According to a recent health column in The Australian, iPod earbuds in and of themselves will not cause ear infections. Prolonged use, however, may irritate the ear canal making it more prone to infection. Ear buds can also pick up material from an outer ear infection and transfer it into the inner ear. The risk is pretty slight says column writer Dr. Linda Clabresi. Of more concern to her is the risk to long-term hearing caused by constant exposure to loud music. "Constant loud music will cause a premature deterioration in a person's hearing. A good rule of thumb is if people around you can easily hear what you're listening to via earphones, it's too loud."