Earplugs for Sleeping: Side effects, Benefits and Safety Tips

Sleeping plugs benefits

Earplugs have been shown to be quite beneficial if you sleep with a snorer, have noisy neighbors, stay in a noisy place or want to do your activities in a quiet environment. However, earplugs for sleeping have side effects especially if used for a long time or inappropriately as do all other earplugs. Occasionally people might get ear pain after using ear plugs. Earplugs are known for protecting the ears when you are exposed to loud noises.

Earplugs for sleeping side effects

The earplugs used for noise control are generally safe. However, like any other products when they are used for long and regularly they have some side effects. Earplugs for sleeping side effects include:

  • When earplugs are used regularly, incorrectly and for long periods can cause a wax buildup or compaction in the back of the ear. The earwax commonly referred to as cerumen, is important in the normal working of the ear. It prevents entry and buildup of debris, dirt, dust, bacteria, water, dead skin and other substances into the ear. The regular blocking of the ear canal by the use of earplugs is one of the main causes of wax buildup in the ears. The buildup of ear wax can lead up to ear problems which includes hearing loss for a short period before the wax is removed and cleaned. The buildup can also cause tinnitus, itching and irritation in the ears, coughing and sometimes dizziness. Tinnitus is a condition where one hears loud ringing noises in the ears where there are none.

The wax buildup can be treated using ear drops that melts the wax and then wiped using normal cotton ear buds or can be removed by a doctor.

To prevent buildup earplugs should be worn as per the manufacturer’s instructions but carefully and gently. The earplugs should also cleaned regularly if they are not single use ear plugs.

  • Regular earplugs use can lead to ear infections. This may be because of wax buildup or bacteria entering the ears from the earplugs itself. It is possible for bacteria to grow on the earplugs and thus infect the ears. The common symptoms of an ear infection include tinnitus, discomfort in the ears, itching, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, lack of balance and others. The infections are normally treated with oral antibiotics and eardrops containing antibiotics.

Earplugs especially soft foam earplugs can also harbor moisture, warmth and dirt which may be a good environment for bacteria growth and thus earplugs should be cleaned regularly. They should also not be reused if they are single use earplugs.

  • Use of earplugs are good for a good night sleep. However, they may also lead to dependence, a situation where one cannot sleep soundly without putting them on. This is a problem because one might start getting awakened by soft voices where one is not using them. The dependence may take some time to resolve when one stops using the earplugs.
  • Use of earplugs may also blot out useful noises like alarm signals from emergency devices. The alarm signals that might be missed include noises from smoke detectors, ambulances and other emergency devices. This may lead to a catastrophe when the alarm is missed. To mitigate against this, it is prudent to have earplugs that can allow some signals to penetrate the ear. The earplugs might also block out noises like children crying or in a case where one need to be alert.
  • The use may experience a discomfort when wearing them or have the ears having a pressure build up. This may be because of earplugs being too big for the ear canal or having earplugs that are too hard. It would be good to explore the best earplugs for small ears or to test the earplugs before buying them. Some earplugs have single packs that are sold for trial. This means if they do not fit one can buy some other material or size of the earplug. Even if one gets the best fit for ears, one should not push the earplugs deep into the ear canal or insert them forcefully. Doing this may create an area of increased pressure in the ears. The earplugs should also be removed smoothly to minimize instances of ear pain after using ear plugs.

Benefits of earplugs for sleeping

The quality of sleep is improved by wearing earplugs. This is because the earplugs can block the noises that interrupt sleep especially for light sleepers. The earplugs mostly are a good way of sleeping with a snoring partner, noises from neighborhood like noisy neighbors, if you live near a freeway or near airports and other noisy environments. Being woken up in the middle of a deep sleep can have lasting effects on the quality of life the following day. Also being woken up suddenly interrupts the phases of sleep transitions.

The amount of sleep is not the only benefit derived from wearing earplugs, the quality is also a derived benefit. It should be noted that both quality and amount of sleep are important. For example, if you sleep with a snoring partner, it may be the cause of family problems. If one does not sleep well, they might quarrel often with the sleeping partner.

