Sound Sensitivities? Don’t Wear Ear Plugs!

7th June, 2024

Protecting your ears from loud and potentially damaging noise is important. But if you suffer from sound sensitivities, read on…

A 2022 study published by the British Medical Journal, concluded more than one billion people aged 12 to 34 could be damaging their hearing through the use of headphones and attending live music events. The World Health Organisation (WHO) also estimates that over 430 million people worldwide have disabling hearing loss.

However, whilst ears should certainly be protected against loud noise exposure, such as concerts, there has been an increasing trend to use ear plugs in day to day life by those suffering from sound sensitivities.

Sound sensitivity refers to a condition where certain sounds are perceived as uncomfortably or unbearably loud or triggering, even when others around them do not seem to notice the same reaction. This can lead to emotional, physical, and social distress.

Common sound sensitivity conditions include:

Hyperacusis: A hearing disorder where sounds others perceive as normal seem uncomfortably or unbearably loud.

Misophonia: A disorder in which certain sounds trigger emotional or physiological responses, such as anger, anxiety, or panic.

Selective sound sensitivity syndrome: A condition where individuals are sensitive to specific sounds, such as oral sounds (e.g., eating, breathing, or chewing), but not others.

These conditions range from being uncomfortable to debilitating, and can impact the day to day lives of those who suffer from them.

With little known about how to help bring relief, some well-known earplug manufacturers are marketing towards those with sound sensitivities. However, this could be even more damaging to those who seek solace by blocking sound. We thought we’d keep you in the loop...

After extensive studies, many experts now believe that a reliance on earplugs could cause people with sound sensitivities to become MORE sensitive.

The Misophonia Institute is a virtual institution, with collaborators and associates around the world. It is comprised of many misophonia researchers and professionals dedicated to understanding misophonia and improving the lives of those who suffer with it. They warn:

“Let’s start with the warning about the over-use of earplugs. Your brain seeks auditory input, and adjusts based on your environment. When you starve your brain of stimulation from sound, your brain will become more sensitive to soft sounds. Because misophonia generally includes triggers of soft sounds, excessive use of earplugs increases your sensitivity to many trigger sounds. So beware: Do not use earplugs as an everyday method for blocking out triggers.” 

Source: Misophonia institute:

Similarly, Neurology Live, which has a mission to ‘Deliver quality and relevant information to healthcare professionals treating neurological diseases to help them achieve the best patient care possible’, state the following:

“Earplugs are often incorporated into a misophonia toolkit. However, ear plugs often make misophonia worse, because the ears must work harder to search for sound. Once the ear plugs are removed, sounds may appear more intense.”


The following also comes from a published academic research paper, that mentions concerns about earplugs with sound sensitivity:

“The toolbox should include hearing protection. It would certainly behove the tinnitus patient attending a loud event to protect his or her ears from further damage. At the same time, it must be cautioned that the use, or more specifically, the overuse of ear protectors actually encourages hyperacusis and only should be considered when the level of the sound is truly damaging. Too often we hear that audiologists and physicians are recommending custom-made plugs for patients with sound sensitivity to be worn more or less continuously. That is not a situation whereby the patient improves; it only serves to continue to add to the auditory deprivation and increases the sound sensitivity.”[31]


Soundwave Hearing Care provides audiological testing and hearing aid services in the USA. Their website states that while earplugs may seem like a quick fix, using them with conditions such as hyperacusis and misophonia, can actually make your symptoms worse.


The UK’s NHS website compounds this message, stating clearly:

If you have hyperacusis: “Do not use earplugs or muffs unless you really need to.”


They support this message when it comes to children with sound sensitivities, stating in an information leaflet:

“The use of earplugs is generally not advised. This is because earplugs deprive the auditory system of sound. This means that the ears try to compensate by making the quieter sounds louder, which may make the ears even more over sensitive.

Source, which also includes useful tips for parents:

And this paper from NHS Community Children’s Audiology Services, which also warns about the use of ear defenders:

“What Should You Avoid? If a child is showing signs of sound sensitivity, avoid giving them headphones, earplugs, or ear defenders. The use of these may cause your child to get used to the reduced volume, making it more difficult for them to adjust to the normal level of sound that is around them. Ear defenders may cause them to become more sensitive to sounds.


So, from all of these studies, papers and guidance, we can see that for adults and children alike, reliance on earplugs can cause issues including increased sensitivity and also increased isolation and anxiety.


You can now reduce the uncomfortable and triggering aspects of sound, without blocking it.

After years of R&D, in 2020, Flare Audio developed Calmer®; what they believe to be the world’s first ear plug alternative that DOES NOT BLOCK SOUND.

Calmer is a non-electric (no harmful EMFs), discreet in-ear device that wearers can use to remove the stressful frequencies in sound, whilst letting all other sound in. It’s hollow, but uses a clever in-ear wave-guide to remove frequencies known to be triggering. The result is the harsh edge of sound is taken off, making it less triggering - calming the wearer’s environment. No blocking, no isolation.

Dr. Annmarie Lombard is Founder and CEO of Sensory Wellness, a group of occupational therapists who work with people to look at all seven of our senses, how we respond to sensory stimuli, and how this influences our daily work and life. They then provide assessments, insights and solutions to help workplace productivity, mental health, wellness and relationships.

In this video, Dr. Lombard explains why earplugs are not a good idea for sound sensitivity sufferers, and why in her professional opinion, she believes that Calmer is a fantastic solution:

She states: “Earplugs remove necessary stimulation to the brain. This is where Flare (Calmer) are ingenious. They still allow for sounds to enter the ear canal, but they remove the intensity and frequency so sound is just a little bit more attuned, and it comes in gentler. It’s a great way to stimulate the brain but protect the brain at the same time.”

Calmer is Flare’s biggest selling product, with over 2 million pairs sold across 186 countries.

The company has been inundated with comments from its community, so much so that Flare has a Sound Sensitivities page on its website dedicated to personal stories from its customers.

Calmer’s effectiveness has been taken further, with a new Calmer 2 Prototype version launched this June.

To be the amongst the first to experience the new edition, CLICK HERE.

  • Comfortable and discreet

  • Takes the edge off stressful noises

  • Helps keep you Calmer

"Love that I can wear them all day in the office without anyone noticing!" - Sebbastian