Be Careful with In-Ear Headphones (eg Shure e4c, Etymotic ER-6)

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by ieani, Jul 22, 2008.

  1. ieani macrumors 6502a


    Jan 3, 2006
    the states for now
    They may cause you to better perceive Tinnitus , and decreased hearing.

    I had an on and off high-pitched ringing in my ear for a week and a half, which then crescendoed yesterday with my 5th straight day of ringing and forced a visit to the doctor. It turns out I had about a tic-tac box's worth of wax completely plugging the canal. They flushed my canal with some saline solution and the improvement was dramatic. A subjective measurement would say my hearing improved three-fold, and following the initial cleaning session (1 of 3) her voice sounded as if it had been turned up to 11.

    The cause? The doctor nor I could be completely sure, but she believed it to be the headphones(Shure e3c). It makes sense. Qtips are not to be used to clean ears because the head actually shoves the wax deeper into the canal. The little cushions on the headphones most likely caused a build-up via a similar mechanism. By shoving the phones into my ear, I also shoved a wax build-up (caused by the phones) deeper into my canal, which after time led to a complete blockage.

    Now this is of course not a problem with everybody, but if using them or considering buying them I would suggest you keep your ears cleaned. ;)
  2. chiefroastbeef macrumors 6502a

    May 26, 2008
    Dallas, Texas/ Hong Kong
    Thanks for the warning!

    I've been wearing IEMs for the last 6 years, haven't had problems yet(none that I know of atleast :p).

    I guess everyone reacts differently to IEMs, do you listen to them really loud? Do you clean your ears irregularly?
  3. zainjetha macrumors 6502a

    Aug 11, 2007
    I am about to buy a pair of Bose In-Ear today so will do a bit of research first before buying them to see if they cause the same problem as e3c.. Thanks for the advice..
  4. arkitect macrumors 603


    Sep 5, 2005
    Bath, United Kingdom
    That is why I prefer using a paper clip — or Apple's handy new little SIM removal tool. ;) :D:D

    Disclaimer for the humour impaired… This is a joke! FFS…
  5. zainjetha macrumors 6502a

    Aug 11, 2007

    Please be aware that children browse this forum too and we really dont want them sticking paperclips in their ears and damaging them at a young age..

    Just kidding :) :)
  6. phalewhale macrumors 6502a


    Jun 10, 2007
    I bought some EC2's a while back and have not used them since. I found that I could hear the thuds of my feet pounding on the pavement whenever I walked anywhere. Good quality cans like the Sennheiser eH2270's are far from discrete but I find they provide the best sound whilst cutting out external noises.

    Failing that, I think the iPod buds are comfy enough for general use.
  7. keysersoze macrumors 68000


    Jan 6, 2004
    My biggest annoyance with in-ear headphones is that when the wire brushes against something, like my shirt, i get some feedback in the headphones. I've only used Sony's, so maybe its specific to those, but it's very distracting.
  8. phalewhale macrumors 6502a


    Jun 10, 2007
    I recall that too, along with breathing...
  9. dmac1050 macrumors newbie

    Jun 2, 2008
    Hopefully I can shed some light on this issue.

    We have wax in our ears as a natural line of defense from foreign substances entering our ear canals. It has a natural tendency to move from inside the ear to the outer ear. This is why we recommend not sticking Q-tips in your ear. You are going against what your body is trying to do naturally. By pushing the wax further down in your ear canal, it is unable to work itself out naturally. This, of course, is different for every person dependent on the amount of wax that they produce as well as what they put in their ears.

    This wax build up is not an effect of using earphones but rather of putting something in your ear canal. Another example would be someone who uses earplugs on a daily basis.

    Also, tinnitus, is not caused by the build up of wax. What is created is an increase in a person's perception of the tinnitus. I am not going to go into what the specific causes of tinnitus are as there are many. Please feel free to ask any specific questions that you may have though.

    What I am trying to get at here is that if you choose to use in-ear phones, there is a chance that you might experience a blockage at some point.

    PLEASE do not stick anything in your ear to attempt cleaning it out. I have seen to many people damage their ears and hearing with q-tips, keys, bobby pins etc. Consult with your physician, and more specifically an otolaryngologist (ENT), regarding the proper way to clean your ears.

    Sorry for the long post.
  10. ieani thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Jan 3, 2006
    the states for now
    Thanks for the long post though. I do remember reading a study where they placed non-tinnitus sufferers in a silent room and had them describe any symptoms they perceived and I think all of them reported a ringing. Its a result of living in an industrial society.So I perhaps should have been more specific then and said that the ringing will be as you stated more easily perceived.

    Im pretty sure im someone who has a lot of wax production since I used these phones only off and on for a 1.5 years and I never stick anything else in my ear. I didnt clean them either, but if I hadnt cleaned them in 21+ years, I never though Id need to start.

    Well its like dmac1050 said, its not the specific pair of headphones, but the fact that you are sticking something in your ear and it could push the wax against its natural flow.
  11. w0ngbr4d macrumors regular

    Jan 10, 2006
    Findlay, OH
    I've been told by 2 different docs to let some hydrogen peroxide bubble in each ear for 5 min for 5 days in a row each month. That should keep your ears clean.
  12. dannewell15 macrumors regular

    Mar 17, 2007
    I have a pair of Skullcandy Lowriders. Will they cause similar problems?
  13. Sesshi macrumors G3


    Jun 3, 2006
    One Nation Under Gordon
    As an aside, it's more likely that regular listeners, especially those who haven't used balanced-armature IEM's before, to get Tinnitus as a result of high volume levels with many single-driver, balanced-armature IEM's - and especially with Etymotics.

    It comes down to the nature of the response of these phones, which are bass-deficient, upper-midrange boosted to create the impression of a "flat" sound. The relative lack of dynamics of these phones can induce many to turn up the volume to give the music more 'kick'. A single balanced-armature driver isn't quite capable of reproducing the full musical range properly so manufacturers concentrate on the midrange, where the crisp-seeming response of b-a drivers creates the most user impact.

    If you're aware of that, I'm sure you can control your volume to a certain extent. But the slightly unfamiliar sound signature of single-driver IEM's can cause many to crank it up to compensate for the driver deficiencies.

    A more balanced IEM, such as the multi-driver balanced-armature IEM's at the higher end (Shure SE530, etc), will present a more natural sound and you'll find that you can experience the dynamic response you expect in music at lower levels.
  14. SFgadgetman macrumors member

    Mar 19, 2008
    Bay Area, CA
    Shure Scl4

    I've had the E4C and now the SCL4 and I've had no buildups. In fact my ears seem more clean because of them. I use the very soft yellow foam inserts instead of the silicone or plastic ones that are on them when you get them.

    The foam ear pieces seem to clean my ears as the earwax gets stuck to the foam. I do have to order new foam pieces a couple times a year but they fit my ear canals SO MUCH BETTER!

    SHURE ear buds ROCK!:)
  15. SchneiderMan macrumors G3


    May 25, 2008
    i have them and they just rest on your ear, they do not go inside like the v-moda
    you dont even feel them

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