Does Wearing Headphones Increase the Amount of Bacteria in your Ears?
Does Wearing Headphones Increase the Amount of Bacteria
in your Ears?
So, the short answer to your question is that anything you put in your ear will increase the bacteria
levels present, simply by sheer dint of the introduction of a foreign object to your ear. You can
consider this to also be true for cotton buds, earplugs and, of course, your index finger.
Microorganisms tend to reproduce well in hot and humid environments and the ear, like the mouth
and nose, certainly have all the right conditions for a germ-orgy of sorts (sorry for the image).
It has been said that using headphones increases the bacteria levels in your ears over 700 times.
To whatever degree this somewhat alarming statistic is true or false is, quite frankly, virtually
impossible to determine. Put simply, there are just too many variables in the equation. Issues arise
like âhow many other people have used the headphones (are they shared devices like audio
museum tours)?â âHow much bacteria is in the average personâs ear in the first place?â or
even âwhere are the headphones stored when not in use?â
All of these questions (and many, many more) would need satisfactory answers before we could start
picking our way toward a definitive answer. According to our old friend Cecil Adams of
www.straightdope.com, the â700 timesâ factoid has its origins in a 1992 study in which experts
measured bacteria found on 20 headsets of the type used by commercial airlines. According to
Adams, the amount of microorganisms present on the âphones increased by 11 times, not 700 (as
is often reported). A year later, the New York Times ran an article that is, according to Adams, the
root of the old â700 timesâ bit.
However, it should also be said that many different kinds of bacteria are vital to living organisms like
us and, at any given time, there is an almost indescribably huge level of bacteria operating in your
body. Yes, there is an increase in your in-ear bacteria if you use headphones, but itâs really not
much different from the bacteria levels you encounter in your day-to-day life.
You may worry that this increase in bacteria can be damaging to your health (that is, after all, a
reasonable concern). However, unless you suffer from regular ear infections, or any other easily
aggravated ear-related ailments, the answer is a pretty definitive ânoâ.
Maybe if you dangle your headphones in the
toilet before use, or get a flu-riddled relative to
cough on them, you may have some trouble, but
otherwise, the content of your ear is likely to be
far more bacteria-friendly than the contents of
your pockets (where the headphones are usually
kept before use - if Iâm any guide, that is).