These days, everyone has a pair of earbuds. Some of your friends might even own two pairs. Moreover, almost everyone is guilty of using earbuds for prolonged amount of time. Did you ever stop to wonder if it is healthy to plug these little machines in your ears, or can earbuds cause ear infections?
Prolonged use of earbuds can cause a variety of problems and by not just listening to high volumes. Earbuds can result in infections, ear canal block, and many other ear problems apart from hearing impairment.
So, Can Earbuds Cause Ear Infections? Truth or Myth
It is a known fact that many physicians do not recommend using earbuds for long durations. They advise using earbuds as a substitute for listening with speakers. The devices that we use today are designed to enhance entertainment. There are a variety of earbuds in the market today, and sadly, most of them do not pay any attention to ear health.
The answer to the million dollar question - can earbuds cause ear infections? YES. Over the years, they have linked earbud usage to hearing loss because of prolonged use and also several ear infections. This is due to the lack of aural hygiene and contamination in the ear canal which earbuds cause. Clamor triggered listening failure is also a possibility.
How Can Earbuds Cause Ear Infections?
Now, you know earbuds are indeed linked to ear infections. Here are a few top ways that earbuds result in ear problems.
1. Your Eardrums Might Burst
You might perceive yourself to be an audiophile. Many times to enjoy a tune completely, you might even raise the volume on your earbuds. However, by doing this, you risk your eardrums. Earbuds are, however, because they deliver music straight to the ear canal. This assists in noise cancelation and sound isolation. Remember when we mentioned that designers did not pay attention to protecting the ear when they developed earbuds. This is what we meant.
Also, some models completely cover the ear and allow for warmth and heat to be trapped inside. Now, when you increase the volume, the chances of a trembling sound rupturing your eardrum are magnified.
2. Your Earbuds Are Dirty
To the naked eye, they might seem clean and with no dirt. However, trust us when we say that your earbuds are dirty and full of harmful bacteria. Earbuds are left everywhere, which make them highly likely to gather dust and build up bacteria over a period of time. These bacteria can cause ear infections.
If you use earbuds constantly, then you expose your inner ear to various pathogens that are sticking to your earbuds. These pathogens can result in allergies and skin irritations as well.
3. Germs Get An ideal Environment To Grow
Now, you already know that earbuds contain a lot of dirt and germs. However, even when you regularly clean your earbuds, you can still be susceptible to ear infections. How? Some kinds of earbuds completely cover your ear or block the ear canal. This increases the temperature of your ear canal.
Germs and bacteria love this warmth. There are many naturally arising germs that are present in your ears. By using earbuds, you increase the chances of these germs multiplying and growing because of ideal temperatures. This is a very likely event to occur however, studies reveal that even continuous use of earbuds has not led to this kind of ear canal infection. But it is always better to be safe than sorry.
4. Earbuds Give Rise To Earwax
If you are in the habit of using earbuds for long durations on a daily basis, then you are trapping ear wax in your ear canal. Ears are intended to clean out ear wax automatically. However, when you block the passage due to prolonged use of earbuds, there is a buildup of ear wax. This can result in a lot of problems such as an ear infection and even impaired hearing in severe cases.
5. Yeast Infection
There is also a high chance of developing fungal infection due to the buildup of an agent such as yeast. Earphones can be very dirty, especially if you are not in the habit of regular cleaning. Who is? Unfortunately, fungi love dirt and warmth. If you are in the habit of using your earbuds for long periods, then there is a high chance that you could develop a fungal infection.
These are just a couple of ways that you can develop ear infections with use of your earbuds. However, there are a lot of ways to avoid developing ear issues and still be able to enjoy good music while ‘on the go.’
How To Avoid Ear Infections
It is unimaginable to stop using earbuds. However, the risk of getting an ear infection is not too palatable either. The best way to avoid getting an ear infection while enjoying your earbuds is to not use them continuously for long periods of time and to also regularly clean them. Here are a few tips to prevent ear infections and other ear issues while enjoying your earbuds.
1. Keep The Volume Down
Did you know that you can seriously harm your ears when you use earbuds to listen to high volumes? According to an interview with an audiologist, Dr. Brian Filgor, conducted by the Huffington Post, you can listen to music at about 80% of the maximum volume for about an hour and a half without damaging your ears. Earbuds deliver music straight to your ear canal, and this puts you at a greater risk of developing hearing impairment. Apart from hearing loss issues by listening to high volumes you also cause fatigue to your ear muscles and ear canal. Your immunity might retaliate by way of an ear infection to prevent you from further damaging your ears.
Hence, the next time you plan on rocking your favorite track, use speakers instead of earbuds or headphones.
2. Reduce Your Usage
Ideally, you should not be using your earbuds for more than 60 minutes a day. But that is expecting too much, especially on long commutes. We advise breaks and intervals. Remove your earbuds from your ears every 30 minutes and simply let your ears breathe. Also, before you plug your ears back, make sure you blow on the ear tips to remove any debris, dust, or ear wax. Actually, this is something you should do every time you use your earbuds. By blowing into the ear tips, you can remove larger waste particles.
3. Avoid Using Your Earbuds In Noisy Environment
Every day, you will come across areas that are noisy. It is important that you do not make use of your earbuds in such areas. Simply put them away or let them hang around your neck. When you try listening to music or other entertainment in a noisy environment, you automatically ‘up’ the volume in order to hear well. This puts you at a risk of causing serious damage to your eardrums as well as ear canals and a potential ear infection.
4. Never Share Your Earbuds
So, you discovered an amazing track, and you are simply dying to share it with your friend. The most natural thing would be to share your earbuds with your friend while you play the music on your device. However, by doing this, you increase the risk of ear infections. The environment of every ear canal is different, and the germs present in your ear canal might spread through the earbuds. Similarly, it is important that you do not use anyone else’s earbuds. Even if you absolutely have to share your earbuds, make sure to clean the ear tips well.
5. Clean Your Earbuds
Earbuds should be cleaned regularly with a disinfectant solution. It is very easy to ensure that your earbuds are sparkling new. All you have to do is wet a cloth with some disinfectant and dab the ear tips. Do not ever dunk your earbuds in water as that might spoil them. Also, make sure that the cloth you use is clean. After cleaning the ear tips do not immediately plug them into your ears as there would be some moisture in them. Give it an hour or two before you use them.
6. Change The Ear Tips
If you are a fan of your earbuds and are in no mood to change them for a fresh pair even after months of use, then it is a good idea is to change the ear tips. There are many models on the market that allow for ear tips exchange. This makes sure that the earbuds are clean and fresh.
Can Earbuds Cause Ear Infections?
Now that you know earbuds can cause ear infections, it's important to take proper precautions. If you buy earbuds from a good and trusted brand, then chances of ear infections are marginally less. The materials used in the design can help prevent ear infections. Also, do not use earbuds if you are already suffering from an ear infection, no matter how mild. Earbuds block the ear passage and do not allow air to pass through easily. This can cause your prevalent ear infection to get worse. If you're interested in purchasing a bluetooth speaker so that you don't always listen to music using earbuds, check out our Apie Portable Wireless Bluetooth Speaker Review or our DOSS Soundbox Touch Review.
By proper cleaning and not sharing, you can use earbuds for a long time. That said, it is important that you always let your ears breathe after every 30 minutes of use.