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    Using Ear Plugs Side Effects

    Inner Ear - Ear Plug Side Effects
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    Whether you are wearing earplugs while sleeping or regularly for your job, prolonged and improper use of earplugs can cause side effects. More often than not, we only consider the positives of wearing earplugs. Yet, many people face struggles with wearing them.

    In this article, I will cover several common side effects of using ear plugs – from wax build leading to ear pain to how earplugs can cause vertigo or tinnitus. Earplugs, when improperly used, create a breeding ground for harmful bacteria in your inner ear. Incorrectly wearing earplugs can lead to several painful side effects you should take into consideration. 

    Table of Contents:

    • Ear Pain After Using Ear Plugs
    • Can Earplugs Damage Your Hearing?
    • Can Earplugs Cause Sinus Infections?
    • Can Wearing Earplugs Cause Vertigo?
    • Can Earplugs Cause Tinnitus?
    • Conclusion

    Ear Pain After Using Ear Plugs

    There are a lot of reasons you might need to wear earplugs on a daily or nightly basis. Whether you are sleeping next to a snorer, live in a major city or work in a loud and distraction environment, getting a little silence is critical for your health. However, you might’ve noticed already that this daily use is causing ear pain after using earplugs. 

    Don’t be alarmed! 

    This is actually very common and is typically related to improper insertion of the earplug, build-up of earwax or the growth of harmful bacteria. To be sure, you should always see your doctor for their diagnosis. Furthermore, focus on cleaning your ears on a regular basis in addition to cleaning reusable earplugs or use a new, disposable pair each month. The rule of thumb is that using a set daily will last you up to 3 months. However, for as cheap as they are you can toss them each month to be safe. 

    The moment you notice disposable foam earplugs getting dirty or no longer expanding after ear insertion, throw them out. 

    Can Earplugs Damage Your Hearing?

    Repeated improper use of dirty earplugs can cause hearing damage. We already discussed how using earplugs daily – without proper care – can cause ear infections and wax build up, but you might be wondering how that might damage your hearing. 

    • Earwax Build Up: Ear wax is actually created to help protect your inner ear structure. Many people might view it as a gross annoyance, but it actually serves an important purpose. Your body produces ear wax to prevent dirt and debris from damaging your ear. This wax is created by small glands and although it is translucent when first created, it becomes dark and hard as it collects dirt and debris in your ear. 

    And, as you might imagine, your body is pretty efficient at excreting the ear wax and it draining out of your outer ear. This is why we need to readily clean our ears. Improper and prolonged earplug use can cause hearing damage by preventing this earwax from draining from your ear. This causes an earwax impaction inside your ear canal – leading to ear ringing and decreased hearing.

    • Ear Infection: Using dirty earplugs repeatedly will lead to harmful ear infections. Foam earplugs have porous that collect bacteria and help them grow in your moist ear canal. This build-up of bacteria leads to painful ear infections that cause loss of hearing in addition to redness and even permanent hearing damage if not medically treated.  

    Can Earplugs Cause Sinus Infections?

    In short – no. However, this is often a misconception because many of the symptoms of a sinus infection are felt in the ear. This can often lead people using earplugs on a regular basis to associate the wearing of earplugs (like at night) with the onset of their sinus infection. 

    When you have a sinus infection, you may experience ear related symptoms like a feeling of fullness or muffled sensation. This is related to your sinus area being obstructed and not necessarily the use of earplugs. 

    Sinus infections and ear infections are common and if you are experiencing symptoms you should visit a doctor. 

    Can Wearing Earplugs Cause Vertigo?

    Although earplugs are not the direct cause of vertigo, they can lead to conditions that make you higher risk of vertigo. As mentioned earlier, improperly wearing earplugs can lead to ear infections, which are a leading cause for a type of vertigo called Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV). 

    Inner Ear - Ear Plug Side Effects

    In short, an ear infection caused by dirty earplugs can lead to BPPV. This occurs when calcium particles embedded in your inner ear are moved to another section of your inner ear while moving your head position. People who wear earplugs while they sleep are susceptible to this type of vertigo more than others. In addition to ear infections, prolonged bed rest, ear surgery, and blockage of an inner ear artery can cause BPPV. 

    Can Earplugs Cause Tinnitus?

    There are a lot of ways to get tinnitus. First, we should define tinnitus. Tinnitus refers to a sensation in which you hear a sound in your ear without the presence of an external noise. 

    No – you aren’t hearing things! 

    These sounds can range from ringing and whooshing to humming and dull buzz noise. 

    The way in which earplugs can cause tinnitus is most readily related to an ear infection or wax blockage. As mentioned earlier, improper use of earplugs (especially when sleeping) can lead to infections that can cause tinnitus.

    Something else to consider is you might contract tinnitus from exposure to loud noise at work or concert.

    These loud noises result in increased pressure of sound waves which can damage inner ear hair cells. As a result, the damaged cells create a signal to your brain which translates it as a sound – causing tinnitus. It is recommended that you wear ear protection if working or visiting extremely loud environments.


    From tinnitus and vertigo to ear pain and hearing damage, there are several side effects to consider when wearing earplugs. However, if used properly, you should be able to successfully avoid these side effects and continue protecting your hearing with earplugs.

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