blu tac earplugs
May 5, 2006 7:28 AM   Subscribe

I use that Blu Tac stuff for earplugs every night. It's that blue (or sometimes yellow) adhesive that you use to stick posters to the wall.

It's very cheap, and blocks sound better than any earplug I've tried. You never have to wash it which is a big bonus. Since it's so maleable it doesn't hurt your ear canals by pushing on them like foam ear plugs do. I can wear them all night and my ear canals aren't sore like other ear plugs.

1. Is it ok to be putting a (mild) adhesive in your ears? I don't stuff it in that far.

2. Is it ok to seal your ears in this manner? The physical act of stuffing the stuff in there slightly hurts my eardrums due to pressure changes. Once I stop pushing they don't hurt any longer, but I can tell their is a pressure differential in the ear canal. Is this hurting my drums?

3. Since it creates an airtight seal my inner ear feels wet after using them for a while. I guess your ears need to breath out of your head or the water just collects. Will this cause infections? It's not much water, it seems to mostly evaporate after a minute. Should I put hydrogen peroxide in my ears before sealing them?

4. Those of you with custom fitted plugs, do your ears feel sore after a night of use?
posted by parallax7d to Health & Fitness (22 answers total)
I am an earplug wearer and I don't know much about blu-tac. My feeling is that it's not a problem, but have you tried those little wax blob earplugs? They seem to do the same thing (not expand, air/water tight seal) and are rated for ears. Are you showering before you go to bed? I ask because I have never had the wet ear syndrome you describe and I don't think of my earplugs as that permeable.
posted by jessamyn at 7:34 AM on May 5, 2006

I'd be real nervous about sticking something in my ears that wasn't specifically designed for that purpose. Maybe you should try several different brands of cheap ear plugs and find what works for you, theres a ton of varieties out there! Probably something exactly like ticky-tac (or blue-tac).
posted by ZackTM at 7:49 AM on May 5, 2006

My gut tells me that it is ok. Obviously if you start to develop pain, redness, or discharge from your ear canal, you could be developing otitis externa (swimmers ear). Most commonly, it is caused by Pseudomonas aeruginosa which is nasty little bacteria, but is treatable by oral antibiotics. You should probably clean your ears with peroxide or rubbing alcohol a couple of times a week. And make sure you don't leave any of the tacky stuff in there.

I would recommend that you try a different kind of earplug if the foam ones cause you pain. I personally like shooting plugs (technical term?)
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 7:57 AM on May 5, 2006 [1 favorite]

I used silicon earplugs for a while - same idea, it seals around your earhole - but I found they didn't block out sound all that well. After that I finally managed to figure out flangey earplugs, which work scads better.

The silicon ones came 4 to a plastic box with a warning not to tear them apart (presumably so little bits weren't left behind in your ears) in various colors at the drugstore.
posted by cobaltnine at 7:57 AM on May 5, 2006

I'm surprised at the folks who seem to think this is ok. My gut tells me a sticky, airtight all-night adhesive seal over *any* of your orifices is probably not a good idea, but the least you should be doing is using material rated for ears, like Jessamyn suggests. And how can you be sure you're getting all of the blu-tac out? I find it hard to believe some's not left sticking to the tiny hairs in your ear canal each time you remove a wad of the stuff.
posted by mediareport at 8:06 AM on May 5, 2006

I'm with mediareport -- this sounds like a recipe for a trip to the emergency room. I've had great success with silicone earplugs. The flangey kind are a little easier to use, but not nearly comfortable enough that I would try to sleep with them in.
posted by jjg at 8:17 AM on May 5, 2006

I agree with mediareport.

I've used silicon (or maybe wax?) ones that are for swimming to prevent swimmer's ear. They also blocked out a lot of sound.

You might want to look into those.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 8:25 AM on May 5, 2006

The advice is simple: if you get an ear infection, stop using them. Otherwise, it's okay.

If you get flangy earplugs OF THE CORRECT SIZE they will work fine at blocking sound and won't hurt your ears (most people don't know there are sizes, and many drugstores only stock one size), but really, all earplugs work by blocking the flow of air from outside to inside, so they all have the problem of creating a warm, moist environment suitable for bacteria to grow, unless they're the wrong size and don't create a seal, in which case they aren't working at their primary function.
So wearing any earplugs overnight is equally a problem, or equally not a problem, because some people are prone to ear infections and others seem immune to them.

