I’ve been an earplug wearer for years now and I can confidently say: I don’t want to miss them in my life now. Noisy nights now turn into silent times of peace and rest. But why should you start wearing earplugs? Where and how do you begin? Let me introduce you to the glamorous world of earplug-mastery!
To answer your question: No, earplugs are not bad for you (if you use them correctly). Earplugs are generally safe and even beneficial to use. Earplugs improve your health and sleep quality. However, sometimes there are dangers you shouldn’t overlook. For example, using dirty, worn out earplugs can be bad for you, because they cause moisture and bacteria to collect in your ears. Also, using them too frequently can become an addictive behavior. So how do you use earplugs safely to benefit your life the most without risking any damages? We’ll cover everything in this ultimate earplugs guide.
What will we cover in this post?
- What are earplugs?
- Why should you wear earplugs at night?
- How to improve your sleep using earplugs
- Using earplugs to lower stress
- Are earplugs bad for you? – How to use them safely!
- Other situations to wear earplugs
- Wearing earplugs at work
- Using earplugs for traveling
- Using earplugs for meditation
- Health-related benefits of earplugs
- Fitness related benefits of earplugs
- Where to buy earplugs?
- Which earplugs size suits me?
- What is earplugs SNR?
- How to wear earplugs?
I hope these topics sound interesting to you! So let’s dive straight in!
The reason you landed on my ultimate earplugs guide is: You are interested in learning more about using earplugs and looked for an all-in-one guide that contains all the information necessary to get you started.
How do I know that this will be helpful to you? I am writing this guide to contain information for every level of earplug users. These are:
- the earplug junior: You’ve never used earplugs and need some information to make a decision if they suit you or not.
- the earplug-fan: You use earplugs when you need them (e.g. for traveling or when your neighbors throw a big party)
- the earplug-sensei: You are using earplugs as a tool to enhance your day. It’s like a secret weapon to improve your health and well-being. The earplug-sensei uses earplugs wisely and knows most of their benefits.
No matter where you find yourself on this list, I’ve got good news for you. You will learn a lot about earplugs. From improving your sleep even further to when to use them in everyday life and even learn things about earplugs you didn’t expect at all! So stay tuned.
What are earplugs?
An earplug is a small gadget or tool you can plug into your ears. Because they are made of coated foam material they will reduce the environmental noise level you can perceive. For example, if you sit in a library and you are distracted by someone talking. An earplug will reduce the loudness of the person’s voice so far, you won’t be able to hear him anymore.
Earplugs are usually made of foam with a light coating. But there are also other versions of them which are made of elastic plastic or rubber materials. The traditional version of an earplug is made of wax. This version was first recorded in Greek tales of Odysseus. A commercial version of wax earplugs has been distributed by the Germans in 1907. However, the foam version is more popular.
So earplugs are known for a very long time. And therefore we know a lot of use-cases and benefits of using them. And they will all be covered in this guide.
Because of their adaptive shape, they fit into your ear canal perfectly and stay there without moving. Because of their sound reducing effect, earplugs are mostly used to improve sleep quality or for noisy work environments to prevent hearing loss.
Why should you wear earplugs at night?
Wearing earplugs at night has one big benefit. You will sleep a lot better than without them.
Because earplugs are designed to lower the noise level, you can get rid of every kind of distraction that prevents you from sleeping. Living in a students dorm, I can tell you a lot of these distractions: e.g. noisy neighbors, annoying fridge sounds, people throwing a party directly in front of your window or construction workers with extremely loud drilling machines that make your walls vibrate.
You stay relaxed and sleep better
If you are not a sloth, these things will definitely prevent you from sleeping. So using earplugs is the greatest blessing that you can do to your body at noisy times. Not only will it help you to sleep, but also it will reduce your stress levels. I always get angry about my noisy neighbors for example. Having the ability to just plug in earplugs whenever it’s noisy increases your control over the situation.
Without your little helpers, you are a victim of noise. You can go knock your neighbor’s door and tell him to be quiet, but you can’t reduce street noise or turn off your fridge at night.
