Ear Care Education

Are My In-Ear Headphones Causing Earwax Buildup?

If you wear in-ear headphones, you’ve probably noticed earwax on them after you take them out of your ears. Cleaning earwax from headphones may be no big deal, but if you use in-ear headphones often or for prolonged periods of time, you could be setting yourself up for an ear infection or conductive hearing loss. And we’re not even talking about how the music or podcast volume affects your hearing!

Like with cotton swabs, pushing something into your ear can push wax back into the ear canal. If your ears don’t produce much wax, in general, using in-ear headphones may not cause earwax buildup or blockage. But for many people, especially those who use in-ear headphones frequently, earwax can build up and cause problems that could send you to a doctor.

Ears are self-cleaning miracles, but we can block our ears’ ability to shed earwax and clean themselves, simply by using in-ear headphones or earbuds.

Keeping headphones in your ears for hours blocks earwax from naturally draining from the ear. Additionally, the dirt and bacteria that these headphones often carry can cause an infection on their own, and earwax buildup can trap dirt in the ear and block the canal completely.

Prevent earwax buildup due to headphones

If you still prefer to use in-ear headphones instead of over-ear ones, the best modes of prevention are to:

  • Clean your earbuds, as directed, before and after use
  • Do not use in-ear headphones every day or for a prolonged period of time
  • Pay attention to your ear health

If you notice a buildup of earwax, you can use Debrox® earwax removal drops to help soften and loosen earwax so it can drain from your ear canal.

How do you know if there’s a problem?

One early sign of earwax buildup or blockage is a feeling of fullness in the ears. You may feel dizzy or lightheaded or hear ringing in your ears. If you’ve tried to clean your ears but still have these symptoms or have pain or hearing loss, call your doctor.