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Does earbud (in-ear headphones) usage increase ear infections?
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Does earbud (in-ear headphones) usage increase ear infections?

Can anyone here in the forum comment if they've gotten an infection from earbuds that are in-ear headphones commonly used by iPod fans?  I've extracted the salient points from this article, many points of which I disagree with, since I don't think that we should raise worries in consumers without definite proof that this is something that happens.  Although there is good proof of purel and alcohol-based cleansers decreasing stomach flu infections (viral enteritis), so the mechanism for decreasing infection is plausible, I'm not sure these infections happen in the first place from earbuds.  I've seen plenty of external bacterial/fungal otitis, but it's more from swimming and getting canals wet.  Invasive otitis externa is less likely without a cut or other entry point to get under the skin.

A SPECIAL REPORT: MORE ABOUT EARBUD CRUD By Marty Winston

METHOD: increasing the temperature, humidity & darkness of the inner ear environment.
RISK OF RESISTENT ORGANISMS: mutate when outside the ear; we introduce those new mutations back into our ears when we reinsert the earbuds.
RISK OF HAND CONTAMINATION: Do you wash your hands before handling your earbuds? Laboratory field tests (on behalf of audiologists & hearing aids) found bacteria on audio devices that are normally only found in urine or fecal matter (you may choose to use the term “potty germs”); it transferred from unwashed hands to the earbud to the ear,
DECONTAMINATION PRODUCTS: Oaktree Products, a wholesaler of audiology products & supplies; they confirmed & enhanced our understanding of these mechanisms. Their own products (not available for sale to the general public, but consumers can purchase these things through an audiologist) include alcohol-free disinfectant towelette wipes based on quaternary ammonium compounds (more on this in a second) & a $99-class compact storage container that heats, dries & UV-disinfects a hearing aid (or earbuds).
OTC ALTERNATIVES: Clorox Disinfecting Wipes (available in those tall cylinders or in 9-wipe “to go” soft packs, usually found with the impulse items at the checkout line); we directly confirmed with Clorox that these are quat wipes & direct competitors, like Lysol & Mr. Clean, seem to be using similar chemistry.
POTENTIAL FOR UV: Ultraviolet light needs to be in the UVC (250-270nm wavelength) band to effectively disinfect,; we are encouraged to see packaged UVC LED lamps on the OEM market, so it isn’t a huge leap to think of a household UV germ killer. E.G. UV toothbrush sanitizer for this.
NO PUBLISHED STUDIES: Dr. Paul Krakovitz of the Cleveland Clinic Head & Neck Institute tells us that he knows of no reports directly linking device usage to ear infections, but says that the potential is always there, especially if there is broken skin within the ear. He adds that hand washing is always a good idea & that it makes sense to cleanse these devices, following their manufacturers’ recommendations.
RECOMMENDATIOS: Carry both quat wipes & Purell or hand wipes, clean hands before touching an earbud, clean the earbud both when taking it out of the ear & again just before putting it back & between uses, keep the earbud in a small sealed-closure plastic bag.
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Avatar_n_tn
What I find to be pretty BOGUS about this train of thought is hearing aid users and iPod users are the same.

1) Hearing aid users use their hearing aids around 10 hrs a day.
2) The fecal matter found on hearing aids.... is true. But it was thought that HA users would have a good BM in the morning, then stick their hearing aids in their ears shortly after that. Thus it has been hypothesized that it is the morning routine that is the blame for the fecal matter
3) A lot of the allergic reactions (inflamation (inflammation) leading to infection) caused by hearing aids are actually due to the "Buffing compounds" used during the HA manufacturing process. Ear buds I doubt get buffed.
4) A lot of the infections caused by hearing aids can be attributed to poor fitting heairng aids.

Even if we were to believe that the hearing aid user population was the same as ear bud users, you do not see hearing aid users  following:

"RECOMMENDATIOS: Carry both quat wipes & Purell or hand wipes, clean hands before touching an earbud, clean the earbud both when taking it out of the ear & again just before putting it back & between uses, keep the earbud in a small sealed-closure plastic bag. "

I imagine if the ear buds fit poorly, then yes they could cause pressure sores/infection just as well as hearing aids.

