Wireless earbuds have become such commonplace in society that you can get a great pair of cheap wireless earbuds that come with some helpful features without spending much money. However, the best wireless earbuds that offer excellent sound quality, impressive ANC, and amazing battery life will cost quite a bit more. One of the options leading that category is the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro.
But what happens when the excitement of finally picking up a set of these high-end wireless earbuds comes crashing down because they cause you to get an ear infection? This is exactly what happened to a lot of buyers, myself included.
I anxiously awaited picking up a pair of the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro to replace my aging Galaxy Buds that I had been using regularly for the last two years. The original Galaxy Buds were the first pair of earbuds that I could rely on for good sound and reliable connectivity. But features like ANC and tunable audio were missing entirely, and the Ambient Mode was a bit lackluster.
So, with the release of the Galaxy Buds Pro, I was ready to upgrade to improved wireless earbuds from a brand I knew and trusted. After I excitedly unboxed my new Pro set in March 2021, I immediately cleaned them with an alcohol wipe, just as I have with every other thing that goes into my ear. Properly cleaning your headphones and earbuds out of the box or after use can help prevent residual germs and other foreign matter from manufacturing from getting in your ear.
The Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro hype was real, and I was ready to retire my original Galaxy Buds to experience the new hotness.
After the initial cleaning, I popped them into my ear and paired the Galaxy Buds Pro with my Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2. I tweaked a few settings and listened to a few of my favorite songs before placing the earbuds back into the charging case so I could get back to work. The initial audio test lasted about 15 - 20 minutes, and I came away impressed with the audio quality and the comfort of the earbuds — it all went downhill after that.
That same evening my ears were a little itchy, but I didn't think anything of it. Full disclaimer, I had never had any ear infection issues before, so I didn't know what symptoms to be aware of. I woke up the following day with wet ears and some crust on them — both gross and uncomfortable. I wasn't in any real pain, but I wasn't a fan of how my ears felt. I abstained from putting anything in my ears and took care of them to get the mess cleared up ASAP. After about a week, the drainage was gone — as were the crusty bits — and so was any inflammation.
It took nearly a full week of treating my ears and keeping earbuds away from them to clear up the initial infection.
With my ears cleared up, when the next opportunity came up to use my new Phantom Purple Galaxy Buds Pro, I took it and happily enjoyed some music and a video call. However, I had installed replacement foam tips this time to see if the factory ear tips were the root of the problem. It wasn't.
I used the earbuds for about an hour before giving them a rest and continuing with my day; a few hours later, I started to get the familiar itchy feeling in my ears. This time, I became more suspicious of my new earbuds.
When I mentioned the concern and recurring situation to my wife, she, like myself, thought something else must be at fault. I had used a lot of different earbuds from a variety of companies, as well as earplugs for various noisy home projects, all without issues. The earbuds being the culprit didn't seem likely, so we thought something else was going on.
After another week of giving my ears a rest and some self-care to get them cleared up, everything was back to normal. Cautiously, I used only the left earbud from my Galaxy Buds Pro for a 45-minute video call. Unfortunately, the irritation struck again, but only in the ear that I had the earbud in.
Apparently, after this attempt of using the earbud in only my left ear, the irritation quickly reached the point where I had a full-blown ear infection. By 9 a.m. the morning after the last usage, about 12 hours from the time I stopped using the left earbud, I was in a lot of pain, and my ear had swollen to the point that the doctor I visited was unable to get a tool inside to try and assess the extent of the problem.
After my third attempt at using the Galaxy Buds Pro, my left ear had enough, and I got a severe ear infection.
The doctor gave me a prescription for ear drops and an oral antibiotic. Unfortunately, I would have to suffer through some of the worst pain I had felt in my life before the medications would be able to begin taming the infection. My temperature jumped to over 102°, even with the doctor recommending 800mg of ibuprofen and 1000mg of acetaminophen to help manage the pain.
It took nearly three days for the swelling to subside so that the doctors could look and determine if my eardrum had ruptured. Thankfully, it did not, and it took just as long for swelling to go down enough that I could chew solid foods. This was the last straw, and I began digging to see if I was alone with these infectious issues.
I found multiple instances of others experiencing similar problems with their own Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro earbuds. A Reddit thread by user satcom805 described nearly the same experience I had. The user noted that they had owned and used the Galaxy Buds Live and Galaxy Buds+ without issue, but after only the first use of the Galaxy Buds Pro, they began to experience irritation in their ears.
Changed materials in Samsung's latest earbuds appear to be causing these issues.
While the user satcom805 didn't mention the need for medical interaction to help with the irritation caused by the earbuds, Reddit user Graphic_Delusions did. However, in both threads, other users describe various levels of discomfort that their Galaxy Buds Pro had caused. These are only two Reddit threads outlining experiences with these earbuds, but they aren't the only installments out there.
I reached out to analysts in an attempt to find out what may be the root cause of the irritant in the Galaxy Buds Pro, but they were unable to find an official answer. Media outlet Olhar Digital noted that nickel — which is known to cause skin irritation to some people — is found in the Pro's charging contacts. It also mentioned the use of acrylate instead of the acrylic used in the previous Galaxy Buds products.
To clarify the true cause of these issues, I initially reached out to Samsung Care on September 8. After multiple emails, on September 28, the spokesperson indicated they were "unsure of when there will be information released on the issues with the earbuds," but that information may be provided on the website at a later time "due to it being a common issue." They also said I should "continue to monitor the Samsung website for any news relating to the findings." However, Samsung mentions that prolonged use of the earbuds can cause some discomfort. It calls out in the user guide for the Galaxy Buds Pro and Galaxy Buds 2, which I used and had the same irritation problems, that if you experience discomfort, you should remove the earbuds and stop using them.
After months of ongoing ear problems that came from my use of the Galaxy Buds Pro and the Galaxy Buds 2 that I got with Galaxy Z Fold 3, I finally got in contact with Samsung after I found a few different threads in the Samsung Community with direct responses from Samsung Moderators.
The moderator replied quickly, telling me that my case would be sent to a particular group within Samsung to evaluate my extensive problems. After a couple of days, one of the specialists contacted me and asked me to send proof of the events. They wanted doctor's notes, product model numbers, receipts for the purchases, and any images I had to show the extent of the irritation. Luckily, I had recorded much of the ordeal.
With the medical records to prove my case and the device ID for both sets of earbuds, I convinced Samsung to issue me a refund for the products.
After about a week of back and forth with Samsung, I was notified that I would be getting a refund for the products. Some reports online mention that some afflicted users of the Galaxy Buds Pro and Buds 2 were also receiving a refund for medical costs due to the irritation. While I didn't get that, I am happy that Samsung did take steps to resolve my issues.
Unfortunately, this doesn't consider the bigger issue: Samsung isn't outright admitting to the public that there's a good chance that future Galaxy Buds buyers could experience the same problems. This is one of the primary drivers behind a class-action lawsuit against Samsung in regards to the Galaxy Buds Pro earbuds.
Since using the Galaxy Buds Pro and Buds 2, I have periodically had flare-ups that require me to use prescription eardrops. Typically the irritation is gone after a day or two, and I'm fine. I've gone back to using my original Galaxy Buds along with other earbuds like the Pixel Buds A, ColorBuds 2, and the new Skullcandy offerings, all without issue.
If you have had similar issues with your Galaxy Buds Pro or Buds 2, be sure to reach out to Samsung for assistance. As I said, there are Samsung Community threads that not only have other users expressing their own run-ins with the earbuds, but also directly links to the admins for quick assistance. I hope that this editorial finds you with comfortable ears listening to great audio from your earbuds, but if not — you aren't alone.
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