My allergic reaction to Apple’s earphones goes back years. As far as I can remember, even the wired EarPods caused some sort of irritation inside my ears. I dealt with it for years, and I’m still dealing with it to this day with my AirPods Pro.
Symptoms of AirPods allergy
This coming paragraph will likely sound like it’s straight out of WedMD, but bear with me and check whether you’ve experienced any of these symptoms:
- Swelling inside of your ear
- Itchy ears or ear canal
- Red and sensitive ears
- Oozing and ear drainage
- Discharge of clear liquid leaking out
- Scabby, crusty, and flaky ears
- Clogged ears or ears feeling full
- Ear infection
I know, gross!
I’ve personally experienced all of these symptoms, and I still experience them from time to time. However, I have found ways to mitigate these issues.
How to prevent an allergy to AirPods
This is my collection of tips to prevent or mitigate an allergic reaction to AirPods or AirPods Pro. Note that this should not be taken as medical advice. I am merely sharing everything I have tried in the past and what has worked for me.
Know what AirPods are made of
According to Apple, AirPods, EarPods, and Beats earphones may contain nickel, acrylates, methacrylates, plastic, silicone, stainless steel, and thermoplastic elastomer. If you know for a fact that you are allergic to any of these materials, then maybe AirPods aren’t the right earbuds for you. If that’s the case, don’t lose all hope quite yet, and check out these upcoming tips.
Make sure your AirPods fit properly
Are your AirPods too small or too big for you? If they don’t fit to begin with, then this might cause some irritation or inflammation of the ear, potentially leading to more painful symptoms.
If you have AirPods Pros, you should conduct a fit test to find out what the correct ear tip size is for you.
Clean your AirPods
Isn’t it obvious that you should periodically clean your AirPods? But are you actually doing it on a regular basis?
Grime, dirt, lint, sweat, earwax, and god knows what has been in contact with your AirPods, which in turn are in contact with your ears. The least you can do is give them a good cleaning. We have a pretty good article on how to clean the ear tips and case of your AirPods and AirPods Pro that I suggest you check out.
Personally, I use small isopropyl alcohol pads to clean the AirPods and the charging case at least once a week, especially if I know I’ve been sweating a lot or was exposed to harsh elements (dusty wind, for instance). That alone has significantly eased my allergy to AirPods.
If you work out and sweat a lot with your AirPods, I’d probably suggest cleaning them every single day.
Clean your ears
Don’t take this in a bad way, but are your ears clean?
A few years ago, I had the terrible habit of going surfing, then going for a walk with my AirPods directly after. My ears were clean, but not really… They were still full of salt and sandy water. This is when I reached peak AirPods allergy. Once it became obvious to me this was a bad idea, I stopped doing that and made sure my ears were always clean before putting AirPods in.
I’m not suggesting cleaning your ears every time you’re going to wear AirPods. All I’m saying is that you should maybe review your habits and see if there is room for change.
Additionally, avoid lotion, cologne, sunscreen, and whatnot in your ears.
Don’t insert anything into your ears
The itchiness and irritation are sometimes so unbearable that you just want to scratch the inside of your ears with an icepick. Well, don’t!
My favorite instrument of choice was a wooden toothpick that I would sometimes use to scratch my ear canal until I bled. It took me a while to learn to resist that temptation, but I’m glad I did.
In short, you should never put anything in your ears other than a Q-tip from time to time. Ears are extremely sensitive, and just scratching them with your nails could tear the skin, which in turn would make it more prone to infection.
Try foam tips instead of silicone
Now that AirPods Pro I’ve been out for a while, we have quite a few third-party options available for tips. One such option is replacement foam tips. I personally have not tried these, but I’ve heard good things about them. Our review editor Jim Gresham likes his Comply AirPods Pro memory foam tips a lot.
Alleviate the allergic reaction with cortisone
Again, I want to remind you that this is no medical advice but just a collection of tips that have worked for me.
The best thing that has worked for me on top of some of the tips described above is applying just a little bit of cortisone cream in my ears when it’s flaring up. Cortisone is available over the counter in the US, and the one I use contains 1% of hydrocortisone. I use it as needed 2-3 times a month. I put a tiny bit of cream on a Q-tip and rub it inside my ear. The relief is usually pretty quick and lasting, as long as used with the other tips mentioned above.
Cortisone is usually my last resort, and I really try not to make it a habit because I don’t like the idea of having cortisone in my ears. If you’re considering giving it a try, please talk to your doctor about it first.
The last thing you want to do
I think I would be silly not to mention the most obvious thing you can do to prevent an AirPods allergy. Simply don’t wear AirPods and try to find a replacement.
This is not really a solution for me. I love my AirPods and don’t really want to use anything else, especially if I can make a few changes in my life to accommodate them. If you’re allergic to AirPods and have found ways to relieve the symptoms, we’d love to hear from you. Feel free to share your tips in the comments section.
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