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Earbuds, earphones, headphones - whatever you call them - are an integral part of life. They make it possible for us to listen to music, podcasts or take a call literally anywhere, and more importantly, they make public transportation and the gym *just* that bit more bearable. They’re a savior when you aren’t feeling particularly social and would like to cut off from the surrounding world’s sounds as well.
In 2018, 8.4 million people in Great Britain utilized noise-canceling headphones, while a further 1.4 million used sport-specific headphones, and an estimated 6.7 million people used wireless headphones/earphones. The numbers grow year to year which proves we’re a nation that loves headphones.
If you’re the type of person that refuses to borrow or lend your headphones to another, you’re not in the wrong. A recent study found that earbuds can harbor 119,186 colony-forming units. That’s a lot of bacteria. So much so, there’s likely to be less on your kitchen cutting board!
You’re probably able to see remnants of earwax, or if you’ve never taken the time, chances are you’re seeing a LOT of earwax. It doesn’t look great but it’s mostly harmless. While your ears are full of earwax, they’re also full of dead skin cells and a lot of bacteria, all of which will stick to your earplugs. The real problem with earbuds is that their wet, sticky surfaces are perfect for bacteria to multiply and grow.
After you wear headphones, it’s difficult for the air in your ears to circulate and the temperature in the ear rises sharply. Bacteria on the surface of the headphones multiplies quickly. Studies have shown that bacteria in your ears increase 11 times when you put them on as opposed to when they’re out.
Our fragile skin is particularly susceptible to the secretion of pores and sebum and hormonal imbalances, so that this slender part becomes the best place for bacteria and dirt to hide, causing ear inflammation and infection. In addition, the earbuds can get bacteria through contact with other objects. Think about how much your earbuds have contacted every day and how much bacteria you pick up and put into your ears yourself.
These two kinds of people should be more aware of potential problems.
1. People who share earbuds with others.
People who like to share headphones with others are usually just helping a friend out or sharing a new music/podcast love. The action of sharing enables the exchange of staphylococcus in someone's ear which scarily, could get into a wound or hair follicle and when that person is not your partner or family member, it can cause serious skin infections and other problems.
2. People who love doing sports wearing earbuds.
Earbuds absorb heat and moisture in the ears which makes them the perfect greenhouse for all bacteria to grow. If you wear headphones after swimming or while working out, you may increase the risk of ear infections, ear mites, pustules, or otitis media.
(Don’t answer that one. Just read below on how to take action!)
If the headset is used frequently, it’s recommended to clean and disinfect the headset with 75% alcohol every week. When disinfecting, make sure that all waxy residue is cleaned off completely, then use a disinfecting spray or topical alcohol and wipe the earbuds with a cotton ball.
After using the headset try to remember to wipe on a regular basis, particularly if you’ve sweat during use. Don’t forget the cords (if applicable to your headset) and store in a clean and dry environment. Keeping your headphones as YOURS and not lending them to others is also key! The more ears that your buds are put into, the more chance of infection there is.
Optimal hygiene is a dilemma that all in-ear and semi in-ear headphones face together. If you try to find a solution within this market segment you’ll inevitably fail as the design itself assures it.
So... you could step a little out of the traditional segmentation of the market and be introduced to an innovative form of design.
Born with a mission to provide professional sport headphones that have uncompromised quality, AfterShokz headphones avoid in-ear dirt and bacteria no matter how sweaty you are. Open ear headphones like ours assure you that your inner ear is going to remain in tip top shape. Take a look and discover for yourself!