why do earplugs make my ears itch?

Why Do Earplugs Make My Ears Itch? – How To Prevent it!

Earplugs are little helpers you can’t miss in everyday life, yet they can make your ears itch. In this article, you’ll learn everything about why earplugs make your ears itch and what you can do about it. So let’s go!

Itchy ears caused by earplugs is one of the most annoying feelings you can get. So I did a little research. Earplugs make your ears itch because of moisture accumulating in your ear canal. Because of that moisture bacteria grows. Also, a rough earplug surface can make your ears itch. Let’s look into what that means and what you can do about it.

Why Do Earplugs Make My Ears Itch?

There are five main reasons why earplugs make your ears itch.

    1. At the time you put your earplugs in, your ear canal is closed. The earplugs stop fresh air from coming in. Therefore it gets really warm and moist inside your ear. Bacteria love it and grow. And you most likely don’t want growing bacteria inside your ears. Your body signals you to clean your earls by itching.
    2. Also, the earplug pushes earwax further inside your ear canal. Usually, earwax is a good thing for you. It cleans your ears and by carrying waste products outside. It also takes care of the bacteria. If your earwax is disrupted by an earplug, it causes itching.
    3. Some earplugs have a rough surface – just like a sponge. Try to avoid these if you experience itching with them. Especially if you want to wear earplugs for a long time (like for sleeping) small irritations occur. Their rough surface supports the itching, which irritates the sensitive skin inside your ears.
    4. You push your earplugs too far in. The more surface of your ear canal is covered, the more moisture will accumulate. Also, earplugs that are pushed in too far cause itching because they try to expand. Your ears are under constant pressure. That’s also why a lot of people not only experience itching from earplugs, they also find them painful.
    5. Nature made our ears to give us the ability to hear. For that, they need to be free. An earplug, however, is a foreign substance your body wants to get rid of. Therefore it signalizes you to pull them out by giving you that terrible itchy feeling.

When Do Earplugs Make My Ears Itch?

earplugs are often used to improve sleep

Most of the time, I find that earplugs start itching if I wear them for a longer period of time. They always start to itch when I sleep or when I have a big study session in the library. That’s because it takes time for the ears to get humid. Bacteria also needs a few more hours to grow. Sometimes they start itching when I move or rearrange them. If I’m unlucky, my earplugs start itching, I rearrange them and then they itch even more. Rearranging can also irritate your skin and even worse: It distributes the dirt in your ears. So it’s always a good idea to put earplugs in precisely and firmly. You can practice putting them in (use clean earplugs) at a time where you don’t need noise protection.

Are Itchy Earplugs Dangerous?

If you don’t change your earplugs regularly, lots of dirt and bacteria collect on their surface. Your ear doesn’t want to have these waste products inside. Putting dirty earplugs in your ears, therefore, stresses your ears. You probably also don’t really want to risk diseases because of wearing dirty earplugs. Bacteria inside your ears can cause infections and in extreme cases even hearing loss.

The occasional itching doesn’t harm your ears. It just harms your comfort. If earplugs make your ears itch on a regular basis, you should definitely check if you change them often enough.

What Can I Do To Prevent My Earplugs From Itching?

Change your earplugs on a regular basis. Depending on the moisture accumulating on there, I’d recommend changing them every 1-3 days. Some earplugs can even be hand washed, but not all of them.

Before putting in earplugs, you should clean your ears with cotton sticks. That already gets rid of most of the dirt and moisture and therefore reduces the itching. It takes longer to build up new moisture now and itching will, therefore, be reduced in the first few hours of wearing earplugs.

Earplugs come in a lot of different shapes and sizes. Trying out another size can actually benefit you. Maybe your earplugs sit too loosely because they are too small. Or they are too tight because your ear canals are small. Choose a size that’s adequate for your ears when you pick up your next package of earplugs at the store.

Reduce the usage of earplugs to a minimum. Don’t wear them longer than you need to wear them. Ears are naturally not meant to be blocked. So use earplugs only if you need them.

What reduced the itching for me was putting them in like this:

How To Put In Earplugs To Prevent Itching

  1. With clean hands, roll the earplug until it fits inside your ear.
  2. Using the other hand, pull your ear up just a little. This makes it go in easier.
  3. Now put the earplug in, so it covers your ear canal just a little bit and blocks enough noise.
  4. Keep your fingers on the earplug until it expands to make it sit firmly.
  5. Repeat for the other ear.

It’s important to put it much less deep into your ear canal. That will really improve the situation. Earplugs that are pushed in deeply make your ears itch much worse.

how to put in earplugs

Also, you can try to use an alternative to earplugs.

Alternatives To Earplugs

There are many alternatives to earplugs out there. The first thing that comes to my mind is to try out different materials. Some earplugs are spongy, others are made of wax (ear putty). So you can spend a few days or weeks experimenting what’s best for you. Wax earplugs don’t rub inside your ear canal as foam earplugs do. Therefore using them can actually stop the itching.

Another gadget I love, are noise canceling headphones. Of course, you shouldn’t use them for sleep. But for studying and other situation where you need silence, I totally love them.
Personally, I use over-ear headphones. Noise canceling headphones are especially effective when you want to block loud uniform noises like a plane. I love to use them for traveling. A nice side effect is that over-ear headphones also keep your ears warm in a cold air-conditioned plane. Because they cover my whole ears, they don’t itch as foam earplugs do.

Another thing is a white noise machine which may help you block out noise at night. A white noise machine produces random sounds like wind blowing or a rushing waterfall. You can try to replace your earplugs for a white noise machine if you need them just for sleep.

If you have problems to get sleep at night, earplugs are not the only solution. I have had a hard time trying different things to find out what helps you to sleep better at night. I collected a lot of useful tips for you in my “better sleep” section. You should definitely take a look.


And that’s already all you need to know about why earplugs make your ears itch and what you can do about it. The itching is caused by waste products in your ear, irritated skin and bacteria. All these problems occur when you wear earplugs for a long time. So, it’s always a good idea to wear earplugs just as long as you need to. Also, you should replace your earplugs every few days to make sure they are clean. You don’t want to risk an ear infection just because you don’t replace earplugs regularly.

Earplug itching is not dangerous as long as it occurs just occasionally. If your earplugs itch every single day, you should think of ways to prevent it. Keep your ears and your fingers clean while putting them in. Also, don’t put them in too far and make them sit in place firmly.

There are some cool alternatives to earplugs like white noise machines or noise-canceling headphones, which I personally use and recommend to check out if you haven’t got some yet. If you not only have problems with noise at night, but you struggle to fall asleep generally, I found something that will definitely help you. Sleep masks are my secret weapon to improve my sleep, so I wrote down everything I know about how sleep masks upgrade your sleep quality.

I hope I could give you some useful information and I would be glad to read your thoughts about why earplugs make your ears itch and what you do about it in the comments below!

If you have a serious problem with itching ears, take a look at this site.

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