I know how lucky I am to still have most of my hearing.

Meniere’s disease can take it away so easily.

I know that I have to wear earplugs in noisy environments, and usually I do.

But I always feel self-conscious. For reasons I can’t explain, I struggle to wear earplugs out in public. I’m constantly aware of the social stigma around wearing earplugs (and hearing aids).

It bothers me that I feel this way. I just never thought to explore why, until now.

(If you just want a recommendation for a great set of earplugs, scroll to the bottom.)

Alone in a room full of people:

My Meniere’s disease has changed somewhat over the years. Sleep triggers me less and stress triggers me more. I have far more leeway with my sodium intake but far less with noisy environments. And I often find myself struggling to follow conversations in restaurants and other loud places.

It’s not that I can’t hear, it’s just harder to focus on the conversation. The constant noise overwhelms my brain.

As I write this, I’m fresh back from a long family vacation to Colorado. I’m jet lagged, brain fogged, and probably won’t get anything done, but at the same time I feel refreshed. The mountain air worked wonders on my stress levels.

The trip actually started with a short stop in Maryland. My oldest friend in the world was getting married, and Megan and I flew in for the wedding. It was a lot of fun. It was also incredibly loud.


It felt like I was in the front row at a concert. It was that loud. Part of the problem was that my table was right next to the PA system and the live band. The trumpeter was only five feet away from me, playing his heart out. I knew right away I was in trouble.

Luckily, I had brought my musicians earplugs with me, but I was embarrassed to put them in. I was sitting with friends that I hadn’t seen since graduating high school over ten years ago. I kept feeling the need to explain.

In hindsight, no one cared at all. Most people probably didn’t even notice. The alcohol was flowing.

But at the time, it was all I could think about. I kept asking Megan if she thought people could see them. I’m ashamed to admit this to you.

I constantly preach the importance of wearing earplugs. I want to lead by example. But it’s really a struggle for me.

The Stigma: “It’s not cool to wear earplugs”

If you think about it, the social stigma doesn’t actually make a whole lot of sense. There’s no clear reason that I should feel embarrassed to wear earplugs. I also wear glasses and have for most of my life. Without them I’m basically blind. But I never think twice about wearing glasses.

So where does the stigma come from? I think there are probably several factors at play.

The most obvious explanation is that hearing loss is often connected with old age. And no one wants to feel old. Or worse, to be seen as such by others.

But that doesn’t necessarily explain it for me. I’m only 29 years old. So maybe it’s more about feeling singled out or different. Not many young people wear earplugs or hearing aids. Even fewer want to stick out like a sore thumb from their peers. This certainly rings more true for me.

When I wear earplugs, I sometimes feel like an outsider. I get nervous that everyone is looking at me, judging me as “different.” I also know how ridiculous that sounds, and that it’s not actually true. No one ever cares. So why does it feel like they do?

Well vanity probably plays a role as well, at least it does for me. Earplugs aren’t exactly fashionable, and as hard as I try to not care what people think of me, I do care. And I like to be fashionable. I freely admit that I make an effort to look good. Okay, maybe it’s not much of an effort. But I at least try to dress myself well. Most people do. For better or worse, most of us don’t intentionally choose to wear ugly outfits, or mismatched clothing.

I think this brings us closer to the truth. Because the feeling I get from wearing ridiculous clothes is similar to the way I feel when I wear earplugs.

I hate that I feel this way.

Erasing the stigma once and for all:

My first argument against the stigma, especially when it comes to wearing earplugs at concerts, is that the musicians wear earplugs. If the musician is content to wear earplugs, why on earth should any of us feel self-conscious wearing earplugs at their show? We shouldn’t.

Musicians value their hearing as much as we do and know that not wearing them will cause irreversible damage.

But let’s put aside our hearing for a moment and consider vanity. Most Earplugs aren’t considered fashionable. But then again, fashion is entirely subjective. Fashion trends change all the time. If the stigma stems from vanity, we can design better looking earplugs that people actually want to wear. Some companies are already starting to do this.

And we can also encourage more people to wear earplugs, more of the time. Not to make the rest of us feel better, but because it’s needed. Preventable noise-induced hearing loss and Tinnitus are reaching epidemic proportions, especially among teens. It’s an insidious problem.

Sustained noise exposure at 85 decibels – the volume of heavy city traffic – or louder can cause permanent damage, but we won’t realize it as it’s happening because we don’t experience it as pain until it gets to 125 decibels – the volume of a loud concert. Also, our perception of sound is exponential. A pain-inducing 125 decibel sound is going to seem 16 times louder than the 85 decibel sound where damage starts to occur. That’s a huge range!

But if everyone who needed to wear earplugs actually wore earplugs, no one would ever feel singled out. Because we would all be wearing earplugs together, not just those of us who need them the most.

The bottom line: what kind of earplugs should you get?

The best earplugs are always going to be the ones that you actually wear. But that’s not really practical advice. So let’s get down to the nitty gritty.

There are several different kinds of earplugs, but ultimately there are two types: standard earplugs, where the goal is to block out as much sound as possible, and musician’s earplugs, which lower the volume without muffling the sound or distorting the quality.

The kind you should get depends on your individual needs. Some people will want to block out as much noise as possible, and should go with standard earplugs. But if you still want to clearly hear everything around you, just at a safer volume, musician’s earplugs are your best bet.

Standard Earplugs:

Standard earplugs can be purchased off the shelf or custom molded to your ears.They are made from a wide variety of materials and come in different shapes and sizes. Some are disposable, some reusable.

I recommend the Mack’s Pillow Soft Silicone earplugs. I find them much more comfortable than traditional foam earplugs.

macks silicone

Other noteworthy brands:

Musician’s Earplugs:

Can be purchased off the shelf at varying price points or custom molded to your ears, which is obviously much more expensive.

