Man wearing headphones wondering if they increase ear wax production

Do Headphones Increase Ear Wax Production?

It was revolutionary when headphones were first released. Consumers snapped them up like crazy because it made listening to music more personal.

Do you remember your first pair of headphones? You probably treasured them for those moments of solitude or listening to music way past your bedtime so your parents couldn’t hear what you were up to.

Headphones, like all forms of technology, have improved significantly as the years have gone on.

They have new features that we never dreamed they would, like being able to cancel out noise for a more pristine music-enjoying experience.

Headphones are a wise investment for anyone that wants to have a more immersive experience into entertainment, or for blocking out low-frequency noises during commutes or at the office.

But do headphones increase your ear wax production?

It depends on the headphones. Do you use over-ear headphones or earbuds? In and of themselves, they don’t, but they can make ear wax problems worse. To fully understand the relation between ear wax buildup and headphones, keep reading!

What Is Ear Wax Buildup?

Likely, you know that ear wax exists, but you might not know exactly what it is or how it got there. In your ear canal, cerumen, which is a waxy oil, is produced. This ear wax is designed to protect your ears from all sorts of things including foreign particles, dust, and even microorganisms. It also serves the purpose of safeguarding your delicate ear canal from irritation caused by water.

Normally, when things are functioning as they should the excess wax makes it way out of your ear canal and heads out the ear opening to be washed away when you bathe.

However, if your glands overproduce that ear wax, it can turn hard and block your ear. You need to be careful when you clean your ears, otherwise you can accidentally shove the wax in deeper and block things up.

Wax buildup can create temporary hearing loss. It’s important to visit your doctor if you have an overabundance of ear wax. It’s easy to treat and restores your hearing.

While ear wax seems a little gross, it does serve an important purpose for your ears. But when there’s too much, it causes problems for your hearing.

It’s important to practice good hygiene with your ears, not to mention with your headphones. You’ll find out more about how to do both if you keep reading.

Do Headphones Increase Ear Wax Production?

That’s the million-dollar question, isn’t it? The short answer is yes, they can contribute to wax buildup, depending on which ones you use and a few other factors.  

Ears are very delicate, which is why experts advise you to care for them accordingly. When you listen to music with headphones on for example, it’s important that you keep from turning the volume up too loud for too long.

If you have ear wax buildup though, you might not hear as well as you would if it were cleared out, leading you to turn up the volume higher than you should.

When you have wax buildup in your ears, those blockages can cause complications. They can also lead to infections, which are extremely uncomfortable.

You should take good care of your ears, especially if you use headphones regularly.

Listening to music with headphones can add to ear wax woes, but it’s not the only reason you might have more ear wax than usual.

Sometimes, your genetics play a role in how much ear wax your ears produce. Hygiene and lifestyle though are among the most common causes.

The type of headphones you use can also exacerbate ear wax problems. When you use headphones that go over your ears, these lessen the chances of wax buildup solely by using them alone.

You’d need to neglect your hygiene to really cause a problem with over-ear headphones. Earbuds though go into your ear canal, which can be a direct cause for your ear wax buildup.

When you have wax buildup, it can cause problems for the health of your ears and how they function.

If you have ear wax problems, you should handle them quickly so you can enjoy better hearing and health.

There are other things you should do in addition to keeping up with good ear hygiene so keep reading!

Why You Need to Clean Your Headphones

Have you ever cleaned your headphones? If so, when was the last time? If you can’t remember, it’s time to clean them right now. Look at the ear pads or the earbuds and you’ll see some rather unsavory things.

Grease, dust, ear wax, and gunk all get lodged into the little crevices on our headphones. It’s pretty disgusting when you think about it.

We bathe daily and put on clean clothes, yet after a run on the treadmill (and the shower that follows), we jam these things back into our ears.

As if that isn’t gross enough, we usually throw our headphones or earbuds into gym bags, handbags, shove them into pockets, junk drawers, and all kinds of other places.

They mix and mingle with whatever is in there and that’s just more gunk that gets into them. And then, we put them right back into our ears, ready to resume our groove.

If you have ever loaned your headphones to a friend or coworker or borrowed theirs, you may now feel suddenly sick thinking about the shared ear wax factor. Yuck!

By living life this precariously, it’s only a matter of time before you get an ear infection.

What’s that, you say? You’ve had an ear infection in recent times? Guess how that must have happened… we’ll wait. That’s right… your dirty headphones that you neglected to clean since you bought them.

You wouldn’t wear the same underwear every day without washing them, so it stands to reason that you should always clean your headphones to ensure your best ear health.

