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People are wearing earbuds just about everywhere you look these days, even at work. When is the last time you cleaned yours? If it’s been a while–or never–you’re not alone. Learn the importance of cleaning earbuds, how to do it properly, and what to do when you have ear pain.

Are earbuds bad for you?

Wireless earbuds have changed how most of us work and play. We can now enjoy not only better sound quality but total freedom to move around all day long. But with that freedom comes a new responsibility: earbuds cleaning.

Are earbuds bad for you? In some ways, yes. When it comes to ear infection causes, earbuds–specifically the dirt and bacteria on earbuds–are quickly rising up the list. Earbud use can also increase ear wax build-up.

This doesn’t mean you have to stop taking conference calls or listening to your favorite tunes with your earbuds in place. When used properly and cleaned regularly, earbuds are a great way to enjoy music, make hands-free calls, and much more. So, let’s dig up the dirt about earbuds cleaning and learn how you can protect your ear health without giving up the earbuds you love.

Dirt & bacteria on earbuds

Your hands. Your desk. Your car. The treadmill at the gym. Earbuds tend to touch many different surfaces throughout the day. Without proper cleaning, they’re likely to accumulate a lot of dirt and bacteria. And the moment you put them in, guess where all that dirt and bacteria goes? Straight into your ear canal. Dirt and bacteria from earbuds are not just one of the top ear infections causes but can cause allergic reactions or rashes as well.

Watch for wax

Our ears are designed to clean themselves, but wax build-up is another area where they may need our help. Wearing earbuds–especially for long periods of time–can trap the ear wax that is supposed to be carried out naturally. Over time, this excess wax build-up can lead to impacted ear wax, causing pain, infection, and/or possibly affecting your hearing.

Avoid swimmer’s ear

The importance of cleaning earbuds doesn’t stop there. As the swimming season rapidly approaches, earbud use can also increase your chances of developing swimmer’s ear–especially if they’re dirty.

Swimmer’s ear is an infection of the outer ear canal caused by bacteria. Because earbuds tend to lock moisture in your ears, you may also want to limit your earbud use when you are spending time in the water.

Keep them clean

If you can’t imagine parting ways with your earbuds, then try to make sure they’re clean every time you wear them. All you need is a simple wipe or gentle cleaning solution. You can also use a dry, lint-free cloth to remove any visible dirt and grime.

So, are earbuds bad for you? They can be, but you can help minimize the risks. Before the earbuds go in, the wipe comes out–it’s as easy as that.

Treating your ear pain

If you’re experiencing ear pain, your local FastMed is here for you. The excess wax build-up may sound harmless enough, but it can lead to many painful symptoms, including an earache, tinnitus (ringing or buzzing in your ears), or sudden hearing loss. Ear wax build-up is also one of the most common ear infection causes if left untreated.

Your provider may use a small, curved instrument called a curette to manually remove the ear wax. Microsuction (or ear vacuuming) is another common treatment for ear wax build-up. During the procedure, the provider uses a long, thin nozzle to provide gentle suction that dislodges and removes the wax. Do not attempt to remove the ear wax yourself, which could push the wax in deeper or injure your eardrum.

If the pain lasts for more than 24 hours or if you suspect an ear infection or injury, contact us right away. With quality care from FastMed, you can get back to enjoying your (clean) earbuds in no time.

About FastMed

FastMed is a leading provider of high-quality, convenient, affordable, and compassionate healthcare in 34 counties across North Carolina. FastMed serves both urban and rural communities across the state with a wide range of care options, including preventive, telemedicine, occupational health, and primary and urgent care. FastMed is one of the few urgent care providers in the nation that has earned The Joint Commission’s coveted Gold Seal of Approval® for quality, safety, and infection control in ambulatory healthcare. For more information, visit

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