in a straight line
- Hearing loss in the infected ear
There are three main sections in the ear: the outer ear, middle ear, and inner ear. Infections in the outer or middle ear clear up within a week or two. But the inner ear can hold on to infections considerably longer. This is why it’s so important to practice good ear hygiene when you use earplugs.
So what can you do to practice good ear hygiene? Washing hands frequently and avoiding putting any fingers in the ear is a good start. Try to avoid sharing drink and food with someone who you know has an ear infection. You should also try to limit alcohol intake and stop smoking during bouts of an earache, as this can leave your body run down and more susceptible to continued infection.
Gargling salt water should help to relieve the pain of a sore throat but it can also aid recovery in the Eustachian tubes – an area key to pain in the ear. The best posture is to hold your head upright as this helps drainage.
So: now that we know how to keep our ears in top condition, how do you use earplugs correctly?
How to Use Earplugs Properly
To get the best use from soft foam earplugs, there are three general rules to remember: rolling, pulling and holding. Soft foam earplugs are the most popular type of ear and noise defense when sleeping as they are effective in blocking out the sound and fit tight to the ear within less than one minute.
The first thing to do when inserting the earplug is to roll it. Make sure your hands are clean and use the thumb and index finger to roll it into a worm shape. The alternative is to try shoving the earplug into your ear canal, which will make it more difficult for you to 1) get comfortable and 2) achieve a proper fit to block out the sound.
The next stage is to pull your ear at the top. This allows the ear canal to straighten and the opening to widen slightly. This makes inserting the earplug much easier.
Hold the earplug as you gently insert into the ear. As the plug expands, you should hold it in position within the ear canal. This expansion process should complete fully within about 40 seconds.
Once you have reached this stage, a quick test should determine if the seal is tight. Try counting from one to five out loud, and if your voice sound muffled and undecipherable, the seal is good. You can also try cupping your hands over your ears and seeing if there is any difference in noise levels after you take the hands away.
An effective seal will result in the wearer noticing no difference in sound with hands cupped over the ears or removed. But that’s something you already knew. The good news is that wearing your earplugs correctly, as well as cleaning them correctly, will help stop the side effects of earwax build-up. So are there any other benefits to using earplugs?
What Are the Benefits of Earplugs?
For starters, wearing earplugs can help to reduce noise levels by as much as 85 percent, helping you to drift off that much easier.
Earplugs are also very small and simple to use. You can easily carry them around, and they’re ideal for those who are traveling. Earplugs are inexpensive too. Many users tend to buy in bulk in quantities of around 100 or 200 and discard each pair after wearing for one or two nights only.
The convenience of earplugs is one aspect, but the effectiveness is the best part. Soft foam earplugs are by far the most popular kind of earplug in use today (although there are plenty of other kinds: see our next section, for example). They are easy to insert, take around 40 seconds to expand after insertion and cut out external noises to a high degree.
Even so, there are also some drawbacks to earplugs. These may lead you to choose an alternative product. Some people do have the wrong-shaped ear for wearing earplugs comfortably. If you insert an earplug and find it is far too uncomfortable, it could be the shape of the outer ear is not a good fit, and you should try a different kind of earplug. And as we pointed out above, earwax is also a problem. Wearing earplugs can compact earwax and make it harder for you to remove.
Different Kinds of Earplugs
In today’s modern world there seem to be many situations where we face a lot of noise. Just think of where you may have been lately where there’s heavy noise: traffic, shooting parties, music concerts, the bedroom (snoring partners!). There are different kinds of earplugs for users to wear depending on the situation they’re a part of.
What is it that makes one type of earplug more suitable than another? This will all depend on the needs of the person wearing them. There are earplugs for swimmers, light sleepers, workers in a noisy environment or plugs to suit those attending loud music venues on a regular basis.
Some people feel uncomfortable with traditional earplugs for sleeping. This is because the feel of the foam is cumbersome to a small percentage of wearers. If this is the case, molded earplugs can be a better option. Earplugs like these are made of a silicone or wax material and shape to the bowl of the ear for a perfect fit. There are also flanged earplugs which are a different shape that might suit you better. You may also prefer earmuffs which fit over the head rather than in the ear.
Alternatives to Earplugs
It’s true that a good quality pair of earplugs can muffle out unwanted sounds and excessive noise with great effect. But earplugs are not for everyone. You might find them uncomfortable, even when you wear them for just a short period.
Earmuffs are one alternative to earplugs, but what other options are out there? Well, if earplugs aren’t enough for you, you can try combining earplugs and earmuffs. The result is an almost complete reduction in sound that makes you feel as though you’ve gone stone deaf. While this option will cut down on the noise you hear, it might also be uncomfortable and time consuming to prepare.
