If you’ve ever had difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep due to noise, you may have considered using earplugs – or you might be using them already. Earplugs are a simple and effective way to block out noise, which can help you fall asleep and stay asleep more easily.
In fact, research has shown that using earplugs, along with eye masks, can help increase REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. REM sleep is the deepest form of sleep, and it is responsible for supporting a number of your body and brain’s important processes, including memory consolidation. Furthermore, earplugs can help increase melatonin levels in your body. Melatonin is a hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle.
Earplugs are a great option for enhancing sleep, especially because they are easy to use and are very affordable. They also have few side effects, which is a benefit for many people who want to avoid the potential side effects of over-the-counter and prescription sleep aids and pills. Using earplugs is helpful for people who are light sleepers, who live in noisy environments or neighborhoods, or who want to sleep in public areas.
As it turns out, getting enough sleep is critical to your health. Not getting enough sleep can increase your risk for several serious health conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, depression, and obesity. In addition to increasing the risks to your health in the long run, a lack of sleep can also lead to immediate consequences. These may include:
Increased risk of infection
Earplugs are a simple way to help you get more sleep and avoid these negative effects. You can use earplugs on a regular basis, often with no side effects or problems.
There are two main types of earplugs: expandable foam earplugs and cone earplugs. To wear expandable foam earplugs, roll the earplug into a tight cylinder, and then insert it about halfway into the ear canal. It will expand to fit your ear. Cone earplugs do not expand; simply insert the smaller end into the ear canal and gently press it in to tighten the fit. You’ll know your earplugs are properly inserted if they significantly reduce noise and are comfortable enough to sleep with.
While using earplugs is very straightforward, it is not completely without risks. The most common issue encountered by earplug wearers is a buildup of earwax. Earwax (cerumen) is a waxy substance in the ears. Its purpose is to protect the ear canal from bacteria, water, dead skin, and other debris. However, if you are repeatedly blocking the ear canal by regularly wearing earplugs, it may result in a buildup of earwax. Common signs of earwax buildup include:
Tinnitus (ringing noise in the ears)
Itching and discomfort in the ear
If you have earwax buildup, your hearing health care professional may recommend medical eardrops or removal of the earwax.
In some cases, regularly using earplugs may result in an ear infection. This is due to bacteria in the ear canal, whether it is from the earplug itself or a buildup of earwax. Symptoms of an ear infection include:
Itching and discomfort in the ear
If you believe that you may have an ear infection or a buildup of earwax, we encourage you to contact your audiologist or general physician. Bacterial ear infections can be cleared up with the use of an antibiotic.
While using earplugs has a few associated risks, for many people, the benefits far outweigh the risks. To learn more about how using earplugs can help you get better sleep, or if you have questions about the proper use of earplugs, please contact our audiology practice today.