Surprising Side Effects Of Using Earbuds

Earbuds are quickly becoming a staple of everyday life. Busy schedules and days on-the-go mean that audiobooks, news shows, and podcasts are the easiest to keep up with. And music lovers know just how valuable a good daily playlist can be when you need to keep your mood up.

But as helpful as they are, there are some side effects most people don't know about. They range from mildly annoying to potentially dangerous. It all comes down to the kind of earbuds you have, how you care for them, the volume you set them to, and how often you use them.

Of course the big benefit to earbuds is that they send sound directly down your ear canal. Less outside noise interferes with your music or the narrator you're trying to pay attention to. But doctors have warned against this design for years, at least for people who like a lot of volume. As Whittier Hospital warns, high volumes delivered directly down the ear canal can rupture a person's ear drum. It's incredibly painful, yes, but it can also lead to permanent hearing loss.

Whittier hospital also warns that earbuds lead to ear wax build up, which is a good way to develop an ear infection. This risk only grows when earbud hygiene is factored in. Plenty of people will take the time to wrap their earbuds' cord so it doesn't tangle. But few people clean out buildup from their earphones. And even fewer disinfect them to remove bacteria picked up on surfaces, inside bags, and from the people they shared a song with.

Can earbuds cause Cancer?

Hearing loss is a serious issue, but one easily handled by turning down the volume when you've got your headphones in. And ear infections can be avoided with regular earbud maintenance. If you're unlucky enough to get one, they're also easily treated. But fans of cordless headphones might have heard that they're at risk for more dangerous side effects, including cancer. This is, thankfully, not true.

In 2015 a group of 247 scientists from 42 countries wrote a letter to the World Health Organization asking them to issue carcinogen warnings against 5G wireless as well as Bluetooth devices. This idea gained traction when a guest writer posted a warning to the blog for Scientific American. The post has since been removed and rewritten, as well as debunked by the American Council on Science and Health.

The concern is rooted in studies around people who were exposed to high levels of EMF radiation, according to the National Cancer Institute. Subjects included those who work in power transfer stations (with power lines) and military members who worked in close contact with high frequency radios. Given the regular use of cell phones and wireless earbuds, some scientists are concerned that the same risks now apply to everyday people.

The WHO, the CDC, and National Cancer Institute are not convinced, however. All three organizations have weighed the evidence and found no viable evidence that EMF exposure from our everyday devices can cause cancer. The NCI wrote a factsheet for those concerned. Cellphones and earbuds just don't give off enough radiation to cause cancer.

So enjoy your earbuds. Just keep the volume low, the cords untangled, and the buds clean!