You did it, you’ve decided to give ear plugs a try. But you’re worried that they *might* cause irreversible damage to your ears, which is not very tempting. So can using ear plugs make you deaf? Let’s find out.
How can ear plugs harm your ears?
It’s been quite a while since Odysseus first used beeswax for hearing protection from Sirens, and since then ear plugs have definitely been upgraded. Today manufacturers take good care of noise sensitive individuals, making the plugs safe to use for extended periods of time with minimal to no ear pressure. However, a lot depends on how carefully they’re used upon inserting and while extracting, since there is always a risk to get damage to the inner ear, develop infection, or irritate the skin.
Why foam ear plugs can be dangerous
- Eardrum damage. Do not place the earplugs too deep in the ear canal: it should be possible to remove them with your fingers without any problems. If you have to use tweezers to do this, this is a sign that they have gone too far. In this case, during sleep, when we do not control the position of the earplugs, they can move even further and injure the eardrum. The odds are pretty low, as you should push them REALLY far to cause damage, but it’s better to be aware.
- Inner ear damage. Pulling out the earplugs too quickly may damage your inner ear. Ear plugs suck in some air in the ear canal and create a kind of vacuum in it: this simultaneously blocks sound and prevents the ear plugs from falling out. Pulling them out too quickly may lead to eardrum damage caused by sudden air pressure change in the ear. Not only is it painful, but it also may result in partial hearing loss. You should pull the earplugs out slowly, twisting them carefully.
Why wax ear plugs can be dangerous
- Ear infections. Dust and dead skin particles collect in our ears. Natural cleansing is provided by earwax, which takes part in our ears’ self-cleaning mechanism, but earplugs get in the way of this process. Health specialists at Columbia University say that prolonged use of earplugs sometimes results in earwax buildup, and the bacteria staying in our ears overnight can cause infections.
- Earwax buildup. Earwax is a wax-like substance that protects the ear canal from dust, germs, bacteria, etc. With regular use of earplugs, excessive earwax buildup can lead to ear canal blockage, with subsequent symptoms of dizziness, discomfort and itching in the ear and even hearing loss.
Can ear plugs cause deafness?
Theoretically, it is possible for ear plugs to cause hearing loss as they might make you prone to ear infections and earwax buildup. However, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, 15 percent of people ages 20 to 69 experienced hearing loss due to loud noise, while there are no proven cases of ear plugs being a direct cause of acquired deafness. In fact, research shows that you can get better and deeper sleep using earplugs, as well as prevent hearing loss when being exposed to loud noises.
The risks to develop ear infections or earwax buildup due to using ear plugs are very low if you stick to proper ear hygiene. There is also no research to confirm that using ear plugs can cause hearing loss.
So if you’re sensitive to noise, take a deep breath, calm down and give pq ear plugs a try ‒ it’s safe, it’s affordable and it might change your life forever.