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Can Wearing Earbuds Cause an Ear Infection?

  • Category: Health & Wellness
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: Baton Rouge General
Can Wearing Earbuds Cause an Ear Infection?

Your go-to accessory for workouts or virtual meetings could be putting your health at risk. Wireless headphones and earbuds that go directly in your ear are a breeding ground for sweat, bacteria and dirt, which can lead to infections. Excessive usage isn’t so much the issue as is not cleaning them properly. If you are not regularly cleaning your earbuds or headphones, here’s what you need to know.

It’s common to have bacteria on the skin, but the infection threat comes into play if you get an abrasion or a cut. Earbuds can cause a scrape on the inner lining of the ear canal. They can also lock in moisture. The scrape plus the moisture equal the perfect storm for bacteria to flourish.

There’s also a connection between earbuds and ear wax. Your ears produce wax as protection and to help in cleaning and lubrication but if that process is blocked by earbuds, ear wax can build up. And putting the earbuds in that part of your ear canal can actually stimulate more wax production. Moisture can get trapped behind that built-up wax – especially in more humid areas – and lead to infections. Symptoms to watch out for are pain, itching, odor and discharge.

Now that you know the dangers lurking in your AirPods, what’s next? The best advice to reduce your risk of infection is to keep your earbuds clean especially if you ever share them.

  • Try wiping them with an alcohol wipe daily – just wait a minute or so for it to completely dry.
  • If you see visible dirt or ear wax on them, use a toothpick to remove it. You can also buy a tiny brush specifically made to clean earbuds.
  • Store them inside a case when you’re not using them instead of tossing them loose in a purse or (yikes!) gym bag.
  • Bonus: Keeping your earbuds clean also means better sound and longer-lasting earbuds.

If you’ve had recurring issues or suspect an ear infection was caused by earbuds, take a break from wearing them to allow your ears a chance to clean themselves, with the wax building up regularly.