Earbuds don’t only pump music into your ears—they can also lead to bacterial growth and infection.
Wearing the plastic buds increases the temperature and humidity levels in the ear canal, says Omid Mehdizadeh, MD, laryngologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California. Bacteria love to breed in warm, moist areas, so these conditions create an environment where inner and external ear infections could fester. The risk isn’t extremely high: You're more likely to get an infection from swimming or excessive Q-tip use, Mehdizadeh notes. Still, wearing the same pair during your workout and throughout the rest of the day makes it more likely, since sweat leads to even more humidity.
Frequent exercisers should clean their pair (including the entire cap and the earbud area underneath it) with a disinfectant wipe at the end of each day, Mehdizadeh says. Let them dry completely before using or charging. Also consider putting silicone caps over your buds: Most are made of hard plastic, which can cause microabrasions on the skin and make you more vulnerable to infection, Mehdizadeh says.