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).