Some people are afraid they won’t be able to hear the alarm clock in the morning. You don’t really have to worry about that at all. If you want to know more about how to handle this problem, check out the article Can you hear your alarm clock with earplugs?
To summarize: using earplugs gives you the ability to improve your sleep quality and reduces your stress level by giving you more power over the noise level you can perceive.
How to improve your Sleep using Earplugs?
As you all know, falling asleep becomes really hard if there’s a noise annoying you. Studies have shown that stressful sounds at night increase sleep struggles. Some people might be adapted to background sounds of street traffic or fan noise. But sounds that are unusual or signal danger hit our ability to sleep really hard. Unusual sounds are for example your neighbor’s party or cars honking.
With increased sleep struggles your quality of rest also decreases. A peaceful and restful night makes you wake up refreshed and happy. While a struggled night makes you feel terrible and unmotivated in the morning. This is even backed up by a study which shows that 74% of Americans say that a quiet room is important for sleep. Another study shows that using earplugs increases our melatonin levels. Melatonin is a hormone that makes us feel tired and fall asleep. And also we sleep better and deeper according to the US national library of medicine.
Now that we’ve found out the impact of noise on sleep, let’s build up our sound protection fortress!
To lower the sounds and noise you will have to manage your situation and take action. What you can do is to use either external or internal protection. Or both.
External protection can be:
- soundproofing your room
- using a white noise machine or app
- arguing with your neighbors to be quiet
Internal protection is
- using earplugs to improve your sleep.
At which time to use earplugs?
While external protection is often expensive, stressful or work intensive, internal protection is pretty easy. You can just plug earplugs in!
But when exactly should you put them in? From experience, I can say that using earplugs too early at night can be harmful to your sleep. Let’s say you go to bed 30 minutes before you want to sleep and spend some time reading or on your phone (which you shouldn’t do! Take a look here: 5 Habits That Kill Your Sleep).
Don’t use earplugs right away, but use them right before closing your eyes. Why? Well, it’s because it’s an awesome feeling for you and your body. If you want to sleep well, signal your body the environment to sleep has changed. If you close your eyes (no light to perceive anymore) and pluck in earplugs at the same time (no noise anymore), it creates a perfect environment for sleep and signals to your body that he’s allowed to fall asleep.
So, every night right before closing your eyes put a pair of earplugs into your ears.
Others may argue to wear them even before going to bed to quiet down your body and increase melatonin production. But in my experience to quiet down your body, light is the primary factor. So, also make sure, you dampened your lights 1 hour before going to bed and stop using your smartphone also.
Using Earplugs To Lower Stress
Earplugs are not only useful for sleep. They are also often used for studying, reading at libraries or working in public areas. Stop seeing earplugs as just a sleeping aid. Earplugs, if properly used become a very versatile tool you don’t want to miss.
Therefore, earplugs are not only needed if you have problems falling asleep. They also come in handy for pretty much everyone at some point in life.
When there’s noise really annoying me, for example, a crying kid on a train ride, or even worse, on a holiday plane flight, I get annoyed really fast. I just can’t stand sharp noises penetrating my ears at times where I need to focus, concentrate or simply relax. Therefore my stress levels increase dramatically. In the past, I was always a victim of these situations. There’s no escape if you are on a plane flight and small kids are crying loudly. The only opportunity you have is to tweak the internal factors. Which means: Use your earplugs to cut off noise.
Not only will it give you control over the situation, but you are also on the best way to calm back down.
My personal experience
Last week, I had a 2-hour train ride where a small kid way crying without stopping. After about one hour of freaking out on the inside because I wanted to read a book, I remembered that I have earplugs with me. After putting the earplugs in my ears it became one of the most relaxed and chilled train rides I’ve had so far. I wasn’t able to hear any noise anymore and could focus on my book entirely.
Other examples would be studying in a library and someone keeps talking. Stop stressing out and put in earplugs. Or working with loud machines. Extremely loud machine noise stresses your body instead of your mind. And you can lower the impact of that noise by wearing them.
Therefore you should always have a pair of earplugs in your pocket. You never know when they come in handy.
