Warning - Wear PPE Ear Plugs; Tinnitus Causes Sleep Loss In 40% Of Sufferers [New Research]

40% of people with tinnitus have disturbed sleep - protect yourself from Noise Induced Hearing Loss with PPE ear plugs.

40% of people with tinnitus have disturbed sleep - protect yourself from Noise Induced Hearing Loss with PPE ear plugs.

Tinnitus is common, affecting around 12.5% of adults according to studies (1). The word comes from the latin word meaning 'ringing'. Despite this, the sound may described in many different ways, including whooshing, buzzing and humming. There are many causes including;

  • Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL)

  • Atherosclerosis (narrowing of blood vessels) near the ear

  • Idiopathic (unknown)

  • Hereditary (born with it)

  • Head injury

  • Ear infections

  • Meniere's disease

  • Hearing loss from old age (presbyacusis)

Tinnitus is a disorder in which a person hears noises such as buzzing, ringing, clicking, or the sound of a pulse, when no outside sound is causing them.
— International Classification of Disease, Tenth Edition (ICD 10)

Noise Induced Hearing Loss is one of the more important causes as it is easily preventable. This is through wearing PPE ear plugs when exposed to dangerous noise volumes. NIHL from noise at work is known as Occupational Hearing Loss or Occupational Noise Induced Hearing Loss. This means that awareness of the risk can lead to people protecting themselves against noise and the impact on their quality of life. Both deafness and tinnitus occur as part of the syndrome of NIHL. Both can affect the work and home life of sufferers in a negative way, including insomnia.

ZenPlugs Molded PPE Ear Plugs are perfect whenever a reliable pair of PPE ear plugs is required. They last for years so cost far less than foam ear plug in the long run, paying for themselves in only a few months when usage is frequent. They are antibacterial and individually molded to the ears for extreme comfort. Along with ease of use, this increases workforce PPE compliance. ZenPlugs are supplied with a cord and meet CE PPE standard EN352-2:2002. Use the box below to order individually or contact us at the bottom of the page for pricing and information on bulk discounts.

Chronic sleep loss is not to be underestimated. It has been statistically linked to an increase in anxiety irritability and depression. It can also result in relationship breakdown, poor concentration and performance at work.

ZenPlugs could find no studies about how many tinnitus sufferers lost sleep due to their problem. We decided undertake some research. Using an online survey tool we sent surveys to 132 adults; respondents were 55% female, 45% male, with a fairly even spread across all age groups. All percentages have been rounded to the nearest whole number. We have summarised our finding in an infographic in our follow-up post here; https://zenplugs.com/blog/warning-tinnitus-causes-sleep-loss-in-40-of-sufferers-wear-ppe-ear-plugs-infographic

19% of people surveyed had tinnitus. This is slightly more than the reported incidence of 12.5% in The Lancet (1) but other sources have given higher rates. The difference may be due to the smaller sample size or it may be due to differences in the way tinnitus was diagnosed.

40% of people with tinnitus suffer from insomnia daily or weekly as a result, compared with 31% without tinnitus. During the day tinnitus may be easier to ignore. There is background noise and distractions such as TV, work and Facebook. At night everything goes quiet and the tinnitus becomes more noticeable. It can be difficult, if not impossible, to separate out the exact cause of sleeplessness when tinnitus is present. This is because both the tinnitus and the wakefulness can cause anxiety, which can lead to more tinnitus and more wakefulness.

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20% of tinnitus sufferers had their leisure time disrupted and 10% had family time affected. Severe tinnitus can be pervasive at any time of the day. It may limit activity by making communication difficult in loud environments. This can lead people to avoid situations with loud music. This includes concerts, music festivals and night clubs. The secondary effects of tinnitus can also affect family life. Depression, anxiety and loss of sleep can lead to conflict and irritability. Communication and relationship breakdown may occur.

73% were of cases were of unknown cause. 9% were born with tinnitus, 4% were caused by other factors, 14% of cases were secondary to noise, making this the commonest cause of tinnitus in the survey. Some cases of unknown cause may have been due to noise, which would make the incidence of NIHL even higher than 14%. Causes given in the survey included working on aircraft in the Royal Air Force, listening to loud music and computer games. Others include working in pubs and nightclubs. All of these could have been prevented by wearing PPE ear plugs and taking other steps to reduce noise exposure.

32% of sufferers found that certain factors made their tinnitus worse. They mentioned loud music and noise, hearing a high pitched sound of a similar frequency as the tinnitus, having a cold, stress and alcohol excess. Avoiding these can reduce the severity of tinnitus. 

23% of people with tinnitus found that certain factors made it better. These included hearing aids, going outside the house, reducing noise, listening to music or watching the TV. One respondent said their tinnitus tended to resolve spontaneously after a short time. White noise was also used to mask the tinnitus by some people. This is the sound old TVs and radios used to make when they weren't tuned in; a whooshing noise. This masks sounds by containing acoustic frequencies across a wide range. CDs, white noise machines and phone apps are available which can be used to generate white noise. They are also used by people who have difficulty sleeping due to external noise. Some of the devices allow the range to be adjusted to suit the user. Red, pink and grey noise are variations which are used to mask different sound and tinnitus types.

Of people with tinnitus 50% wore ear plugs due to a noisy work environment and 17% at concerts and festivals. Loud noise can make tinnitus worse. This may only be for a  short time, although this may become permanent so wearing PPE ear plugs is wise. Very high noise volumes such as those from jet engines and pneumatic drills need over-the-ear hearing defenders, as well as PPE ear plugs.  This is due to bone conduction of sound. No ear plugs are 100% effective due to the fact that sound is conducted through the skull to the eardrum. Over-the-ear hearing protectors significantly reduce bone conduction.

Conclusion. Tinnitus can cause a significant reduction in quality of life. This is due to sleep loss, anxiety, depression, relationship breakdown and poor performance at work. Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) is the main preventable cause of tinnitus and if acquired at work it is called Occupational Hearing Loss. Reducing exposure and wearing PPE ear plugs protect against NIHL. ZenPlugs are ideal as they are effective, antibacterial and the high level of comfort improves PPE compliance.

Dr Toby Bateson

MD of ZenPlugs, MB ChB, College of Emergency Medicine Certificate Of Training In Good Clinical Practice In Research



(1) Langguth, B; Kreuzer, PM; Kleinjung, T; De Ridder, D (Sep 2013). "Tinnitus: causes and clinical management.". Lancet Neurology. 12 (9): 920–30. PMID 23948178. doi:10.1016/S1474-4422(13)70160-1