Is your desire to contract a staph infection greater than your need to catch some tunes?
Sharing is caring. Except when it involves microbial flora. Huh?
Huh is right. Listen up: Stop it right now if you share your earbuds with people. Before we get into the science-based reasons why, try this. When was the last time you used Q-tips to clean your ears? Consider this as a public service. Stop and do that now.
Okay, the stuff on the Q-tips. Earwax, right? And earwax is just a natural product our bodies produce. Not so gross. You may have even heard that it’s not a good idea to get crazy about trying to clean it out of your ears. Mostly harmless, that brown stuff. Except for the stuff that isn’t.
Pseudomonas and staphylococcus
No, that’s not the title of a Greek tragedy. They’re two types of bacteria that are particularly fond of hanging out in your ears. You may not be familiar with pseudomonas, but practically everybody’s heard of a staph infection. Both of these bugs are in your ear because it’s nice and warm and moist in there. They’ve made a truce with you by staying at levels that won’t make you sick.
They never made the same deal with whoever you share your earbuds with. And vice versa. The strains of pseudomonas and staphylococcus are different. They can be transferred via earbuds. If either bacterium gets into an open cut or exposed hair follicle, you could come down with a serious skin infection, or worse.
This probability increases when the bacterial count passes your body’s threshold—and sharing a pair of earbuds basically doubles the microbial flora in your ears. You shouldn’t like the sound of those odds.
You don’t know where they’ve really been
Which is not to infer that your earbud-sharing buddy has put them any place other than their ears. The real concern here is that a pair of earbuds picks up things from wherever you place them once earwax has coated the outer surface.
In your ears. On the restaurant table. Then in your friend’s ears. Maybe in their pocket for a while, or in a purse. Then back in your ears. Now there’s a new layer of earwax to trap your friend’s bacteria as well as whatever foreign material their wax snagged. The earwax layers act as traps to keep bacteria moist so it can survive and thrive.
If you’re not liking the sound of what can happen if you share your earbuds, the music is about to get worse. Earbuds were designed to efficiently block out external noise. In the process, they efficiently trap heat and moisture in your ear.
When you’re not listening to music, that part of your ear canal is open to air. But without this circulation, the increase in warmth and humidity creates an optimal environment not just for bacteria, but for fungal growth, as well. Think about that the next time you’re jamming along to tunes as you sweat it out at the gym.
Athlete’s foot, meet swimmer’s ear.
You disinfected them when?
You can decrease the chances of ear infections—or worse—by disinfecting your earbuds on a regular basis. And you do that, right?
It doesn’t have to be a daily ritual like brushing and flossing, but you should disinfect your earbuds at least weekly. It doesn’t have to be a complicated or time-consuming ritual. Wipe away and visible earwax residue first.
Remember those Q-tips? Grab one and dampen it with some rubbing alcohol. Or use a cotton ball. Wipe down the earbuds, taking care not to let any of the rubbing alcohol pool inside. Let them air dry. You definitely want to do this if you still find it necessary to share your earbuds.
A better option is to avoid sharing them or borrowing someone else’s—ever. A recent newspaper article reports that about 18,700 people die each year from drug-resistant staph infections. Granted, it’s extremely rare to contract a staph infection with that level of severity from earbuds, but is your desire to catch an infection greater than your need to catch some tunes?
This has been some free earbud advice from your friendly VoIP providers. We suggest that when you use our crystal-clear communication, you use your own headset as well.