Is frequent use of earplugs/earphones bad for my health?
October 13, 2004 3:54 PM   Subscribe

Does frequent use of earplugs and earbud heaphones mean I'll get sick more often? I suspect so but havent found any research to back this up.

I've noticed that I get severe but short head colds, sometimes along with flu-type symptoms after I go to a concert. I think when I'm rolling my earplugs to compress them I'm covering them with whatever germs are on my hands and shoving them into my ear canal. Same with wearing ear bud headphones on the train. I've touched all these public surfaces and then I touch my ear buds in the process of getting them out of my bag and putting them in my ears.

Is this making me sick? I think it is.

Of course this can be coincidental, but it seems to be true.
posted by skallas to Health & Fitness (7 answers total)
I've oftren seen it stated that using earphones increases inner ear bacteria/virii (I forget which) by 400 fold. Never seen any corroborating evedence though.
posted by twine42 at 3:59 PM on October 13, 2004

Regular headphones or earbud-type headphones?
posted by skallas at 4:04 PM on October 13, 2004

use how?
posted by quonsar at 4:06 PM on October 13, 2004

I used to wear a telephone headset for a customer service job I had. I got a severe ear infection and ended needing surgery to fix my ruptured eardrum from the pressure buildup. My otolaryngologist said the intial infection was a direct effect of using the earpiece for 8 hours a day.
posted by karmaville at 4:07 PM on October 13, 2004

I sleep with earplugs in all the time. Never had any of the symptoms you describe. I don't use the type you need to roll, and which expand inside your ear, though. I use Mack's Ear Seals. They're very soft, and you only touch the ends, twisting them slightly as you place them in the ear. They're also washable.
posted by Blue Stone at 4:38 PM on October 13, 2004

I'd guess that going to concerts with thousands of other people is more of the initiating factor than the headphones or earplugs, skallas. Each of is our own little agar plate with billions of bacteria and viruses. When you mix them all together like we humans tend to do at concerts, airports, and other breeding grounds, it's not uncommon to take something home with you.

Unless you're getting external ear infections (middle ear infections are much more common), it's probably due to eye or nose rubbing, food eating, or respiratory droplets (if the concerts are truly linked to your flu-like syndrome at all). Maybe take some wetnaps next time, clean your hands, and try to be conscious not to touch your face. The Etymotic people say you shouldn't get an infection.

twine42: it could be outer ear bacteria, but probably not inner ear bacteria, i don't think.
posted by gramcracker at 5:07 PM on October 13, 2004

Changes in the microbial flora of airline headset devices after their use.

twine42, virii need a multicellular host to reproduce--they don't do so on their own. Therefore, we're talkin' bacteria.
posted by LimePi at 12:07 AM on October 14, 2004

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