Can Removing Earplugs Cause Hearing Loss or Make Tinnitus Worse?

Discussion in 'Support' started by rabbit, Aug 15, 2014.

    1. rabbit

      rabbit Member


      I have tinnitus and I try to be very careful not to make it any worse. Anytime I am around loud sounds I wear earplugs. I wear earplugs all day everyday for work as I am a metal fabricator exposed to high noises routinely. I have just started trying these Stanley earplugs.

      They are larger than most and fit my ears better than other earplugs I've used that seemed too small. These provide a better seal and block more noise. However, I am having an issue removing them from my ear and am concerned it is damaging my hearing.

      If I have been sweating, the moisture in my ears seem to create an unusual suction dilemma as the earplugs are removed. When I slowly twist and pull the earplugs out, there are several very LOUD popping noises as the suction is released. I do not yank the earplugs out. I pull and twist very slowly, have even tried pulling my ear up and back with the other hand to open the ear canal as I simultaneously twist and pull the earplug out, but no matter what I try, the loud noises happen. I never had that happen from other earplugs, probably because they didn't seal as well.

      I know others on Tinnitus Talk are concerned about their hearing and must have experience with wearing earplugs. I am fearful this will damage my hearing and make the tinnitus worse. Shortly after the first time these earplugs made the loud popping sounds as I removed them, I started hearing a new morse code beeping in my ears with certain frequency background noises. I've never had this kind of tinnitus before. It's causing severe distress and insomnia.

      The only safety warning I have seen from the manufactures is to not pull the earplugs out too fast due to the risk of ruptured eardrums. I'm pretty certain this popping noise is not from rupturing my eardrums. I just don't know if the loud suction noise is ironically capable of causing NIHL and worsening my tinnitus by damaging the nerves inside my ear. How likely is it that removing earplugs would cause damage to my hearing?

      Thank you.
    2. Stina

      Stina Member Benefactor

      Tinnitus Since:
      Unless the earplugs reach the nerves inside your ear (which they don't), they won't cause further damage. The loud popping noise are probably caused by sensation due to changes in pressure. Don't worry.
    3. GoingGrayy

      GoingGrayy Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      1220hz/1275hz - middle ear pressure/suction
      When you push in or take out earplugs that create a seal, you cause an increase in pressure (or suction/decrease in pressure, respectively) on the eardrum/ossicles attached to the eardrum (which make up your "middle ear"). Basically this action causes very mild barotrauma. For most people this doesn't matter, they can insert/remove sealing earplugs or headphones hundreds or thousands of times and never notice anything. But for some people, like me, and maybe you, this creates a tinnitus which doesn't resolve until the underlying mechanical (of the eardrum or ossicles, or maybe even something of the inner ear, who knows!) change heals. The "beep" (for me, 1220 Hz/1275 Hz/1340 Hz/1420 Hz, that sometimes alternate in a morse code like fashion) used to last a few minutes for me, but with every subsequent pressure/suction (especially if it occurred before the previous one had fully healed), the duration increases. Currently I'm at about a month for a full heal!

      If you have any questions, let me know. If you are experiencing fundamentally the same thing as I am, I'd love to help in any way I can, and I'd love to have any more information of your situation you can provide. I'm continuously trying to build my understanding of this thing/come up with testable theories of how it works/what worsens it/what improves it, so I can live with it better.

      The one thing I am quite sure about is it's an objective and/or somatic tinnitus produced by the mechanic damage to... whichever. My tinnitus tones for this particular issue, unlike some other tinnitus I have, interact harmonically (not sure that's the right word) with closely matched tones — I can make it wobble or sometimes negate it entirely if I get the frequency/phase just right.
    4. Soysauce

      Soysauce Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Noise Exposure
      How are you doing now? I’m worried as I’m experiencing the same beeping tinnitus and it’s unbearable. I’m now up to two tones of it on top of my regular baseline ringing tinnitus!

      I’ve been wearing earplugs everyday at work due to loud power tools used in the shop neighboring my office and I stupidly never read the warnings about how to insert/remove them. I was so terrified that noise exposure from the tools was giving me new tones; to think that the things protecting my ears might be the reason for my new tones makes me sick to my stomach. I have definitely pulled my earplugs out too hard before and made the seal pop. It’s slightly uncomfortable but I never thought anything of it. Is this damage permanent? Is it even possible for it to heal and the tone to resolve?

      I’m so upset :( I just wanted to keep myself safe and I’ve only succeeded in making things worse.
      • Hug Hug x 1
    5. Benjaminbb

      Benjaminbb Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      Nov 2020
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Likely long term noise exposure, combined w pandemic stress
      Hey, it's very unlikely the earplugs could do that. You'd have been wayyyyy worse off with loud power tools around you. Why are you making that connection to the earplugs causing the damage?
    6. Candra

      Candra Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Maybe try noise-cancelling headphones instead? My earplugs make that sound, too, so I pull on one side, then the other very gradually. My ENT said that wearing earplugs doesn't make your tinnitus worse.

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