Earbuds are a ubiquitous accessory for listening on the go, but they can accumulate potentially harmful bacteria. While the risk of infection is generally low, basic hygiene is crucial to minimize the possibility of ear pain or infections.
Studies have identified bacteria such as Streptococci, Staphylococci, Aspergillus, and even E. coli in earbuds, with factors like sticky earwax and moisture from use or exercise increasing the risk of infection, especially when sharing earbuds.
Ear infections, such as otitis media and otitis externa (commonly known as swimmer’s ear), can result from bacteria and moisture in the ear. Symptoms include pain, itching, discharge, exhaustion, fever, and hearing loss.
Regular cleaning of earbuds is essential to maintain healthy ears and prevent infections. Experts recommend cleaning earphones at least once a week and after each use, particularly if there is inflamed skin in or around the ear. Cleaning involves removing visible debris with a dry, soft-bristled brush or a specialized tool, followed by wiping with a 70 percent isopropyl alcohol or 75 percent ethyl alcohol wipe.
Additionally, the earbud case should be cleaned with a brush or tool, followed by a wipe with rubbing alcohol, ensuring thorough drying before reuse. Storing earphones in their case can contribute to maintaining cleanliness and preventing the spread of germs. Regular cleaning not only safeguards against infections but also enhances the overall listening experience.