You should never feel embarrassed to plug your ears with your fingers to protect them from loud noise in public, even if it’s kids screaming.

Why should you feel any more embarrassed to stick your fingers in your ears to loud noise than if you were to shield your eyes from a sudden glare or swat at a fly buzzing near your face?

I was inspired to write this article after reading a post in a tinnitus forum.

The poster said she was in line at a grocery store, halfway through the checkout process, when the toddler behind her began screaming – and unbelievably loud.

This aggravated her tinnitus. Tinnitus is when a person hears continuous or almost-continuous “ringing” in both ears or sometimes only one. I have a mild form in both ears.

Loud sounds for me, though, don’t make it worse. However, I hate loud noise and wear ear plugs in public to preserve my hearing, since loud noise over time can diminish the ability to keenly hear.

Exposure to loud sounds can damage hearing in people without tinnitus, too.

Shutterstock/Yeexin Richelle

Smart people without hearing loss act pre-emptively on this, wearing ear plugs in environments where loud noise is anticipated.

This is akin to applying sunscreen BEFORE getting burned.

The woman said she didn’t plug her ears because this would have made her feel “embarrassed.”

She ranked the health of her ears BELOW that of a stranger’s feelings — the stranger being the toddler’s mother.

This is unthinkable to me. The well-being of the nerve endings deep inside my ears ranks way above the feelings of a stranger who will not do anything to quiet her screaming child.

And yes, when I didn’t have my ear plugs in, I have finger plugged my ears while nearby the shrill shrieks of a young child — not caring at all if the parent noticed this. 

I’ve also done it within view range of men at gas stations revving up their ridiculously loud, souped-up engines. 

  • My last hearing test (late 2022) revealed good hearing for a middle age adult!
  • I want to keep it that way!

The poster said that the mother did nothing during the course of the prolonged screaming.

Though sensible parents, as well as child psychologists, often recommend that the best way to stop screaming is to ignore it, this advice doesn’t quite cut it when the screaming is persistent and only several feet from strangers in public.

This doesn’t mean that one should give in to the child if the screaming is for candy.

But sometimes (and quite often based on my own observations) the screaming is NOT a demand for candy or a toy!

Thus, the concept of “refusing to give in” does not apply in such cases.

There can be one of several reasons that this particular toddler was screaming, but we all know that sometimes there’s no trigger; the toddler or preschooler simply ENJOYS making high-pitched, super loud shrieks and screams.

It’s not always a tantrum, and often it seems to be a product of delight or excitement, or even casual interaction with an older sibling!

Regardless of the reason, there’s no shame or embarrassment in plugging your ears.

There are things you’ll do in life that you’ll regret, but I can’t imagine that plugging your ears to protect them from the harm of loud noise would ever be one of them.

Subjection to loud sounds (be they a jackhammer, live band or screaming children and babies) can cause hearing loss in people with normal hearing and no tinnitus!

If something is loud, plug your ears if you care about your health. Let your fingers do the plugging without shame or embarrassment.

You’re probably wondering why tinnitus sufferers don’t just wear ear plugs in public.

But for many sufferers, ear plugs cause after-effect issues (when they’re not being worn) with causing normal sounds to seem too loud.

Both my parents have considerable hearing loss and wear hearing aids.

Trust me when I say this: It is a major pain to have to wear hearing aids!

  • Batteries go dead
  • The devices sometimes have “feedback” that only the wearer can hear
  • There’s the hassle of putting them in and taking them out
  • Cleaning them
  • Physical discomfort
  • Maintenance and more
  • Not to mention the cost!

So whether it’s a child screaming, a motorcycle passing by, a shrieking ambulance or other siren, a clap of thunder, you should feel free to go right on ahead and plug your ears with your fingers to shield them from harm.

What other people think of this is none of your business!

Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.  
Top image:, katemangostar