Sharing earphones can lead to ear infection —Experts

earpiecesEXPERTS have cautioned against indiscriminate ways earpieces are used, kept on dirty surfaces and shared among individuals because it can predispose to ear infections.

In a new study, researchers said that plugging the ear with earpieces allows bugs to thrive and urged music lovers to think twice before sharing their earphones with others.

The study, which examined earpieces used by students of University of Nigeria, Enugu campus, found 75 per cent of them had fungal contamination, with Candida albicans as the most predominant organism.

The cross-sectional study conducted between May and December 2016 tested 120 earpieces that were randomly collected from students residing in two male hostels (60 pieces) and two female hostels (60 pieces) of the University of Nigeria, Enugu campus.

Tests of the earpieces also detected five other microorganisms; Aspergillus niger (34.4 per cent); Aspergillus fumigates (10 per cent); Aspergillus flavus and Cladosporium species (6.7 per cent) each; Geotrichum species (4.4 per cent); and Trichophyton mentagrophytes (2.2 per cent).

The findings of the study entitled “Fungal Contamination of Mobile phone Earpieces Used by Students of a Nigerian University, A Risk for Otomycosis” which was carried out by Onyebueke Ebere A; Ikwueze U.J and Aladenika S.T was presented at 6th Unibadan Conference of Biomedical Research.

It found earpieces from males had higher fungal contamination (51.1 per cent) compared with those from females (48.9 per cent).

They said the use of mobile phone earpieces, therefore, could serve as vehicles for fungal ear infections in earpieces users.

Plugging the ear makes it warmer and moist and raises the risk of cuts and grazes that bugs can use to work their way further into the body.

Germ transfer does increase with frequent and continuous use and the chance of it being transferred is high while people tend to share earphones while listening to music.

Globally, the use of mobile phone earpieces is on the increase especially among students of tertiary institutions. Ear infections are much more likely to occur amongst the headphone users who wear the devices for extended periods of time, and also amongst those who don’t take good care of their headphones.

There are two major types of ear infection that humans have – external ear infections and acute middle ear infections. Both can be painful and need medical attention.


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