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How to Avoid Ear Wax and Infections Caused By Earbuds

Man Cleaning Ear with Cotton Buds

Every day, thousands of people use earbuds to enjoy their favorite tunes. These buds are safe to use and won't damage hearing but may cause issues, such as earwax and even ear infections. Earwax and infections may cause complications that worsen a person's hearing acuity.

Understand this problem - and how to avoid it - if you or your children regularly use earbuds to enjoy music. Ear wax prevention methods include a switch to headphones instead of earbuds and proper cleaning methods.

Earbuds Cause Earwax Buildup

Earbuds slide into the ear canal and provide close and noise-free music for their users. However, earbuds also stimulate the production of earwax as a protective measure, as wax is a sound buffer the body creates when introduced to high-volume sounds. 

Even worse, earbuds may compress wax in the ear canal and cause a blockage. When a blockage happens, the hearing in that ear will be muffled and less precise. A blockage can also cause complications, such as the development of bacteria in the ear canal and - by extension - ear infections. 

Earbuds May Cause Infections 

The use of earbuds may spread bacteria through the ear canal. Once this bacteria settles into the canal, it can cause infections. Ear infections can cause complications such as meningitis, facial nerve paralysis, breaks in the eardrum, and even temporary - or permanent - hearing loss. Thankfully, ear wax color can diagnose these problems quickly and efficiently. 

Earwax color will vary based on its age and ear health. For example, soft and yellow earwax is new while old wax is dark and sticky. By contrast, runny and cloudy earwax indicates the start of a mild to moderate ear infection. Bloody earwax could show an injury in the ear or even a very severe infection that needs treatment right away. 

Headphones Can Help Prevent Ear Wax and Infections

Switch to headphones over earbuds to prevent excessive ear wax and ear infections. While headphones may slightly increase the production of ear wax, the rate will be lower than with earbuds. Find a pair that fits over the ears without intrusion into the canal to get the best sound and to prevent wax buildup and infections.

When listening to music, keep the volume at a medium level. High sound volume can stimulate excessive wax buildup in the ears. Try to limit headphone use to no more than 1 to 3 hours every day to minimize the chance of increased ear wax. And always practice ear hygiene after a shower by washing with a soft cloth in a gentle and soothing way.

You Should Clean Regularly to Avoid Ear Issues 

If excessive wax buildup continues to develop in the ears, they need to be cleaned. While in the shower, use a fresh and soft cloth to wash away wax on the inside and outside of the ears. Don't push a finger into the ear canal - doing so can further compress ear wax in the ear canal.

After the shower, dry the inside and outside of each ear with another soft and clean cloth. If wax stubbornly resists removal, use anti-wax drops to break it apart. Wipe the canal out with soft q-tips, but don't push the q-tips far into the canal. Pushing q-tips into your ear canals can lead to further complications, such as ear infections and balance problems.

Follow these steps to eliminate ear wax and improve your hearing. If ear wax remains a problem, or if other ear health issues develop, make sure to contact Birmingham Hearing & Balance Center to learn more about how ear wax can affect the hearing temporarily and permanently.