Plus, by properly cleaning and caring for them, they’ll last longer and you’ll avoid an unpleasant visit to the doctor’s office to treat your ear infection.

It’s a win-win! Keep reading and we’ll tell you how to clean your headphones the right way to protect your ears and your headphones!

How to Clean Headphone Ear Wax

As we discussed, headphones, especially the kind that are inserted into your ear canal, can get dirty. And this dirt melds together with your ear wax and environmental bits and pieces and gets into your ears which can cause ear wax buildup and infections.

This gunk also messes with the sound quality too, but there’s an easy fix for this.

Cleaning your headphones of ear wax isn’t hard to do. Even if you’ve never before even thought of cleaning them (no judgement!), you can still remove years of crud from your earbuds and headphones.

The key is in having a gentle touch, and following these crucial steps to cleaning them!

  1. First, take off any ear pads and wipe off the outer portion of your headphones using a small, damp cloth that you’ve dipped in warm, soap water. Handle with care as you do! Then, wipe each piece off with paper towels. Allow this to fully air dry before moving on to the next step.
  2. Once they’ve dried, take another small, soft cloth and splash either rubbing alcohol or hand sanitizer (either is fine) and then gently wipe each piece as you did in the first step.
  3. Now, take a cotton swab and soak the tip in rubbing alcohol or hand sanitizer to get into those little nooks and crannies of your ear pads.
  4. Next, focus on the foam mesh. You’ll dab just a little bit of rubbing alcohol or hand sanitizer on the surface of those, rubbing the right and left side together gently. By doing this, you kill any bacteria in the ear pads. Don’t scrub hard. All that’s needed is a soft, circular motion to remove any buildup.
  5. Let your ear pads air-dry completely atop paper towels. Once they’re dry, you can put them back on and you’re good to go!

Tips to Control Wax Build Up

We’ve talked about cleaning your headphones and earbuds to free them from ear wax and other grime. Now, let’s talk about your ears!

Ears can be tricky to clean simply because of how they’re set up. They’re very sensitive inside and it’s not wise to poke and prod them.

To keep your ears clean and help remove any ear wax buildup, you should always use a soft, clean cloth in the shower.

Don’t use your regular washcloth that’s been sitting in there since your shower yesterday, still wet and smelling funky.

Showers and bathrooms in general are humid places. And humidity can breed mold and mildew, which you most definitely don’t want in your ears.

By using a soft and gentle (and most importantly, clean!) cloth in the shower, it can help you naturally remove the ear wax that’s been migrating toward the opening of your ear.

When you get out of the shower, use another soft cloth, preferably made from cotton and most definitely clean and dry.

Gently use this cloth to help remove any additional wax that didn’t come off in the shower. It’s important not to rub too hard or stick the cloth deep into your ears.

There are many products on the market that can help you keep wax from building up in your ears. This ear wax remover works wonders, it’s super easy to use and even helps with impacted ears. Helping prevent problems with ear wax and ear infections.

Many people use cotton swabs to remove ear wax buildup. This might seem like a good idea, but they mostly wind up pushing the ear wax back into your ears if you’re not careful.

Plus, you can accidentally stick them in too far and cause damage. We don’t recommend this method as it can be harmful. You should definitely ask your doctor about using them first.

Any sharp or otherwise pointy objects should never be inserted into your ears either. These can be even worse than swabs!

Should you practice the best ear hygiene like we’ve detailed above and you still have problems from ear wax buildup, you should schedule that appointment with your doctor to find out what’s going on.

Your doctor can safely remove any major ear wax buildup and help you hear more clearly again. Ears are very delicate organs and it’s important to keep from harming them or you’ll damage your hearing.


Ear wax has a very devoted purpose in your ear canal. It’s there to protect from environmental aggressors like dust and microorganisms. Under perfect conditions, ear wax is very helpful for the health of your ears.

It naturally cleans itself out by making its way to the outside of your ear opening where you should, ideally, be gently washing it away in the shower.

Of course, life isn’t always perfect. In that case, you may be neglecting the health of your ears by not cleaning them properly or by not cleaning your headphones with regularity.

If you use your headphones daily, you should be keeping them clean daily. You should also store them properly so they’re less prone to picking up dirt and debris.

And if you ever loan them to someone, in the name of all that is holy, make sure you clean them before you use them again.

Keeping thing sanitary with your headphones will certainly ensure the health of your ears and keep your headphones in pristine condition for your best enjoyment.

It’s easy to forget about cleaning your ear and your headphones, but now that you know, hopefully you’ll make it a habit and keep your ears safe from damage or infection!


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