The health risks of using earbuds too often

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DENVER — Like many students at Metropolitan State University of Denver, Haylie Kouri frequently wears earbuds. She had no idea it could be a problem until she realized she was having a hard time hearing.

“I was pretty much at 50 percent hearing and I couldn’t hear myself talk,” Kouri said.

She was scared and wondered if she was going deaf. So, she went to urgent care and was told she just had an excessive amount of wax buildup in her ears.

“Immediately after he cleaned it out, I heard like a pop, and I could hear everything again,” Kouri said.

She believes the problem was her use of Q-tips and her earbuds, which were pushing earwax down the ear canal and not letting it escape.

“We see that all the time,” said Cathy Rawls, an audiologist at Rocky Mountain Ear Center. “When you put something in there, like an earbud, and you wear it for a long period of time, you are not letting the earwax or other things in your ear fall out like they normally could. You are causing a buildup,” Rawls said.

That buildup, she said, can even lead to a painful infection.

But the biggest risk Rawls sees with earbuds is the potential for noise-induced hearing loss. She says keep the volume at less than 50 percent.

Rawls suggests giving your ears a break. Don’t use Q-tips and don’t sleep with your earbuds in your ears.

“A few hours every day is OK, but you just want to be careful,” she said.

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