If you wear earbuds for extended periods of time, are you putting yourself at risk of developing an ear infection? Whether you wear them the whole day at work or for long workouts at the gym, it’s important to know if earbuds can cause ear infections.
In this article, we’ll go over the health risks and drawbacks of wearing earbuds for extended periods of time. We’ll cover how most ear infections occur and whether or not earbuds put you at risk for ear infections. We will also talk about best practices for keeping your earbuds clean and sanitized.
3 Popular Pairs of Earbuds I Recommend
Amazing sound quality, and 2x the active noise cancellation in the 2nd gen. The gold standard earbuds – expensive, but great.
Compare & Save:
Premium sound in a sweat-resistant earbud that’s just as good in the gym as it is in everyday wear situations.
Compare & Save:
Inexpensive workout earbud – an amazing value! Sweat-proof, comfortable to wear, and accessible to everyone.
Compare & Save:
BudgetHeadphones.com is reader supported. If you click on a link and make a purchase, I may earn a commission at no additional cost to you.
So, Can Earbuds Cause Ear Infections?
The short answer is yes, earbuds can cause ear infections. Earbuds introduce bacteria into the ear that can cause an infection to develop. Earbuds have other adverse health effects, like causing excess earwax to develop. You can lower risk by keeping your earbuds clean and finding alternatives and changing up your listening devices throughout the day so you are not wearing them constantly.
How to Reduce Your Risk
While earbuds can cause bad health effects, there are many ways to lower those risks to the point they’re almost nonexistant.
- Be careful about the volume. Only use moderate volume on your earbuds. This is especially important if you use your earbuds for long periods of time.
- Clean your earbuds on a regular basis. You have to remove all the dirt and bacteria on them in order to keep your ears safe. You can use a cleaning solution (make sure it’s gentle) or even a wet-wipe will do. It’s best to try to clean your earbuds with every wear.
- Try to cut down on the times you use your earbuds. If you’re using earbuds for portability, maybe think about using speakers or headphones when you’re at home.
- Keep your ears clean, too. It’s important to ensure that there isn’t too much wax build-up in your ears. You can do this by cleaning your ears on a regular basis. Only clean the outer part of your ear using cotton swabs. There are also ear wax removal products available over the counter.
- Never let anyone else use your earbuds. You don’t want to introduce the bacteria from someone else’s ears into your own.
- Immediately remove the earbuds from your ears if you feel any discomfort. If you have any discomfort or pain for a long time after that, go to your doctor. It’s possible you could have an infection.
- Give yourself breaks when using your earbuds. Try to remove them once every couple of hours so that your ears have a break. You should clean them daily, as well.
What is an Ear Infection?
Ear infections affect the middle ear, which is the area behind your eardrum. It has air and bones in it, and they vibrate. Ear infections usually develop after suffering from a virus, like a cold or the flu.
Congestion in the back of the throat can progress inside the eustachian tubes. The eustachian tubes connect the middle ears to the back of the throat.
Symptoms of Ear Infection
Symptoms of an ear infection may include:
- Hearing problems
- Fluid draining from the ear
- Ear discomfort and pain
If you have repeated ear infections, you can end up with long-term damage to your hearing. Ear infections can also spread to other areas of the body through, for example, a tear in the ear drum, tissues, or meningitis.
Occasionally, a minor ear infection will go away by itself as long as you don’t aggravate it by continuing to overuse your earbuds. However, you must always get medical attention if you continue to have pain or other symptoms.
Earbuds and Swimmer’s Ear
Swimmer’s ear is an ear infection that is caused by immersing your ears in the water for extended periods of time. It can happen with swimming in any kind of water, including pools, the ocean, or lakes. With swimmer’s ear, you have an outer ear canal infection that is caused by fungi or bacteria.
Earbuds, airpods, and other in-ear listening devices make you more likely to get swimmer’s ear.
This is because if you put your earbuds in right after swimming without drying out your ears first, you’re making it so the moisture cannot escape. Instead, it will stay in your ear where it can encourage the growth of bacteria and fungi.
Other Risks and Drawbacks of Earbuds
Below are some of the risks and drawbacks of earbuds. Keep these in mind, so you can take steps to mitigate these risks and avoid problems.
Dirt and Bacteria Accumulate on Your Earbuds
You need to sanitize your earbuds frequently because accumulating dirt and bacteria can hurt your ears. Earbuds make contact with dirty things from time to time just by sitting in your pocket as you carry them from place to place.
The bacteria and dirt on your earbuds get into your ears as you use them. Rashes, allergic reactions, and even infections can result as a consequence.
Loud Volume Can Damage your Eardrums
When you use earbuds, the sound goes directly into the ear canal. The sound’s vibration travels directly to your eardrums. If you listen to extremely loud music on your earbuds too often, you can even rupture your eardrums. This can cause complete hearing loss in some circumstances.
Wax Can Build Up in Your Ears
Using earbuds too often can lead to a build-up of wax in your ears. Remember that the reason why your ears have wax is to help them clean themselves.
Any wax that gets trapped in your ears is not supposed to stay in there. Eventually, infection can result. A wax buildup can also negatively affect your hearing.
Practice Good Hygiene with Your Earbuds
The most important steps you can take to cut down on the chance of ear infection caused by earbuds is to avoid overuse of your earbuds and clean them on a regular basis.
Just wiping your earbuds with alcohol before or after every wear is an excellent method of earbud hygiene.
Also remember to take breaks when wearing your earbuds, ideally once every two hours. If you ever feel discomfort with your earbuds, take them out. You could also consider one of these headphone models which are great for ear health.