Is it healthy to wear earplugs while sleeping? New concerns arise
Are earplugs a good thing while sleeping?
“Never put anything smaller than your elbow into your ear” is something we’ve been wisely cautioned against at some stage or another. But more of us are ignoring this advice.
We use in-the-ear-headphones to listen to music, car keys and hair pins to scratch that particularly unpleasant itch, and hearing aids to enable better communication.
Many of us also use disposable foam earplugs to protect from damaging noises in the workplace, or to block the noise of snoring partners, loud traffic outside bedroom windows, dogs barking and any other bothersome sounds that prevent a good night’s sleep.
If you regularly use earplugs to sleep, is it damaging? On the internet, people ask whether doing so can cause tinnitus, infections or ear pain. Can regular earplug use cause wax or pressure build up in the head? Can it cause headaches?
The facts about wax
To answer these questions, I should first explain a few things about ear wax.
Wax is good for the ear but too much can be bad for you. Wax comes from small glands in the outer part of the ear. It starts off looking like honey but the longer it stays in the ear, the darker and harder it gets as it traps dirt, grit and gunk.
Normally the wax will be “walked” out of the ear by its self-cleaning mechanism. Anything that slows down or reverses this mechanism can cause wax to build up. Unfortunately, anything smaller than your elbow can do this, sleeping plugs included. But everyone’s ears are affected differently.
An ear full of wax works like a built-in ear plug – great for sleeping, but if it ends up resting on the eardrum, it can cause discomfort and sometimes tinnitus.
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