ENT doctor explains: Is it harmful to fall asleep with music, podcasts or radio plays in your ear?

Some people find it easier to get to the land of dreams with a little bit of fiddling. In itself not a problem for our ears, says a doctor. It is more critical if you regularly sleep with earplugs.

Whether it’s for shutting down or blocking out annoying noises, listening to a little music or podcast chatter can help you fall asleep. In an interview, ENT doctor Bernhard Junge-Hülsing explains what he thinks of it – and why it’s not a good idea to sleep with earplugs all the time. Even if your partner snores.

Falling asleep with music is not a problem

Question: Is it a problem to nod off with earbuds or headphones and have music or podcasts in your ear all night while you sleep?

Bernhard Junge-Hülsing: Most of the time it’s like this: people fall asleep, notice it and take out the plugs or the headphones.

But if it happens that you sleep through it, it’s not a problem for the ears – music and podcasts that you fall asleep to are usually not very loud. It’s no different than falling asleep in front of the TV.

The problem is more likely if you commute to work by bus or train for a long time every day and listen to music or podcasts that are relatively loud.

Earwax can become a problem

Just lying down and falling asleep is difficult for many.  So they turn to music to help them fall asleep.
Just lying down and falling asleep is difficult for many. So they turn to music to help them fall asleep.

(Image: dpa/ Franziska Gabbert)

Question: When their partner snores, some people regularly use earplugs. What do you think of it?

Junge-Hülsing: One should not always sleep with earplugs – for several reasons. If you put something in your ear every night, you’re squeezing the earwax into your ear canal. It actually cleans itself, but this disrupts this function. That can lead to inflammation, I see that almost every day in my practice.

What’s more: If you constantly sleep with earplugs, you completely block out ambient noises at night, such as the rustling of leaves and your partner’s breathing. You become more and more neurotic and soon you can no longer sleep without a plug.

Therefore, my advice is: If your partner’s snoring bothers you, you should get to the bottom of its causes – be it sleep apnea or alcohol consumption before going to bed. So don’t just hide it, but rather work on making it better.

Adjusting earplugs can help

Question: So no earplugs in bed at all?

Junge-Hülsing: If you use them to sleep for once, that’s okay. You can also use very simple models that you can get from a hearing care professional as a promotional gift.

It is a different matter when you are exposed to noise at work and therefore need ear protection. It should be adjusted to the ears. Earplugs that are used regularly should also be wiped down once a day with tap water or even distilled water to keep the germ load low.

Personal details: Bernhard Junge-Hülsing works as an ENT doctor in Starnberg and is spokesman for the German professional association of ear, nose and throat doctors.

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