Can Sleeping With Earplugs Cause Ringing In My Ears (Tinnitus)?

Can wearing earplugs or ear buds cause a constant ringing in your ears and/or other tinnitus-like symptoms?

Before I share my personal experience and some of the research I’ve learned, I’m gonna go ahead and answer that question with a YES. Using earplugs and in-ear head phones CAN cause ringing in your ears and also various other tinnitus-like symptoms—but from what I understand it’s not actually Tinnitus.

What exactly is Tinnitus?

Google says, “Tinnitus is a physical condition, experienced as noises or ringing in the ears or head when no such external physical noise is present. Tinnitus is usually caused by a fault in the hearing system; it is a symptom, not a disease in itself. The word “tinnitus” means “tinkling or ringing like a bell”.

The symptoms of tinnitus include a noise in the ears, such as ringing, roaring, buzzing, hissing, or whistling; the noise may be intermittent or continuous. Most of the time, only the person who has tinnitus can hear it (subjective tinnitus).

There’s A Right & Wrong Way To Wear Earplugs? Say What!?

When I first decided to give earplugs a try—after countless sleepless nights due to my hubby and bulldog snoring in perfect harmony together—I did not know there were Do’s and Don’ts to wearing them. Nor did I know that if I didn’t wear them properly I could end up suffering with a constant ringing in my left ear…which is what happened.

One evening, after I was done streaming my Netflix show and ready to turn in for the night, was when I first noticed the ringing. Literally as soon as I shut the TV off and there was no other sounds. It happened out of nowhere, without any warning or logical explanation…as I hadn’t had the earplugs in since that morning and I’d been ok throughout the day.

I crawled in bed totally perplexed by the constant ring and could not put the earplugs in because they only made the ring in my head louder. Worry crept in and I did some of my meditation and breathing practices as I laid there and prayed I’d get some sleep and wake up feeling better.

Eventually sleep did come, but when I woke up the ringing was still there. Solely in my left ear. I also had what resembled sinus pressure in my whole head. Total brain fog.

Being a curious, holistic-minded kinda gal, I popped open Google and started digging for answers. This is something I always do before considering going to a doctor.

Please be mindful I’m not suggesting not go to your doctor if you suffer from this. I’m simply sharing my personal experience along with some of the information I found helpful or insightful, so you can continue to do your own research alongside your health care practitioner. To be clear, I don’t ever advocate relying on someone’s blog to make major medical decisions.

At first, I wasn’t specifically typing “wearing earplugs cause ears to ring” because I hadn’t linked that together yet. So my first search was “how to stop ringing in my ear.” That’s where the word Tinnitus first popped up. It was this article by Dr. Axe going over the natural ways to treat it.

Now I wondered if in fact I had Tinnitus. And more upsetting though, was that most of his tips to cure this naturally were not going to help me right away. And I wanted to feel better now! Like most of us do when we’re not feeling ok.

So my next thoughts were that I needed to flush out my ear and figure out a holistic way to do it from home. Googling that led me to this article about 6 Home Remedies For Safe Ear Wax Removal. And after reading it over, I not only had a plan of action to try out—I went with the water and saline solution to flush out my ear—that’s also when I started wondering if perhaps wearing the earplugs had caused some kind of wax build up in there in the first place.

home remedies to remove earwax

After I put together my warm salt water (using filtered water and sea salt), I grabbed a cotton wipe, soaked it for a couple seconds and then tilted my head to the side and dripped a few drops in my left ear. The instructions said to sit like that for 3-5 minutes, which was not easy to do. It’s a little hard on your neck, but the ringing motivated me to be patient enough to at least make it the 3 minutes. I then tipped my head the other way to get the excess water out and dabbed it with a clean tissue to dry it.

And even though there is caution to using Q-tips, I still used one and gently cleaned the surface area. I’ve read too many times never to go too deep inside your ear as it can cause permanent damage. So be super careful if/when using one.

I still heard the ringing, but some of the fogginess/head pressure had lessoned. So back to the computer I went.

Another quick search took me straight over the this: Can Prolonged Earplug Use Cause Damage In Ears? Now I was certain wearing the earplugs was my culprit.

Which finally lead me to: The Dos And Don’ts of Earplug Use. OMG, I wished with all my heart I’d seen this BEFORE I started using those damn earplugs! I had NO IDEA that there’s actually several things you must follow to prevent any issues or symptoms from happening. This article even has a video showing you exactly how to insert your earplugs (which I’d also been doing wrong!).