Earplugs hand you the control over the situation. And if you are in control, you are able to lower stress levels if you need. Stop seeing them as a sleeping aid only. They are a versatile tool that improves your life if you know when to use them.
And now, finally, let’s answer the big title question!
Are Earplugs Bad For You? – How to use them safely
A lot of people are afraid that earplugs can be in some way bad for you. And yes it’s true. They can be dangerous and bad for you if you use them incorrectly. What is incorrect use?
Using Earplugs With Dirty Ears is Bad For You
You should always wear earplugs with clean ears (to clean your ears just use a Q-tip). Having clean ears lowers the moisture and fat in your ears that gets trapped by earplugs and therefore reduces bacteria. If you use earplugs with dirty ears, the earplugs would promote bacteria growth because of the increased temperature and moisture inside your ears.
Not Changing Earplugs is Bad For You
Also, earplugs gather moisture and dirt over time. I would advise you to change your earplugs at least every 3-5 nights. Not changing your earplugs increases the chance of infection and ear disease. A simple change makes all these risks vanish (earplugs are incredibly cheap to get, so don’t worry). Changing earplugs not only makes a noticeable difference in noise protection (I have no idea why, but it’s true) but also they tend to itch much less. Sometimes I have problems with earplugs that start itching after wearing them for too long. A simple change of earplugs usually fixes it. If you suffer from itchy earplugs, I wrote this ultimate tutorial to instantly fix earplugs itching for you.
Earplug addiction is dangerous
First, if you use earplugs too often, even when you don’t need them in that particular situation, your body will adapt to using them to be able to sleep. If you overuse earplugs, you risk getting dependent on them. Some people even talk about earplugs addiction. I am personally using them for about 3 years about 5-6 nights a week because of my noisy student’s dorm.
Trying to sleep without earplugs is just not possible for me. Is this an addiction? Not really sure. I only need them in noisy or unfamiliar environments. When I’m in a quiet, dark place I can easily sleep without them.
To make sure you won’t become an earplug addict, only use them when it improves your situation. For example, I wouldn’t want to use earplugs when it’s quiet anyway. Don’t create unnecessary habits.
If you keep these three points in mind (clean ears, exchange regularly, only use if necessary) you don’t need to worry about if earplugs are bad and dangerous for you at all.
Other Situations To Wear Earplugs
There are dozens, if not hundreds of situations where earplugs would be great to use. Some people spend their lives in these situations struggling and I can never understand why they just don’t use earplugs? And I’ve personally experienced some of them. But a lot of these situations are spontaneous and you can’t plan them.
My suggestion for you is, therefore: If you want to improve your life with earplugs, have a pair with you everywhere and every time.
Because I have them with me everywhere, I am able to adapt to stressful situations better than other people. One example is a train ride with a non-stop crying kid.
Situations where earplugs are especially useful
- holiday: nights in hotel rooms can be really exhausting if you have to wrong neighbors or loud music coming from outside
- travel: plane flights, long bus rides, train rides where traffic noise or other people prevent you from being relaxed
- work: people who are exposed to loud machine noise benefit from wearing noise protection plugs to protect their hearing
- getting your own kids to sleep while traveling. Smart moms and dads use earplugs to quiet their kids down and make them sleep in difficult situations.
As you now realized, being prepared with earplugs is always useful. You never really know when you need them. Sometimes you can plan it. For example when you are going to travel and you know that you need to get sleep on the flight. But there are other unpredictable situations. For example, talking people or annoying notebook sounds in a library. You’d expect that if you go to a library, everything is quiet. But that’s not always the case. So you should better prepare by having earplugs with you 100% of the time. It doesn’t cost you anything. You can only benefit from it.
Using Earplugs For Meditation
Using earplugs for meditation is something only very few people think of. When you meditate, you want to concentrate. You need to focus on breathing correctly and feeling your body. You need to stop incoming thoughts about your everyday problems and anything else. Just focus on yourself.
So, what could be the worst thing to happen to you if you are meditating? Obviously, you don’t want any external distractions. Depending on how advanced you are in meditation, you might consider helping yourself with earplugs. Advanced practitioners will say that you should be able to focus without external help. But for beginners, this is completely different. Because your mind is not trained enough at this stage yet, earplugs will support your meditation and I’m sure you will even progress faster than beginners who don’t use earplugs.
