Expert reveals why sharing AirPods is just as bad as sharing a toothbrush

Gross!

Two friends sitting on stairs listening music together with earphones and smartphone
(Image credit: Getty Images / Westend61)

If the idea of sharing a toothbrush with someone else is enough to make you shudder you’re going to want to listen up! As more of us are taking hygiene more seriously than ever, due to the pandemic, we’re trying to pick up habits that make us happy rather than give us the ick!

So if you’re one of those people who share music and earphones with your friends or partner, you may need to prepare yourself. Experts say it's basically just as gross as sharing a toothbrush.  

Sujana Chandrasekhar, MD, an otolaryngology partner at ENT and Allergy Associates told Well + Good that transferring ear wax and bacteria can cause ear infections—which can be really nasty.

close up portrait of young woman wearing wireless air phones at home

(Image credit: Getty Images / Carol Yepes)

Sujana told the publication that it’s okay to share earphones and AirPods, as long as you clean them with alcohol before and after. We can safely assume that nine times out of ten that does not happen.

Sujana explains that it’s really important to do this because it’s easy to spread an infection. She said: “If one of you has an ear canal infection… that infection can be spread from person to person.

“Also, if you’re rough or deep with the insertion of the pod, you can cause a superficial scratch of the ear canal skin, which predisposes it to infection.”

It does make you think that if sharing a toothbrush makes us feel so gross, why did we ever think sharing something that goes inside our ear was fine and perfectly hygienic?

Two women training in a sunny park listen to wireless headphones while they train. One girl is about to insert it into her ear.

(Image credit: Getty Images / Catherine Falls Commercial)

Sujana explained that the skin in the ear isn’t like the skin anywhere else because it's “found in a dark, warm place, and that is a fertile breeding ground for both bacteria and fungus".

“Swapping ear wax is just grody (gross) to think about in general, but the other person’s flaky ear wax has no business mingling with your soft, sticky ear wax, and vice versa. Also, if the wax is on the bud and you don’t clean it before putting it in your ear, you’re putting foreign wax deep into your own ear canal. That’s just yuck.” Yuck indeed.

So try your best to avoid sharing earphones, but if you have to make sure you clean them thoroughly, both before and after use.