I recommend Eargasm High Fidelity Earplugs by Strand Industries or the ETY ER-20 Plugs from Etymotic Research. They work incredibly well and only cost $12.95. I’ve used this brand for years and they haven’t let me down yet. They also come in a slightly more expensive ($19.95), but far more discreet variation.


Other worthwhile brands:

Earplugs for airplanes (BONUS RECOMMENDATION):


Earplanes aren’t exactly earplugs in the traditional sense, because they don’t block out noise. But they do prevent your ears from popping on plane rides and deserve a place in your Meniere’s toolkit!


I hope you all grab a pair of earplugs and start taking steps to protect your hearing! As for me, I plan to start testing other brands of earplugs and will report back soon.

In the meantime, if you have a great recommendation for earplugs, leave a comment below!

  1. Glenn, thanks so much for this blog! Your posts help lots of others like me!

    Do you know if the Earplanes help to address the plan old everyday pressure fluctuations I experience? I’m convinced that my aural fullness increases dramatically with changes in the barometric pressure. Any advice or suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

    • Hi Janice, happy I can help! I’ve never heard of earplanes helping in that way. Ultimately with flying, it’s primarily your middle ear, not your inner ear, that’s affected so earplanes are more for comfort than anything else. And Barometric pressure is definitely a trigger for a whole lot of people. Your best bet is to try to identify as many of your triggers as you can and avoid the ones that you have control over (ie dietary/stress/sleep/etc) You can use my free tool to help! https://www.mindovermenieres.com/a-free-tool-to-identify-your-menieres-disease-triggers/

  2. Thanks, good info! Always on the lookout for good earplugs! I wear mine almost 100% of the time…if they aren’t in my ears, they are tied around my neck! I usually forget they are in there…they have almost become a part of my anatomy! If other people notice and wonder, I never notice!

    • Donna I am with you, I wear earplugs almost all of the time too. This article has some really good info in it and I too must admit that I have faced the same stigma. I am very shy about wearing earplugs and I always regret when I don’t wear them. I’m gradually getting more comfortable with wearing earplugs in public and I have found that for me the skin colored Macks earplugs work the best, as they are very comfortable and discrete.

  3. I got a pair of the Ear Planes for a flight in April & didn’t really like them. I don’t seem to have a problem with the pressure; chewing gum helped with my ear popping. Months earlier, I had gotten a custom ear plug from an audiologist at my ENT (like a hearing aid without the HA mechanism) and I wear that a lot for 20 db noise reduction. It’s the best for flying and other noisy places. It’s clear, so it’s barely noticeable, even with short hair. And it’s so comfortable, I sometimes forget I have it in. Much better than Ear Planes for comfort. As for the cost of the custom plug–they never charged me for it! Not sure if that was an oversight or not!

    • Wow that’s great Nancy! Usually custom plugs are much more expensive. Sorry you didnt like the earplanes! I’ve never found them uncomfortable but then again, everyones ear canal is different. I’m glad your custom ones work so well on the plane. The Earplanes are really only meant to prevent your ears from popping, not to lower the volume. Glad you found something that works though!

  4. A year or so ago I saw a recommendation on a message board for Dopper Labs DUBS Acoustic filters advanced tech earplugs. They come in different colors and resemble earbuds. They work great and I don’t feel as self conscious wearing them.

    • Hey Jennifer, thanks for the recommendation! I’ve seen the dubs earplugs around quite a bit but haven’t had a chance to try them. Glad they work well for you!

  5. I’m looking for a good pair of earplugs. I’ve used Macks (they don’t seem to fit well and they don’t stay in – i’m constantly checking to be sure they haven’t fallen out). I need to decrease the decibels. I love the music in church but it’s too loud. It’s definitely not one of those rock concert church services but it’s still too loud particularly if my Meniere’s is acting up. Restaurants bother me as well and although I try to stay out of noisy restaurants (which it seems most of them are these days), occasionally I want to join my family and friends and go out to eat. Will musician quality earplugs block out enough sound? Thank you.

    • Hi Joy, off the shelf earplugs definitely reduce the noise enough for me in most situations, though there is another option. You can have a custom set of high fidelity earplugs moulded by an audiologist. Not only will they be more comfortable, but most come with interchangeable filters that reduce the decibel level different amounts.

Leave a Reply

The Symptom Relief Project Disclaimer

  • Those who should not listen to the Symptom Relief Project include: Those who are prone to or have had seizures, epileptic, pregnant or wear a pacemaker, whether knowingly or not, should not listen the Symptom Relief Project.

    Those who should consult a physician before the use of this product include: individuals under the influence of medication or drugs. The Symptom Relief Project should not to be used while under the influence of alcohol or other mood altering substances, whether they be legal or illegal.

    Children under the age of 18 are to be examined by a physician for epilepsy or illnesses that may contribute to seizures prior to listening to the Symptom Relief Project, as they are more susceptible to seizures.


    Although the Symptom Relief Project’s aim is to contribute to wellness, it is not intended as a replacement for medical or psychological treatment. No medical claims are intended, express or implied. No statements made in the application or related documentation have been evaluated or approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any disease. Do not stop taking any of your prescribed medication.

    The buyer/user of The Symptom Relief Project assumes all risks in the use of the Symptom Relief Project, waving any claims against Glenn Schweitzer and Mind Over Meniere’s for any and all mental or physical injuries. This includes all self-created suggestions for mood altering, brain wave states altering, and for self-improvement or motivation. The buyer/user also agrees to assume liabilities when other persons have access to the Symptom Relief Project.

    In no case will Glenn Schweitzer or Mind Over Meniere’s be liable for chance, accidental, special, direct or indirect damages resulting from use, misuse or defects of the audio, instructions or documentation.