Lack of quality sleep has also been associated with poor performance at school or at work. Feeling sleepy at work can also lead to accidents.

If an individual gets low quality sleep repeatedly, it may cause one of more of the following:

  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Diabetes
  • Heart attack
  • Obesity
  • Depression
  • Inflammation
  • Reduced immune response

For this reason, if a person lives in a noisy place, it would be wise to consider the different types of earplugs for use to prevent the conditions associated with lack of good quality sleep.

Best earplugs for sleeping

Earplugs are generally classified using the type of material they are made of. They are mainly made from plastic, rubber, foam or silicone. The different earplugs provide a different level of protection from noise, water and other damage including earplugs for small ears. As discussed above earplugs for sleeping side effects also depend on the material the earplugs are made of. The different earplugs are:

  • Foam earplugs– They are made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and are mostly inexpensive. They are easily rolled and inserted into the ear where they expand slowly to take the shape of the ear canal. This thus ensures minimal noise enters the ears. The Foam ear plugs are generally soft and therefore are a good choice for sleeping. However, the material being porous can easily have accumulation of dirt and an environment for bacteria growth. For this reason, they should not be used for long without replacing.
  • Silicone earplugs– They are soft and dough-like or hard silicone. The hard ones are reusable but are not comfortable for use during sleep. The soft silicone earplugs on the other hand are comfortable to use since they are as soft as wax. The silicone ear plugs however do not block all the noise.
  • Wax earplugs– They are soft, and they easily mold to the size and shape of the ear canal. In addition, they are mostly waterproof and for those reasons are good for sleeping and swimming.

There some earplugs however that are flanged or custom molded. The flanged earplugs have webbed rings which ensure the ear plugs are secured into the ears. The earplugs might have two or three rings. The earplugs use the mechanism to block out noise. Custom molded earplugs are made to the specifications of the users ear canal. This ensures the earplug fits exactly to the ear canal thus blocking out the noise and prevents pain associated with inserting or removing the earplug.

How to ensure the ears remain healthy when using the earplugs.

There are some general instructions in keeping our ears healthy when in constant use of earplugs. These instructions enable the user to avoid the earplugs for sleeping side effects associated with the use of earplugs. These instructions include:

  • Always using clean and dry earplugs. In most instances wet or dirty earplugs form a basis for the growth and accumulation of bacteria. This may cause ear infections. Also ensure the ears are dry when inserting the earplugs.
  • Using earplugs that are of the right size for the ear canal. Earplugs that are bigger that the ear canal can push the wax into the ear or irritate the ear lining during insertion or removal. This causes the side effects listed above and should therefore form a basis of earplug choice.
  • Gentle insertion and removal of the earplugs. Earplugs when inserted or removed forcefully can cause irritation and bruising of the ear canal. This may make their use in future uncomfortable.
  • It is important to store earplugs in a clean/sterile and ventilated case. A clean and ventilated case ensures that there is no moisture that accumulates in the earplugs thus preventing bacteria growth.
  • Use the right material earplugs for your ears. Depending on the noise level it is always good to consider the material that the earplugs are made of. The material helps to know the level of noise that can be blocked and if they are comfortable for sleeping or not.
  • When putting the earplugs in the ears, do not push them in too deep. Doing this may interfere with the normal working of the ears leading to ear conditions.
  • It is wise to use earplugs for sleeping when it is necessary and not so frequently to ensure you do not become dependent on them for sleep.
  • After sleeping with earplugs, kindly ensure that you remove them as soon as possible when one wakes up from sleep.
  • Do not share earplugs. This is because the earplugs that fit one individual may not be the best fit for another. Sharing earplugs may also spread ear infections.

The bottom line: the earplugs for sleeping side effects and benefits

Can earplugs cause tinnitus? And can earplugs cause ear infections? The answer to both is yes. Earplugs with frequent and long-term use can cause ear problems. However, some of the issues like wax buildup, infections and other problems are treatable and preventable. It should be noted that there are distinct benefits which far outweigh the earplugs for sleeping side effects. The earplugs improve the quality of sleep and in return improves the quality of life. To explore other methods to prevent snoring click here.

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