I'm a huge nature freak, loving all creatures big and small. But now that the weather has warmed up, I'm sleeping with my bedroom window open, and cannot deal with the happily chirping birds at 4 am! In my half-asleep stupor, I got up to
curse them off politely demand that they quiet down, and was even thinking so irrationally as to start throwing shoes to make them stop. My hubby kindly suggested I sleep with foam earplugs. Brilliant! They work like a charm. I've been wearing them every night for a three weeks straight, but now I'm wondering — could this cause permanent damage to my ears?
I'm a light sleeper as well, and can definitely relate to not being able to snooze through birds singing in the wee hours of the morn. Earplugs are a great idea, and I've even had friends wear them to deal with a snoring spouse. To find out if there's harm in long-term wearing, read more.
Earplugs are meant to block out noises, but will not completely prevent you from hearing loud sounds such as a smoke detector or beeping alarm clock. So in that respect, it is safe to wear earplugs to bed.
As far as the health of your ear goes, I hate to break it to you, but studies show that long-term use of foam earplugs can cause ear wax to build up or become impacted. Ear plugs block the outward flow of ear wax that our bodies naturally produce in order to self-clean the ears. Foam plugs are often pushed in too far, which can also pack the wax deep inside your ear canal, and possibly against the eardrum. You'll end up with constant ringing of the ears (tinnitus), pain, or hearing loss. What's more — not to gross you out — bacteria thrive on warm, moist, foam earplugs, and since they can't be thoroughly cleaned, people often end up with ear infections.
If you can't rest soundly with a closed window, and earplugs are your only saving grace to get some zzzs, it's recommended to invest in a custom molded pair. These will fit your ears like a glove, and reduce the risk of being pushed in too far. They're also easier to keep clean, so your risk of infection is greatly reduced.