Whether you’re trying to find one of them, worrying that your pet ate them, or actually wearing them, you probably aren’t thinking about cleaning your AirPods. For some of us, it’s only when we take them out and find a particularly gory glob of earwax stuck to them that it even occurs to us that, much like our sheets or shower curtains, our beloved wireless earbuds should probably have their own cleaning schedule. In addition to avoiding the jarring visual described above, it’s also in the interest of our health to do so.
“The ear canal is a dark, warm, moist, closed space and is prone to infection,” explains Erich P. Voight, MD, associate professor of otolaryngology—head and neck surgery—at NYU Langone Health. “Blocking it off with anything can cause the environment to get infected. If the object placed inside is ‘dirty’ then an infection is likely.” He adds that ear infections are usually indicated by pain, swelling, itchiness, and even hearing loss or fever. If you’re experiencing these symptoms, regardless of your AirPods’ cleanliness, get in touch with your healthcare provider.