Sharing a pair of in-ear headphones sounds innocent, but it comes with long and lasting effects. It may sound gross, but using someone else’s earphones is not so different than sharing a toothbrush. Over the years, studies have managed to affirm and reaffirm that human ears are susceptible to bacteria.
A comprehensive study proves that bacteria can grow at an exponential rate with the consistent use of earphones.
Of course, no one is a fan of germs, and branded earphones allow people to experience music at its best. But the fact remains that in-ear headphones are a cause of bacterial growth.
Of course, there are people with enough sense not to share their earbuds with just anyone. If you form a visual image of compressing bacteria-covered earbuds into both of your ears, that would be more than enough to give you a pause before sharing them with someone else.
If you wear earbuds for an extended period, expect a build-up of thick ear wax. Now, it won’t harm your ear, but it creates bacteria that can lead to more problems later on. Technically, when you decide to close both ear passageways for a long time, you’re covering the exit points.
And whether you wear earphones or use wireless earbuds, you’re blocking the natural ear discharge. As a result, heat is compressed due to the build-up of moisture and wax. The next time you think about whether or not sharing your earbuds is a good idea, think about the bacteria you might be swapping.
Summer Season Means More Bacteria
Doctors concur that summer increases the chances of otitis externa. There is a good chance you may have heard of otitis externa as Swimmer’s Ear. The hot summer season causes more sweating, and that leads to more bacteria.
From toilets and gas bumps to water fountains and handshakes, think twice before putting germ-infested earbuds in your ears. On average, using headphones for a straight hour increases the bacteria levels in the ears by 700%.
Often, many missing variables such as Haemophilus influenzae and Streptococcus pneumoniae can lead to more bacteria in the ear. Of course, the use and quality of earphones differ from person to person. Still, “how” you store your earbuds can also make a huge difference.
How You Should Clean Your Ears
When it comes to cleaning ears, you have to exercise caution and care. The fact is that anything you put in your ears is always a bad idea. Use fresh cotton swabs to remove ear wax without a rush. Interestingly, your ears can clean themselves on their own and don’t need special care until you start putting things in them.
And contrary to naïve misconception, ear wax is not bacterial. In fact, it acts as an antibacterial filter for ears that wards off dust and dirt. Essentially, it works as trapping to prevent dust, dirt, or other harmful elements in the air from going deeper.
When it comes to the health and hygiene of your ears, diet plays a crucial role. The best strategy is not to share your earphones at all, but that might not sound practical in this day and age. You may feel lazy, tired, or too busy to clean ears and earbuds, but think of the bacteria risk right away.
So, make sure to disinfect your earphones and clean off wax residue regularly. After that, use a small and dampened cotton ball to wipe down your earbuds with alcohol or disinfectant. As far as hearing goes, people tend to wear earbuds that create more noise than waves of pleasant sound.
Noise-based hearing loss is more common than you think. In the U.S., one out of five teenagers experiences some hearing loss issue. In comparison, there is a 30% increase in hearing loss cases compared to two decades ago. Experts highlight that the rollout of new and advanced headphones is the leading cause of hearing loss among teenagers.
Once you read enough about the bacteria earbuds contain, you may not even want to listen to music through in-ear headphones anymore. In layman’s terms, take a piece of advice from doctors and wipe down and clean your earbuds with 70% or more alcohol. After that, let your earbuds dry for a few minutes. In short, cleaning your earbuds before they fit in your ears is the best way to avoid bacteria.
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Brianna Connors & Derek Archer Co-Editors