Original Research

Sports audiology: Ear hygiene practices of gym users who wear earphones

Aimee Flowers, Dhanashree Pillay
South African Journal of Communication Disorders | Vol 68, No 1 | a794 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajcd.v68i1.794 | © 2021 Aimee Flowers, Dhanashree Pillay | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 04 September 2020 | Published: 28 July 2021

About the author(s)

Aimee Flowers, Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
Dhanashree Pillay, Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa


Background: Technological advancements have facilitated the demand for electronic systems to track and measure progress during exercise activities. Electronic devices with music applications, such as iPods and smartphones, are popular during gym sessions as they support the ambiance to one’s exercise programme. Earphones are the popular choice for the transmission of music to the gym user’s ear. There is a direct correlation between the cardiovascular health and the aural health because of the effect of increased blood supply to the auditory system. Therefore, this research study explores the ear hygiene of gym users.

Objectives: This study aimed at determining the ear hygiene and middle-ear status of gym users who wore earphones whilst exercising.

Method: A purposive sampling method was adopted. Data were collected in two phases: phase 1 via a questionnaire and phase 2 included an otoscopic examination and tympanometry. Qualitative and quantitative data were analysed.

Results: Fifty-four participants were included. Ear hygiene was not a priority for all gym users. The results revealed that 87% of the participants randomly cleaned their ears; however, 59% were cleaning their earphones. The middle ear assessment indicated that 17% of the participants presented with pathological indicators. Participants requested for the implementation of educational programmes pertaining to infection control measures for proper ear hygiene.

Conclusion: There is a dearth of health and wellness educational programmes that include ear hygiene practices, necessitating the development of prevention and promotion programmes for this niche area in audiology. The need for guidelines pertaining to ear hygiene practices amongst gym users is vital to ensure that the auditory system is monitored and protected when individuals participate in exercise sessions.


exercise; ear hygiene; noise induced hearing loss; gym; earphones


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