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What are Ear Gauges?

By Janis Adams
Updated May 21, 2024
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Ear gauges, often worn along with ear plugs, are used to stretch pierced wholes within the ear lobe. Ear gauges are made from many different kinds of material, from plastic to surgical steel. They can be found in numerous sizes, from the very smallest to extremely large.

Ear gauges are used to stretch existing piercing holes to disproportionate sizes. It is a gradual process, one that must be done over time. A standard piercing is done with an 18- or 20-gauge needle. For a larger piercing, a needle with a lesser number would be used. To use an ear gauge, the next size up from the hole that currently exists within the ear is chosen. Going up very gradually in size prevents tearing and bleeding and instead slowly stretches the skin as the size of the ear gauge is increased.

Putting in an ear gauge takes a bit of practice. If someone is not familiar with the insertion process, it is best to consult a professional piercer for instruction so that damage is not done to the tender skin of the ear. It is important to sterilize the area surrounding the piercing before inserting a gauge so that any type of infection can be avoided. It is also suggested that petroleum jelly or oil be rubbed on the gauge prior to its insertion.

Plugs are adornments for ear gauges. Fitting within the gauge itself, a plug can be made in a simple one-color piece that draws attention to the gauge, or it can come with an intricate design intended as a decorative piece of jewelry. Plugs range from those made from an acrylic material bearing a four leaf clover for a person proud of her Irish descendant to those made from totally organic materials.

Stone plugs made for ear gauges have become a popular choice. Those made from the ever popular turquoise stone are often highly sought after. The downside to some stone plugs is that they over-weight the ear gauge, making it feel noticeably heavy or apparently awkward when the head of the person wearing it moves.

Plugs should not be added to ear gauges until the skin around the gauge is fully healed following its insertion. If there is bleeding or redness associated with the area surrounding the ear gauge, a doctor should be consulted. An ear gauge that is inserted into a healthy piercing is able to be moved freely without undue pain to the person wearing it.

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