If you meditate, consider using earplugs to cancel out distractions. In case you’re not sure about this, just try it once or twice and decide afterward.
If however, you suffer from really annoying neighbors, barking dogs near you or crying kids somewhere, I am sure earplugs will be a great aid. Meditation should not be a fight against your body, but a phase of focus and calming down.
Health Benefits Of Using Earplugs
Earplugs affect your health directly and indirectly. In this section, let us discover all the positive effects of earplugs. All these points convince me that they are a necessity for everyone in the current fast moving world!
Because of canceling out and dampening noise, they become a wonderful health booster.
They impact your health by
- lowering your stress
- improving sleep
- boosting work effectiveness
- enhancing the ability to concentrate
So now let’s discover why these single points I just mentioned are crucial for your health.
Earplugs lower your stress levels
Stress is torture for your body. Not only does it increase the chance of higher blood pressure and a, therefore, a bigger risk of getting a heart disease. It also affects your weight. How? Stress causes a higher level of cortisol which can lead to obesity. Other direct causes of stress are for example headaches, depression and Alzheimer’s. That doesn’t sound fun, right? It is mandatory for you to keep your stress levels as low as possible all the time. Storytime: At work, sometimes I hear people arguing, complaining and get ting angry about something. When I am exposed to bad-tempered people, I feel my stress levels increase. And also it decreases my focus. To fight my stress levels, I am always more than happy to use earplugs in these moments.
Earplugs improve sleep quality
Who doesn’t love to wake up in the morning feeling energized and refreshed? Getting quality sleep is crucial to your everyday success and your health. High sleep quality improves your brain performance. You can’t think when you are tired. When you are rested though, you are able to tackle more complex tasks. Also having a good night of sleep lowers the risk of becoming sick by keeping your heart, your immune system and your blood vessels healthy. And on top of that, while sleeping, your body balances your appetite and weight.
A direct health booster
By enhancing your ability to concentrate and increasing your work effectiveness, they are also cutting down the time you spend working. If you are studying a subject for an exam, for example, you can greatly benefit from boosted concentration. Instead of spending 4 hours studying with distractions, you can get the same work done in 2 hours. You just cut down distractions using earplugs. I greatly benefited from earplugs many times while studying. Most often in noisy and active public locations. Like in a park, in a cafe, or at a train station. By cutting down the time you spend studying or working, you have more free time for yourself. And free time calms you down and also improves your quality of sleep and lowers your stress levels. On top of that, you also have more fun in life!
Where To Buy Earplugs?
You can buy earplugs pretty much everywhere. They are available in most supermarkets. Although, in my experience, you can save a lot of money, if you buy online. Supermarket earplugs are mostly overpriced, small packages. If you just take a look at what’s available online, for example, on Amazon, you can see that you can get much more for less money. On top of that, you can read through user ratings and see how people like the product. Therefore I recommend getting earplugs online. One starting point (and my recommendation) would be these Moldex earplugs from Amazon. These are exactly the ones I personally use and love. But you can go and check out all the other ones available and decide what suits you best.
If you have special needs, for example you need extreme noise protection or you have a special ear disease or shape, the best thing to do is go talk to a pharmacist who will be able to find something that fits your needs.
Which Earplugs Size Do You Need?
That’s a funny topic because for my whole life I thought that there are different earplugs sizes like for clothes. But the fact is, it’s not like that. Most earplugs come in a one-fits-all size. Whether you are a teenager or an adult, female or male: Don’t think about the size. Any of them should fit you. That’s because earplugs are made of a material that adapts to your ear canal shape. Still, sometimes it happens that you have very small ears (I also know someone). And then they won’t fit you anymore. Luckily there are also extra small sizes which will most likely do the job for you. These Mack’s Slim Fit Earplugs are designed to be 20% smaller than other earplugs.
Earplugs size is something you don’t need to worry about. If you’ve never used them before, just get the standard size. I’m sure they will fit you.
