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Question
Posted by: blindman | 2010/03/11

earphones and diabetes-related ear infections.

My elderly mother who has been a diabetic for a number of years, has lost her sight. Unfortunately, one of the diabetes-related complications she has also developed, has been an inordinate number of ear problems. The results of the ear problems are that she has all but gone deaf in the one ear and has apparently developed a chronic ear infection in the other.

She is very fond of listening to audio books on tape but has to use one of those earphones you insert into the ear in order to be able to listen. She cannot use headphones as she says, because they aggravate the ears.

This afternoon she phoned me up very alarmed. She had evidently heard a program on the TV which was to the effect that using the kind of earphone she uses, will aggravate the chronic ear infection. In my considered oppinion, I think that the kind of coverage given to these kinds of things on television are, with due respect, a bit tabloidish, i.e. uninformed/ill-informed and sensational. Nevertheless, I thought to address these concerns in an informed manner, rather than to try and debate my views on the subject.

I am a diabetic myself, and I have been looking after my condition. I believe from a talk I heard at a meeting of the Diabetes association last month, though, that if diabetes is not looked after, one of the nasty side effects is that one can develop nasty and ultimately even incurable ear infections. I except this to be the truth since the person addressing the meeting in question, is an audiologist.

Although I am infection prone even though I diligently look after myself, I have been using stereo earphones which operate the same way as my mother''s earphone, but have had no ill effects resulting from these, although I have made copeous use of earphones over a period of time.

I need to use earphones as I play tranquil music for myself through the night as a permanent part of an ongoing and therapeutic post depression treatment, which treatment works very well for me. I use earphones because I often find myself in places where other people might not appreciate my music through the night.

In my mum''s case, she can only really follow reading audio books properly, if she uses the kind of earphone she uses at present.

The questions I would therefore like to ask, are the following:

1. Does the use of earphones generally, heighten the risk of ear infection?

2. Is this risk heightened in the case of a chronic condition such as diabetes?

3. Given the fact that the answers to the first two questions are in the affirmative, and given the fact that I am infection prone, why is it that I would have managed to avoid the scourge of ear infections?

4. What steps, if any, could one take to reduce or ideally eliminate the risk of ear infections stemming from the use of earphones?

Thanking you once again for a tremendous service.

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Our expert says:
Expert ImageCyberDoc

Dear Blindman
Using earphones won't necessarily lead to ear infections unless you use someone else's i.e. pick up germs from someone else. I think if you clean the earphones with a alcohol swab or cotton wool dipped in surgical spirits after using it, this would get rid of any possible germs that could cause infection. If you already have a chronic middle ear infection, with drainage, obviously plugging the ear with an earphone may aggravate the condition. If you are prone to otitis externa ( infection of the ear canal due to fungi or bacteria), just treating the condition properly and cleaning your earphones regularly should prevent worsening of the condition
Dr Bets

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

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Our users say:
Posted by: cyberdoc | 2010/03/15

Dear Blindman
Using earphones won't necessarily lead to ear infections unless you use someone else's i.e. pick up germs from someone else. I think if you clean the earphones with a alcohol swab or cotton wool dipped in surgical spirits after using it, this would get rid of any possible germs that could cause infection. If you already have a chronic middle ear infection, with drainage, obviously plugging the ear with an earphone may aggravate the condition. If you are prone to otitis externa ( infection of the ear canal due to fungi or bacteria), just treating the condition properly and cleaning your earphones regularly should prevent worsening of the condition
Dr Bets

Reply to cyberdoc
Posted by: Blindman | 2010/03/12

Hi John.

Personally, I don''t have problems with earphones either. I sleep with mine on and it is no big sweat for me.

My mum has unfortunately listened to this tabloid nonsense which we get on our TV and according to which, everything is bad for everyone. What our TV puts on here, is generally devoid of any basis and I have written to this forum with the view to assuaging her fears regarding the matter.

Reply to Blindman
Posted by: John | 2010/03/12

I am also diabetes and use earphone alot. Saterdagnights I listern to the radio (music) till 12h00, small ones from my cellphone, and big ones from the computer with no problems.
Are you sure the infections came from the earphones and not someting else?

Reply to John

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