Is it Safe to Sleep with Ear Plugs In?

woman sleeping

If snoring or other noise is preventing you from getting a good night’s sleep, you might be tempted to sleep with ear plugs in. These tiny silicon or wax devices can work miracles in blocking out noise.

Cutting out noise can be extremely beneficial to your sleep. Even if you’re sleeping a full 8 hours, high levels of noise may be interrupting your sleep without you even realising it.

However, ear plugs can be dangerous when used without taking the necessary precautions.

The Risks

Whilst there are clear and major benefits to sleeping with ear plugs in, there are a number of risks that you should be aware of. Many of these risks can be mitigated if dealt with properly, so there’s no need to be too worried.

Earwax compaction

The wax in your ear helps to keep the ear canal clean of debris by collecting it and draining it out of the ear. If ear plugs are not used properly, you may prevent earwax from draining, causing it to compact and harden. In the case of severe build-ups, the hardened earwax can cause pain or even lead to infections.

To avoid this, you should make sure to follow proper ear plug insertion procedure. Typically, this involves rolling the ear plug into a thin tube and allowing it to expand inside the ear. You should also be careful to keep your ear plugs clean, as the accumulation of earwax, debris, and moisture can lead to infection.

Pressure and discomfort

If your ear plugs do not fit comfortably, they may exert excessive pressure on the inside of your ear canal. This can be very uncomfortable, which may disrupt your sleep. If you intend to sleep with ear plugs in, you should choose ear plugs that are comfortable even when you lay on your side. This helps to ensure you get a good night’s sleep.

To maximise comfort, you should also be careful to insert the ear plugs properly. Ear plugs should be rolled into a thin tube before insertion. This allows the ear plug to expand inside your ear canal, maintaining proper pressure on the inside. If inserted forcefully, you may apply undue pressure to the sensitive parts of your inner ear, potentially leading to damage.

Missing alarms

By design, ear plugs are very good at blocking out sound. In general, this is very useful. However, if that sound is your fire alarm, you need to be able to hear it.

Make sure you test your ear plugs to make sure that your fire alarm is very clearly audible with ear plugs in. If you are unable to hear your smoke alarm with your ear plugs in, you should relocate it closer to your bed or choose less protective ear plugs.

Sleeping Safely with Ear Plugs In

While it’s normally safe to use ear plugs while sleeping, there are certain steps to be taken while using them. By following the tips given below, you can be assured that using ear plugs will not damage your ears:

Don’t remove your ear plugs too quickly

Ears are extremely sensitive organs and your inner ear is at risk of being damaged when you pull out your ear plugs too fast. This is because ear plugs are meant to create suction upon insertion in order to block out all sound and prevent noise from penetrating.

If you pull out your ear plug too fast, it can create suction. If you use ear plugs while sleeping, make sure you pull them out carefully when you wake up.

Change your sleeping position often

It is not recommended to use ear plugs if you are a heavy sleeper or if you sleep on your side.

If you sleep on your side, there is a high chance that it is not safe to use ear plugs when you sleep because your head may press down on your ear plug, thereby permitting it to go too deep into your ear. This can cause pressure on your membrane and damage it.

If you are suffering from earache or can’t pull out your earphones without force, there is a high chance that your ear plugs have penetrated too deep into your ear.

Keep your ears clean

Many ear plugs are designed to be reused. However, if there is excessive wax present in your ear, it causes moisture that dampens your ear plugs.

Damp ears and excessive wax make it dangerous to use ear plugs since they ear plugs block moisture into the ear and this can cause severe, painful ear infections. Hence, it is vital to keep your ears clean if you want to safely use ear plugs while you sleep.


Over long periods of time, repeated ear plug use can cause issues. However, if you’re one of the many people that can’t sleep due to uncontrollable noise, proper maintenance and usage of your ear plugs should help to minimise noise and minimise risk. As long as your ear plugs are inserted properly and fit comfortably, you’re unlikely to experience any issues.

If repeated use is a concern, purchase some external earmuffs, or speak to an audiologist about getting some custom-moulded ear plugs for sleeping. A good night’s sleep is worth the effort.

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