Sound sleep is the key to health. To stop waking up from conversations in the next room, sounds outside the window, and repair work of a neighbor-early lark, you can use earplugs — earplugs designed to maximize noise absorption and ensure a restful sleep. MedAboutMe found out what earplugs are, whether they are always safe for health and what to look for when choosing them.
Ear plugs and hearing health
The very name “ear plugs” comes from the combination “take care of your ears”, and our compatriot, academician, professor of physics and mathematics came up with it. Sciences I.V. Petryanov-Sokolov. It is known that earplugs can be used to protect against water entering the ear canal, or you can use them to protect yourself from noise exposure. Therefore, they are also called earplugs or antiphons.
In principle, there are also special mufflers. The cups of these devices completely cover the top of the ears and are lined with soft material to seal the area around the ears. Muffler cushions are filled with either liquid or foam. Such “ears” protect a person from noise with a frequency of more than 2000 Hz. They can be in the form of separate headphones or attached to a special helmet (in this case, the “ears” do not always fit snugly against the head, so the sound insulation is worse).
An intermediate option between in-ear earplugs, which are fully inserted into the ear, and headphones are half-earbuds, which resemble classic earplugs, connected by a light bow (headband). Both headphones and half-ears are convenient to use in noisy production, in a shooting range and in other situations where noise pollution is too high.
But, of course, the most common option is earplugs in the form of liners. And this option is usually used by people hoping to sleep in peace and quiet.
Australian scientists have proven the effectiveness of using earplugs in intensive care. Patients in the intensive care unit are faced with sensory overload, which takes a heavy toll on the exhausted body. In addition, their sleep is fragmented, and REM sleep is either absent altogether or reduced to a minimum. Therefore, patients in intensive care have an increased risk of developing delirium, confusion. It turned out that the use of earplugs reduces these risks by 50% already during the first day. Patients sleep better and the condition as a whole stabilizes faster.
What are earplugs for sleeping?
- Wax earplugs
Such liners are made of wax and paraffin and are wrapped with a cotton coating during storage. This coating is removed before use, and the ball of the earmold is kneaded and inserted into the ear. Under the warmth of the body, it becomes softer and fills all the natural recesses of the ear canal, providing reliable sound insulation. These are disposable earplugs, but you can wear them for up to 3 days.
- Foam earplugs
This kind of liners are made of polyvinyl chloride or polyurethane. If it is not properly placed in the ear canal, when less than 60% of the earmold is in contact with its walls, the noise attenuation will be insufficient, so it is important to correctly insert them into the ears. These earplugs are short-lived — they break quickly and require very careful handling. Polypropylene is less resistant than polyurethane. The latter, moreover, can be washed.
- Silicone earplugs
The most durable, retain their shape perfectly, they can be washed, but at a cost such earplugs are more expensive than all of the above options. Available in the form of fungi, balls or bullets. Contraindicated in people who are allergic to silicone.
- Electronic earplugs
In Western markets, unusual earbuds for sleep appeared not so long ago — electronic earplugs, more reminiscent of a very compact mini-headset. These earplugs mask outside noises with soothing melody, white noise, or the sounds of rain, waterfalls.
If you close the external auditory canal in a healthy person with normal hearing, the body immediately compensates for this by improving the perception of external sounds through the bones of the skull. This effect is called occlusive. Interestingly, in diseases of hearing, it is absent — “bone hearing” is not included. Doctors use this difference when diagnosing hearing loss.
Before insertion, the earmold must be straightened, if there are wrinkles, smooth them out, and then insert them into the ear with a twisting motion. If the earplugs are correctly inserted into the ear, then the sensation of a foreign body will disappear fairly quickly.
Risks of using noise-absorbing earplugs
Compared to other methods for sound sleep, earplugs are fairly harmless and have few side effects. It’s not a sleeping pill after all, with its daytime sleepiness and dizzy spells, as well as driving restrictions, etc.
And in general, what harm can harmless gags do? However, some nuances of using earplugs are still worth considering.
For example, people with high levels of earwax should only use earplugs as a last resort. If you can’t do without them, then you need to control the condition of your ears after using them — you may need additional cleaning of the ear canal to prevent the formation of a dense sulfuric plug. Signs that an earplug wearer is developing a wax plug are itching and discomfort in the ears, hearing loss, ringing and other sounds in the ears, coughing and dizziness. This condition is treated by removing the plug directly or using special ear drops.
If you do not regularly clean the earplugs, then there is a risk of infection with it in the ear canal. This can manifest itself in the form of dizziness, nausea and vomiting, hearing problems, itching and pain in the ear, extraneous sounds. Usually, topical antibiotics are used to fight an ear bacterial infection — and only a doctor should prescribe them.
And, of course, you can not use earplugs with existing ear diseases, as this can lead to a deterioration in the patient’s condition.
Helpful side effects of earplugs
Earplugs in combination with an eye mask increase the duration of the REM phase (it is also the phase of REM sleep, rapid eye movements, REM). This stage of sleep is associated with vivid dreams, and it is also at this time that the consolidation of memories occurs.
Earplugs have also been shown to increase levels of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep, according to some studies.
Doctors also advise to periodically take breaks in the use of earplugs. If you sleep only with them for a long time, the body will get used to constant and absolute silence. In this case, it is possible that falling asleep on a trip or even at home, but without saving earplugs, will be almost impossible.