Earbuds and exposure to bacteria
When we carry our earbuds around with us, they become exposed to all kinds of surfaces, which raises the risks of gathering bacteria from our bags, desks or tray tables.
Not only do our earbuds constantly come in contact with contaminated surfaces, but simply using earbuds can build up more bacteria in your ears. Wearing earbuds traps moisture and heat in the ear canal which can create a breeding ground for bacteria to grow.
Bacteria is bad, but earwax is good
Our ears use earwax, or cerumen, as a protective shield against bacteria. We normally see earwax on earbuds, after removing them from our ears. Earwax helps to clean and lubricate our ears, and reduce the feelings of dryness and itchiness.
Earwax also prevents debris and dirt from coming in contact with our eardrums. The apocrine glands located in the outer section of our ears produce the cerumen. These glands are similar to the glands that produce sweat. The same situations that cause you to go into fight-or-flight mode can make you sweat and induce stress. This circumstance has also been shown to make your ears produce more wax.
If your ears generate a lot of wax, you can use a cloth to clean the outer part of your ear canal or you can place a couple of drops of an over-the-counter ear cleaning solution that will soften and remove the wax. If your ears feel as though they are obstructed or the wax interferes with how you hear, get it removed by a professional. Moving your jaw from eating or talking can also help remove earwax.
There's a very low chance of getting an infection from sharing earbuds
Studies on whether it's safe to share earbuds have varied from different researchers. Business Insider had tested 22 pairs of in-the-ear (ITE) style earbuds in Columbia University's microbiology lab. Most samples tested positive for bacteria that are found in our skin, such as staphylococcus. Two of the samples tested positive for yeast. Yeast is a fungus that can cause infection. You can get an ear infection from yeast.
Sharing earbuds can present new bacteria in your ears, and double the microbial flora in the ears. Most bacteria are innocuous and generally, there's a low risk of infection. But there is also a small risk of producing middle ear infections, fungus, and an increase of swimmer's ear if you share earbuds. If there is a laceration in your ear canal, sharing earbuds can also cause skin infections.
Tips on earbud usage
It would be best to avoid sharing earbuds. If you really need to share them, make sure you or the person you are sharing them with thoroughly disinfect the earbuds with rubbing alcohol, a disinfecting spray, or professional-strength cleaning wipes. Use a dampened cotton ball to remove any visible residue and bacteria.
You might also want to invest in earbud covers.
Hearing aids, just like earbuds, are not for sharing. Each hearing aid is customized and programmed for each individual user. They are at the same risk of exposure to bacteria from various surfaces. It's best to have good cleaning practices for your hearing aids and to occasionally get them thoroughly cleaned by a professional. If you, or a loved one, are in need of hearing aids please contact us at Pure Sound Hearing Aids for a free hearing test and consultation. If you need to get your hearing aids cleaned by a professional, please contact us.