Which brings us back to the beginning: if you get an ear infection, stop using them. Otherwise, it's okay.
posted by jellicle at 8:29 AM on May 5, 2006

Just done an experiment - try it

Stick blu tack to your (hairy) arm. Pull it off and see how many hairs it removes, especially when it gets warm and tacky? See how much remains on the hairs? Not good
posted by A189Nut at 8:42 AM on May 5, 2006

I did a Google search and found this website that discusses post-operative care for the ear. They even suggest blue tac, among other home-made ear plugs. However, if you stop using the blue tac stuff and instead want a good alternative, I suggest this brand and type of earplugs. I have never used more comfortable earplugs and the noise reduction is fantastic. -- signed "a satisfied customer"
posted by Blue Buddha at 8:46 AM on May 5, 2006

I second Blue Buddha's recommendation of Hearo's. They work very well and are very comfortable.
posted by doctor_negative at 8:56 AM on May 5, 2006

Beware, I used to use silly putty and blue tac (not together) for swimming earplugs. The heat generated by the activity caused some of it to melt inside of my ear canal over time -- something I didn't notice until my MD found it upon examination and decided it had to be scraped out.

It hurt.
posted by cior at 9:10 AM on May 5, 2006

Rubbing alcohol is not correct for ears. The ear stuff is much stronger. Ask the druggist. And some common ear infections are not bacterial, but fungal (especially the kind you're courting with ear plugs). A few drops of high-potency alcohol (isopropyl 95%, I checked my bottle) will do.
posted by Goofyy at 9:19 AM on May 5, 2006

Don't pay top buck for online Hearos. They are exactly the same as the earplugs sold at Acklands and other industrial supply stores, but marked up atrociously.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:01 AM on May 5, 2006

Response by poster: Wow, lots of mixed opinions. How about the slight pain caused by pushing the stuff into my ear canal? Is this going to damage my hearing mechanisms?
posted by parallax7d at 10:11 AM on May 5, 2006

I've tried a lot of earplugs to preserve my hearing in the NYC subway. For me, the most effective, and also the most comfortable, are Hearos. They're very light and easy to insert or remove.

If you want to experiment, the same site offers an assortment.
posted by KRS at 10:54 AM on May 5, 2006

4. Those of you with custom fitted plugs, do your ears feel sore after a night of use?

Yes. Mine are musician's earplugs custom made by Ultimate Ears. They are designed to reduce sound equally across all frequencies, though, which is hardly necessary for sleeping. They have a little "give", but not much. There could be other custom fit plugs available that are made with something "squishier". I doubt it would be worth the expense for custom. I use ones similar to the Hearos for sleeping.
posted by FuzzyVerde at 11:27 AM on May 5, 2006

About the pain when putting things into your ear:

I do alot of target shooting/drill practice and thus have ear plugs in alot. Depending on the brand/size of the earplug it does hurt a little to put them in. Not a sharp stabbing pain or anything, but it -is- uncomfortable. I prefer shooting ear muffs when an option.

I'm going to second the motion to get something made for your ears. It isn't like earplugs are wildly expensive, so its worth searching out a comfortable, reusable (washable) pair.
posted by JFitzpatrick at 12:45 PM on May 5, 2006

What are the highest db reduction levels you can find commercially? Anyone know?
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 12:52 PM on May 5, 2006

I think I've seen 32. I wear the extra smooshy ones that they sell in bulk at places like Home Depot and they don't hurt my ears much. They don't last super long, but they keep the noise out [the noise of snoring, of other housemates up and about, of barking and early morning birds] enough for me to keep sleeping.
posted by jessamyn at 1:42 PM on May 5, 2006

Most of the best plugs seem to fall into the 26 to 32dB NRR range.

I have (had?) a pair of excellent reusable plugs. They look like little "Fat Boy" bombs and are florescent orange. The have a removable stem that I think is either meant to make them more firm (for larger canals), or to stiffen them for insertion. Either way, I find that without the stems, they fit my ears better.

They seem to last up to about a year before they become too stiff to be useful. Come to think of it, they're probably off-gassing pthlatates right into my ear canals. Ugh.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:58 PM on May 5, 2006

You deal with pressure changes in your ear all the time—weather, travel, and the like. (Not just air travel; I've felt my ears equalize while driving up long steep hills, maybe a couple hundred feet elevation gain.) Unless your eustacian tubes are tragically small and/or chronically blocked (which, aside from the ear infections, you would notice every time it rained), you'll equalize the next time you swallow.
posted by eritain at 4:49 PM on May 5, 2006

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