The good news is that there are alternatives to earplugs and earmuffs. The best alternative on the market is the ‘white noise machine, which produces fine static to cover up noises instead of physically blocking them out.
White Noise Machines
White noise machines block out all sorts of noise, day or night. They’re an effective tool that works without making you feel uncomfortable. These devices usually play a mix of white noise, a fan heater, gentle rain, blowing wind or brown noise sounds. In other words, they typically play a kind of static that stops you from being able to hear much else.
Insomniacs tend to focus on the smaller things that make a noise: a scooter riding in the distance, a police chopper or a pedestrian walking home past your home and talking on a cell phone. You may be more distracted by the noise of somebody snoring next to you, or in the next room. But whatever the reason for your difficulty sleeping, white noise can help.
White noise is a low, comforting hissing sound. It’s not unlike the noise of a fan humming or like the noise of static on an old TV. You may think that this kind of noise would be distracting, but it works for a simple reason. Rather than hearing occasional, relatively loud noises like snoring, white noise is constant. As such, your brain gets used to it and filters it out—just like how it filters out the sound of a clock ticking.
These machines can run on batteries, or on mains power. They’re typically small and sleek and have basic controls which can change which noise they play or how loud they are. They aren’t too expensive, either, which is a great benefit, and they won’t make you uncomfortable as you sleep like earplugs or earmuffs might (if you don’t like them). The only drawback is if the person you sleep with doesn’t like them!
Aside from earplugs and white noise machines, you might prefer headphones. Noise-reducing headsets are comfortable, stylish and fit the bill perfectly. They are an excellent alternative for earplugs, since they achieve much the same outcome, but may be more comfortable for you. Many of those who have tried to wear earplugs find them intrusive, uncomfortable or ill-fitting. Soundproof headphones are similar to earmuffs but are specifically for noise reduction.
You can find headphones like these everywhere. The headsets are used to block out co-workers talking on their cell phones, for instance, or for keyboard noise and the cell phone calls. You might also see builders wearing them on construction sites. This reflects the fact that headphones like these are one of the better solutions for noise reduction out there.
Headphones can either play music or block out noise, like earmuffs. Tinnitus sufferers may use soundproof headphones to emit a high pitched frequency to mask the constant ringing in the ears. Years ago, headphones were cumbersome, and the attached wires were limiting and occasionally frustrating. The advent of Bluetooth technology has made wearing a pair of wireless soundproof headphones considerably more comfortable than in the past.
There are four main types of sound-reducing earphones and headphones on the market: In-ear headphones, over-the-ear headphones, on-ear headsets and gamers headphones. The Over-Ear Headphones are the best design for those wishing to cancel out exterior noise. You should look for a soundproofing set of headphones with noise-canceling technology fitted.
Ways To Stop Snoring
Let’s face it: the main reason why people experience disturbed sleep is due to snoring. So what about stopping snoring, rather than trying to cover up the noise?
You have a few choices:
- While scientists aren’t sure why exactly it works, it definitely can. Hypnotherapists can help you to quit smoking, become more confident and stop drinking. Some people also use it to help them stop snoring or to help them sleep through snoring.
- Sleep Apnea Kits. Since sleep apnea is one of the leading causes of snoring, scientists have developed kits to tackle it. These can help keep the airways open, and stop your breathing from ‘catching.
- Sleeping in different beds. If the worst comes to the worst, you’ll have to sleep apart from your partner. When earplugs, white noise machines, and even hypnotherapy don’t work, it’s all that’s left. Sleeping across the room won’t do much good, so you’ll have to sleep in another room.
This is something you’ll already know, but snoring is difficult to stop for good. So while it would be wise to try and tackle the problem that’s keeping you awake at its source, this may not be possible. As such, you should consider which kind of device to block out snoring would be best for you.
What Should I Do?
So, now that we’ve reached the end of our guide, there’s one question you’re surely wanting to answer: what should I do? As far as comfort is concerned, headphones tend to rank above earplugs. It is all a matter of personal preference but having anything inside the ear canal—even in the outer ear—can be unnerving.
It all depends on your personal preference.
- Do you find earplugs inside your ear canal to be uncomfortable? Then you should try using white noise machines or soundproof headphones.
- Do you find it difficult to fall asleep with headphones on your head? Then you might prefer earplugs, earphones or white noise machines.
- Would you prefer to cover sound up with another, less intrusive noise? Then a white noise machine would be best for you.
- If you’d rather try to get more restful sleep generally, you might want to tackle your partners snoring directly or receive help like hypnotherapy or medications to help you sleep better.
Ultimately, the choice is yours. But here on our site, we’re creating as many sleep resources as possible—so you have information on earplugs, sleeping with a snoring partner and natural remedies to help you get to sleep quicker than ever before.