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

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.

Occlusal effect

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

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.


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