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1 Day in on the Earbud/Bacteria lab...

by Alegoo92 / April 29, 2007 10:45 PM PDT

Well so far I've just started my experiment on 'whether wearing headphones for an hour can increase bacteria in the ear by 700%' (see podcast from 4/26 I believe).

What I'll be doing is swabbing my ears, and placing the bacteria in nutrient agar-filled petri dishes... then wearing earbud headphones for 1 hour- listening to

1. No music
2. Classic Rock
3. Modern/Punk Rock
4. Classical Music
5. Techno/Electronica
5. Folk
6. (All on shuffle)

Each time I listen there will be 2 dishes (1 for before, 1 for after), and of course I'll clean my ears in between experiments.

I'm starting today-- and probably will have completed results by Wednesday.

Thanks for the idea, Tom!


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btw- if anybody has an idea to make the lab setup better..
by Alegoo92 / April 29, 2007 10:46 PM PDT

PLEASE! let me know. Happy


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Too Cool

I love it.

Thanks for taking on the task!

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I know what type of bacteria it'll be
by anthonyatsushi / April 30, 2007 12:39 PM PDT

I am a fourth year bacteriology student and I think that I know what type of bacteria you'll find. The bacteria in your ear will most likely be the same as the bacteria on your skin. There are two major types of bacteria that grow on your skin, Staphylococcus epidermidis and Staphylococcus aureus. The first is generally much more common.
Neither of these two types of bacteria will grow very well on nutrient agar (they are usually cultured on a type of agar called yeast extract chloramphenichol, or YGC, agar), but you may get some growth nonetheless.
Btw, I think the claim that there will be a 700% increase in bacteria in your ears after just an hour is probably incorrect. The time for one cell of either of these types to double is about 35 minutes to an hour and a half depending on the growth conditions. That means that you might have a hundred percent increase in that time but that is pretty unlikely. Skin flora tend to grow very closely together (they are generally harmless to you and actually keep other bacteria away by taking up all the space on the surface of your skin). The fact is that they simply wouldn't have the room to grow that much.

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This shouldnt effect the results?
by Alegoo92 / April 30, 2007 10:01 PM PDT

Even if the nutrient agar won't grow the bacteria as well, it shouldnt skew any results, should it? (Since all the specimins are in the same environment...)

Thanks for the heads up though, a good addition to my 'future improvements' slide. Grin


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it'll just be kinda slow
by anthonyatsushi / April 30, 2007 11:02 PM PDT

growing stuff on petri dishes is fun, anyway.. haha

you'll get growth but it should grow slowly. There will probably be small white colonies and, if you're part of the 40% of the population that carries S. aureus, some small yellow ones. (S. aureus is actually extremely pathogenic)

if you like bacteria and this kind of experiment, you should really think about a major in microbiology. its a lot of fun and you get to take tons of labs where this is the kind of thing you do.

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Thanks for the insight
by Alegoo92 / April 30, 2007 11:08 PM PDT

And yes, I have been interested in pursuing one of the multiple sciences I take intetrest in. Not sure If I can dedicate the time + effort... Sad


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No growth
by Alegoo92 / May 1, 2007 4:44 AM PDT

There was nothing to see in any of the petri dishes.... so I am going to try and speed them up by:

1. Not cleaning my ears and (keeping them covered during showers)
2. Obtaining YGC.


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before you throw them away...
by anthonyatsushi / May 1, 2007 9:39 AM PDT
In reply to: No growth

let them incubate a little longer...

btw, what temperature are you incubating them at? 37 degrees C is optimal for bacteria growing on you. that could be a problem.. they won't grow well at room temperature.

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I'm giving them 1 more day--
by Alegoo92 / May 1, 2007 11:28 AM PDT

And then I'll restart.

And since they grow on the body, I've had them incubating at ~98 degrees (F)

Thanks for the tip,


PS: I'll be away thursday-sunday-- so will only be able to try lab once more.

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37C is 98F
by anthonyatsushi / May 1, 2007 1:42 PM PDT

but thats the right idea..

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(NT) well ill be damned
by Alegoo92 / May 1, 2007 10:10 PM PDT
In reply to: 37C is 98F
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i was thinking about it this morning
by anthonyatsushi / May 2, 2007 11:01 AM PDT
In reply to: well ill be damned

you should really give them two to three days to grow colonies.. shows you how wrong that 700% increase was in the study though..

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All music? No podcasts?
by punterjoe / May 3, 2007 9:03 PM PDT

...if, as William Burroughs said, "Language is a Virus", podcasts should be ripe for rampant growth, no? Wink

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note to BOL:
by Alegoo92 / April 30, 2007 7:07 AM PDT

I had no idea how geeky I sound....I'll blame it on being tired Sad

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this is really geeky
by ellis feigenbaum / April 30, 2007 8:04 AM PDT
In reply to: note to BOL:

you need to do a further test after you finished this one- but this time a control test , using a new pair of ear buds each time- too check that the accumulation of bacteria is not from being in your ears to start with.

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I sterlized the earbuds w/ bleach before each test
by Alegoo92 / April 30, 2007 9:06 AM PDT
In reply to: this is really geeky

I finished trial 1 today, and now the bacteria are happily incubating in nutrient agar!

Like I said... geek. Sad


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by ellis feigenbaum / April 30, 2007 9:14 AM PDT

But please be careful not to get bleach in your ears, there are some lengths to which it really isnt worth going in the name of science.
"May the schwartz be with you."

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I kept that in mind
by Alegoo92 / April 30, 2007 9:25 AM PDT
In reply to: Enjoy

Wasnt sure if it'd do anything, but l just rubbed the earbuds with bleach-sprayed paper towels, waited, and dried them off. Nothing but control in this experiment!

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you need to rinse the bleach off with water after you clean
by merrybrown / April 30, 2007 11:50 AM PDT
In reply to: I kept that in mind

Seriously, don't put them in your ears right after.
You could get chemical burns.

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Ok thanks
by Alegoo92 / April 30, 2007 12:02 PM PDT

To clarify: I just lightly sprayed a paper towel wedge with bleach and rubbed the headphones with it-- I dont think the concentration was high enough to burn but I'll remember this is trial #2.

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1 Day in on the Earbud/Bacteria lab...
by wizkids32 / May 1, 2007 6:59 AM PDT

Thanks I don't know weather or not you get bacteria on your earbuds but I did get a ear sore on my ear but I think it was from allergies instead of earbuds at all.

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