The main thing that stood out to me though was NOT RE-USING the same earplugs unless they’re cleaned. I was totally guilty of that. Some nights when I’d forgotten to put them in before getting into bed—but then of course needed them because of the symphony performed by my hubby and/or bulldog—I’d lazily just reach over and grab whichever plugs were on my nightstand. And sadly some of them had been used.

Even though I’ve been nicknamed the Candida Queen and have specialized a lot of my coaching and research on bacteria and ways to keep enough healthy ones in your body, it never occurred to me that the pre-used plug would have lots of nasty bacteria all over it that could lead to a build up of earwax to prevent it from getting too deep inside the ear.

I’d firmly linked my ringing ear and brain fog to wearing dirty earplugs.

Please be mindful I’m not suggesting not go to your doctor if you suffer from this. I’m simply sharing my personal experience along with some of the information I found helpful or insightful, so you can continue to do your own research alongside your health care practitioner. To be clear, I don’t ever recommend relying on someone’s blog post to make major medical decisions.

The ringing lasted for two whole days. I’d mentally decided that if it was still ringing by the 3rd day, I’d break down and make an appointment to have it checked out. During those two longs days, I flushed it a few more times with my homemade saltwater, kept myself busy, upped my probiotics & antioxidants, and also made sure there were soft and pleasant sounds to listen to. Chill and relax music from my Spotify or Youtube were constantly streaming in the background. I prayed for healing and practiced some meditation and breathing techniques.

When I woke up that morning of the 3rd day, the ringing and brain fog were gone. I was literally happy dancing! Nothing feels better than being healthy, and so many times I’m guilty of taking that for granted. Because I choose to live a pretty healthy lifestyle—of course with some indulgences because, hey, you’ve gotta live, right?!—I feel pretty darn good most days. So when something feels “off” I notice it right away.

During some of my research, I also stumbled on several forums with people sharing about how sick they were—including having constant brain fog symptoms. (One of my searches was if I had something wrong with my brain) It broke my heart to see just how many people out there are struggling with really scary health issues that their doctors can’t even figure out (that also had happened to me when I’d suffered multiple panic attacks and all the doctors told me there was nothing wrong and scribed me meds).

And while even though I did get an infection from wearing the earplugs that caused me to suffer for a couple days, I’m thankful I was able to get better—holistically. I believe my diet and supplements along with the natural salt water remedy is what enabled me to heal in 2 days. If you follow my blog, you know I believe strongly that food is medicine or poison and that a healthy diet with natural supplements and daily activity are vital to overall health and happiness.

Have you ever worn earplugs and gotten a ringing ear from them? Do you use natural home remedies to keep your ears clean? If so, I’d love to hear what worked for you in the comments.

To Truly Living Out Loud 🙂

PS: If you’re new to the world of supplements and not sure what to take and what you may not need, then this post can totally help you out. I mention my favorite probiotics and also share a couple vitamins that are loaded with antioxidants, both of which help boost your immune system to help your body fight off infection faster.

PPS: If you enjoyed this article, share it with a friend who could benefit from it!

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3 responses to “Can Sleeping With Earplugs Cause Ringing In My Ears (Tinnitus)?

  1. Sam

    Do you still wear earplugs? I also was able to link tinnitus with earplug usage over 4 episodes over the course of roughly 6 months. The first 2 episodes the tinnitus went away in about 48 hours. A few months later I used earplugs again and I got mild tinnitus (tolerable) that has been going on for 3 months now. I recently used another earplug (all foam), and experienced pain after a few hours and took them off. Since then, 2 weeks ago, I have had severe ringing (next to intolerable), intermittent ear pain, fullness feeling, extreme soreness. My ears usually felt sore after a few hours of earplug use, but in the past the soreness went away within a hour or so after taking them off. This recent incident feels more like a physical trauma injury to me.Similar “knocked out” feeling as I got after my impacted wisdom teeth removed but not nearly as severe. All the symptoms are in both ears except the ringing is worse in the left ear. I don’t have any fever or any signs of sickness. A doctor looked into my ear with the scope but didn’t notice anything–he didn’t see any wax either. Do you have any ideas or references to people who might understand what’s going on? I’m got a referral to an audiologist (will request ENT too), but really hoping to find some really knowledgeable people on the internet that can pinpoint what’s going!

    • I stopped wearing earbuds and got a pair of over-the ear headphones, but sometimes I do still wear earplugs to sleep…but always new ones (never re-used). I have not had any ear ringing since I shared this (thank God!) but sometimes when I get up in the morning and take the earplugs out, I can feel a heavy buildup of wax inside my ears. Thankfully I do not need to wear them every night. I’d shared all the links and research I’d found in this article/blog. Have you read through all of them? I found the information very helpful—it just took me some time to read through it all.

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