What is earplugs SNR?
The SNR (Signal-to-Noise-Ratio) of earplugs tells how much your earplugs lower the noise levels you can hear. As you most likely know, loudness is measured in dB (decibels). Now let’s look at an example.
Imagine you’re traveling. You’re sitting in a plane right now. The cabin noise in a plane approaches around 85 dB usually. Which is four times as loud as office noise.
Now, you have 32dB SNR earplugs with you.
The amount of noise that you hear is calculated by simply subtracting both numbers.
The noise level therefore goes down to 85dB – 32dB = 52dB.
52dB would equal the loudness of a normal talk. So you go from plane noise to talking noise just by putting in earplugs.
Isn’t that great?
Taking a look at the noise chart
Take a look at this Decibel Comparison Chart I made for you! On the right side you see “loudness bars”. On the left side you see the corresponding examples in which these dB values occur. As you see, on a plane flight you are exposed to 90dB noise levels. This is really loud and not good for your ears. Also, it becomes really hard to sleep at these noise levels and you will be pretty stressed out. Now using earplugs that have an SNR of 35dB (like the ones I recommended in the Where To Buy Earplugs” section of this article) you are able to reduce the noise from 90db to 55dB (just calculate 90dB minus 35dB equals 55dB).
Now taking a look at the comparison chart again, you see, that by using earplugs you went from airplane noise to “Quiet suburb” or “Air conditioning” noise. Which is way better! That’s a major improvement to your travel experience.
Just like this, you can use earplugs to regulate noise levels. You will be able to react much more flexible to stressful situations. I love using earplugs like this to improve my sleep quality and my stress levels.
How To Put In Earplugs?
This sounds like a simple question to answer. But I’ve seen people who really couldn’t fit earplugs into their ears. No matter how hard they tried, they didn’t really get them inside the ear. The earplugs would always be really loose and slip out after some time.
So what’s the best way of putting earplugs into your ears?
For those of you who want to make it really simple, you can just roll the earplugs between your fingers until they are really thin and compressed. After that, put the compressed earplugs into your ears and wait for them to expand. Sounds simple, right?
Problem-Shooting: Common mistakes
Still, some of you will face some problems doing this, because not everyone has a straightly shaped ear canal. If you have problems getting a compressed earplug into your ears, your ear canal is most likely not straight but a little curvy. But that’s no problem if you know how to correct this. After rolling and compressing the earplug between your fingers and holding it in one hand, grab your ear with the other hand and pull it upwards. While the ear is pulled upwards, your ear canal is straightened and you can now push the earplug into your ears.
Now, some might face the problem that the earplugs are slippery and too loose so they slip out of your ear after some time. To handle this problem, you have to do this one thing: Right after you put the compressed earplug into your ear, put your finger on it. This is to make the them expand into the inside of the ear instead of the outside. Doing this has helped me a lot getting the earplugs to sit firmly inside my ears.
You will most likely develop a personal strategy after using earplugs for a long time, but these are the basics. With this information, you are now a true put-earplugs-into-your-ears-master.
And that’s it. If you really read everything in this article, you can claim to be an earplugs-ninja. Even if you didn’t study every sentence I’m sure you learned a lot of interesting new stuff about earplugs. Now you know how to use earplugs to your advantage. They are a great tool to improve your sleep and to relax better. They give you control over situations where other people struggle. Also, you found out about the health benefits of earplugs. Hell, they are great.
Not only do they decrease the risk of diseases, but you will also feel much more refreshed every day from now on. On top of that, you now know what most people don’t know at all. For example, now you are one of the few people who can tell what the SNR is. It’s a measurement unit that tells you how much the earplugs lower noise. And I even made a nice comparison chart for you, so you can always check in which situations your earplugs would come in handy. And finally, you know the exact techniques you need to put in earplugs properly so they sit firmly inside your ears. Oh, and you also learned about the way to use and when to use earplugs.
Now I want to see you use that knowledge to your advantage! I tried to give you everything I know so you can improve your sleep and your life with earplugs. I hope you’ll enjoy the journey.
Thank you a lot for reading!