Oak Tree Products is owned by Robert Kemp, MBA (Who happens to be the author or "Infection Control for the Professions of Audiology and Speech Language Pathology" ) I would imagine would love it if the genearal public was scared and rushed to by some of his products.

If you want a better sample/response to your question go to a HI-Fi forum.

Signed; Custom Insert Ear Monitor user

            AuD.
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Avatar_n_tn
I believe that you can contract an ear infection from earbuds. I am a frequent user of these and forgot that I had dropped mine on the ground outside and woke up one morning with a very severe infection which I am now taking anti's for. Just thought I'd lend my experience to your research.

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Avatar_n_tn
I believe that you can contract an ear infection from earbuds


I believe that you can contract an ear infection from sticking anything covered with bacteria into your ears. My point is, you could have stuck anything with bacteria on it such as a pencil to scratch you ear, and got the same results.

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Avatar_n_tn
I have never had an ear infection until I began using my mp3 player.  For the past 6 weeks I have had ear infections in each ear one right after another.  Finally it dawned on me, that it must be the earbuds.  I will either stop using them or start sanitizing them and see what happens.
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Avatar_n_tn
My 13 year old daughter who seems to always wear those things everyday has been suffering from recurring ear infections for months! Been on several meds and seen several doctors. Every doctor for some reason wants to say its from swimming and actually told her when I asked "oh no, its not from earphones" I don't believe it. Just because an external otitis is nicknamed "swimmers ear" doesn't mean only swimmers can get it. I recently read that it can be caused by chronic irritation and it used hearing aids as an "example".  An example does not mean its the only thing. I finally decided to stop believing its only associated with swimming as the doctors keep saying,  as she does not swim that often. I told my daughter she is never allowed to use those earphones again.  Obviously just by googling shows there are a lot of people suffering from the same who use these things.

If you're having this problem, you should really go to the doctor and don't assume it will go away with home remedies or on its own.
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Avatar_n_tn
My 13 year old daughter who seems to always wear those things everyday has been suffering from recurring ear infections for months! Been on several meds and seen several doctors. Every doctor for some reason wants to say its from swimming and actually told her when I asked "oh no, its not from earphones" I don't believe it. Just because an external otitis is nicknamed "swimmers ear" doesn't mean only swimmers get it. I recently read that it can be caused by chronic irritation and it used hearing aids as an "example".  An example does not mean its the only thing. I finally decided to stop believing its only associated with swimming as the doctors keep saying,  as she does not swim that often. I told my daughter she is never allowed to use those earphones again.  Obviously just by googling shows there are a lot of people suffering from the same who use these things.

If you're having this problem, you should really go to the doctor and don't assume it will go away with home remedies or on its own.
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Avatar_n_tn
I have had itching, swelling, muffled sound, and pain ever since I started using internal earphones. Antibiotic ointment helps with healing. However, the drainage and itching continue constantly even if I disinfect.
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Avatar_f_tn
I have also had itching, swelling, and crusty stuff inside my ears, which I never had until I started using earbuds (mp3 player).
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Avatar_f_tn
I just figured out also that since using the ear buds that come with my phone I have been getting this muffled feeling in my ear. It started off by being itchy. I think the earbuds make my ear canal sweat or something then causes some kind of infection. It actually gets better after not using the earbuds for about a month. I Started using the earbuds again recently and am feeling that muffled feeling and pressure in my inner ear again. It must be related although docs don't seem to believe it.
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1718898_tn?1309130832
I went to Urgent Care yesterday because my mom thought I had wax build-up in my ear, and nothing was working. Ear candles, hydrogen peroxide, olive oil, q-tips. Nothing. I couldn't hear and it hurt so badly. The doctor there said that I have a serious ear infection that ruptured and there's pus blocking the eardrum. I'm currently on an antibiotic and a painkiller. A few months ago, I had just started using the suction cup-like earbuds made by iHip (The baseball franchise ones) and I loved them, no discomfort, good sound, etc. No complaints. My mom thinks that my earbuds caused this, but I also have been swimming once and in the hot tub twice in the past 2 weeks. I have no clue which one caused it, just that it hurts and I'm half-deaf. >.<
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