Can consistent use of earplugs damage the ears?

Since marrying the DeathLlama, I’ve developed the habit of sleeping in ear plugs. It isn’t that he snores excessively loud; it’s that he snores, or clicks, or otherwise makes sounds that stirs this light sleeper from her blissful state of unconsciousness. I hate that.

The earplugs I use are the cheap foamy ones. They do bug sometimes, and I about 40% of the times that I put them in when I go to bed, I wake up and find them either in my hand or lost somewhere in the bed.

I’ve noticed, in the last few months maybe, that my right ear itches like mad more, and seems to be producing about double the amount of wax as the right. I’ve wondered many things–did I have an itchy ear and scratch it back when I had acrylic nails? And then of course, said scratch would itch, get scratched, not heal, etc. But that’s been MONTHS! …And I was also wondering if wearing ear plugs at night irritated it.

I stopped wearing ear plugs for about two weeks or so, but then have recently reverted back (the cats have been loud wrestling in the hallway). When I wasn’t wearing the earplugs, my right ear didn’t itch. Now it itches again.

I’ve read in other threads here not to use q-tips, but when that right ear was REALLY itchy, I had to. (Not to be too gross, but there would sometimes be blood on the q-tip, and plenty of dark colored, orange wax.)

So, all of this rambling, anecdotal detailing leads back to my question–can earplugs irritate the ear canal?

Um…make that "double the amount of wax as the left. Derrr.

Well, yeah, just off the top of my head, you might simply be slightly allergic to the type of foam rubber used in the earplugs. Lots of people are allergic to foam rubber anyway.

Try using a different brand (more upscale?), or a different type, like the “chewing gum” swimming earplugs instead of “foam rubber”.

Yes to that question. Also, the amount of wax you’re getting could be due to the ear plugs pushing wax further back into the ear.

You re-use the plugs, right? Make sure they’re clean. Try cleaning them with some rubbing alcohol in the morning.

I used those foam ear plugs for years. However, at one point I started to get frequent ear infections, so I had to stop. Now I just use some cotton balls. They don’t cut out the sound very well, but it’s better than nothing.

I only use q-tips after a haircut to make sure no bits of hair got into my ear.

The blood is more troubling. If I saw even a speck of blood on a q-tip after cleaning my ears, I’d see my doctor right away. I suggest you make an appointment soon.

I get 8 hours of hearing protection training a year and a big chuck concerns ear plugs. First, foam ear plugs should not be used for an extended period of time, they are designed for short term use, less than 2 hours for most brands. For long term use, buy a quality set of rubber ear plugs. The level of protection is slightly less but they are much more comfortable than foam plugs. I was able to get a set of custom made ear plugs and they are great. My employer supplied health insurance even paid for them. I went to an audiologist and he made wax molds of my ears then made the plugs. After 5 minutes I don’t even notice them. I can where them for hours and they clean up with soap and water.

Big chuck? I meant big chunk. Sorry.

IF you sleep on your back you may be able to use the headphone type of hearing protection instead. This way you are not inserting anything.

I too am neurotic about being awakened and have become addicted to earplugs. I used to use them only now and then, but now its everynight–a function of inner-town apartment living. Anyway, I started to get that ear-itch problem, and sometimes I HAD to scratch it, usually with a Q-tip, but dipped in baby oil; seemed to be effective. Usually, though, it’s just mind over matter. Lately, the itching during the day seems to have gone away. One thing I do is when I take them out in the morning, I do it real real real slow, so as not to irritate nerve endings that I assume cause the itching. I seem to be doing fine.

The custom-made ear plugs sound tempting, but I lose ear plugs too frequently. I use the foam type of ear plugs at work. I’ve found there’s a major comfort and effectiveness differential among various brands. My favorite brand is Aearo E-A-R Classic.

To clean them I leave them in a sock or (buttoned) shirt pocket and let them go thru the laundry.

There are more comfortable foam ear plugs. My plant offers the plain cylindrical ones with a surface of open foam and also the slick-surfaced ones that are shaped like a nipple. The cylindrical ones feel scratchy to me, but the nipple shaped ones are more comfortable. They have the brand name MAX, and the package claims a better noise reduction level.

Okay…looks like a new type of ear plug is on my shopping list.

rowrrbazzle, I’m pretty sure the blood I was finding on q-tips was from scratching the inside of the ear with an acrylic nail. It’s been slow to heal, but mostly has. I rarely see blood now–and when I do, it’s very, very small amounts. (Unlike my hubby, who punctured his ear drum with a q-tip and soaked several q-tips w/blood.)

The itching is mostly in the right ear, and was the worst when that scratch was healing. It can still get irritated now, and earplugs seem to cause (or at least accentuate) that irritation.

So, I’ll try a few new earplug brands, see if that helps. Thanks all!