ABC30 ORIGINAL: How your earphones could give you infections

Your favorite workout accessory could be putting your health at risk.

Earphones collect sweat, dirt and bacteria that can be transferred to your ears and create the perfect storm for dangerous infections.

Doctors say that's what they are seeing a lot of adults coming in with.

Andriana Cellini, a physician assistant, has seen an increase in adults coming in with symptoms of outer ear infections. One thing many of those patients have in common - they use headphones that go inside their ear.

"They tend to lock in moisture in the ear canal. They can also cause a little scrape on the actual inner lining of that ear canal. That scraping and that moisture pretty much serves as a home for all bacteria to grow," said Cellini.

So what types of bacteria can be transferred to earbuds?

Microbiologist Dr. Michael Taveirne swabbed and tested them.

"Finding bacteria on earbuds or your skin is perfectly normal," he says.

He says bacteria that live on humans are vital to our health and most are not harmful, but some can cause infections if there is a break in the skin.

Testing showed different types of bacteria on all of the headphones tested.

"That does not guarantee using them would equal an infection, but under the right circumstances there could be an increased risk," he says. "They are common to human skin so if we find those that doesn't automatically say that you're gonna get an ear infection, it just means that they're present and maybe if you get an abrasion or a cut it could potentially lead to an infection."

If you do get an ear infection, Cellini says most can be treated easily but some can lead to serious issues.

"Hearing loss is becoming also common as an actual symptom as well. The majority of the time you will start to see some pus coming out of the ear and that's never good, so the best advice to reduce your risk of infection - keep your ear buds clean, especially if you ever share them."
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