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Clin Otolaryngol Allied Sci. 2004 Apr;29(2):128-32.

An objective evaluation of the waterproofing qualities, ease of insertion and comfort of commonly available earplugs.

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Department of Ear, Nose and Throat Surgery, Northwick Park Hospital, Harrow, Middlesex, UK.


Earplugs are commonly recommended to protect the middle ear from water in patients with exposed middle ears. This study assessed the waterproofing qualities, ease of insertion and comfort of six commonly available earplugs. Ten subjects (20 ears) were assessed by placing a pre-weighed neurosurgical pattie in their cleaned ear canal under microscope guidance. The subjects underwent a standardized head wetting regime. The outer ear was dried, earplug and pattie removed and pattie reweighed. The difference in weight was calculated. The subjects were also asked to score the difficulty of insertion and comfort of the earplugs on a visual analogue scale. The results show a significant difference in the waterproofing qualities of the various types of earplugs. Cotton wool with petroleum jelly was the most effective (P < 0.001). It was also the easiest to insert and the most comfortable for the subject (P < 0.001).

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