How Dirty Are Your Earbuds? We Took 15 Swabs and Sent Them to a Lab for Testing

We examined earbuds and spoke to an ENT specialist about why it’s important to keep them clean.

Everyone knows it’s important to regulate the volume on your earbuds. But have you ever thought about how important it is to keep them clean? Inside Edition did some investigating to find out just how dirty they can get.

We took 15 swabs from earbuds and sent them off to Micrim Labs, Inc. for analysis.

One of the earbuds belonged to Kathy Morgenstern. She says she wears them all the time, especially when she’s out walking her dog on Manhattan's Upper West Side. The analysis found that staph aureus, a potentially harmful bacteria, was present on her earbuds.

“I’m really disgusted right now. That’s just gross. We all use earbuds,” Morgenstern said.

Experts say staph aureus can cause skin infections and even pneumonia.

“It’s a little scary to know you could get sick from your earbuds,” Morgenstern said.

Rebecca Carlson from Brooklyn says she's almost never without her earbuds. Staph aureus was also found on hers.

“Oh god, really, in my ears?” Carlson said.

And the earbuds belonging to Lindsey Danielle, the wife of an Inside Edition producer, were the dirtiest of them all. The bacteria count was almost a million, the lab results showed.

“That’s pretty disgusting, and I’m pretty embarrassed,” Lindsey said.

Inside Edition spoke to ear, nose and throat specialist Dr. Darius Kohan about why it’s so critical to maintain clean earbuds. Kohan is the director of otology/neurotology at Lenox Hill Hospital/Manhattan Eye, Ear, and Throat Hospital.

“They have to be cleaned, because if they’re not, you carry germs on them. You push them in the ear. You’re shoving them in. You’re packing the ear with wax. The germs on them — you're going to start infections,” Kohan said.

He recommends cleaning them off regularly with disinfectant wipes. He also says it’s important to switch between using earbuds and headphones whenever possible.

Apple advises using a damp lint free cloth to wipe down earbuds. You can also go one step further and use an alcohol wipe, but be sure not to get moisture inside the mesh that covers the speaker.