Earphones are supposed to make our lives more pleasant, helping us to exercise, walk or work in peace. In theory they are the perfect go-anywhere modern invention, versatile, comfortable and compact enough to fit in your handbag. Or, indeed, manbag.

In practice, mine, at least, cause all manner of grief. They get more tangled than Christmas lights, or unruly shoelaces, and if I leave them lying around the house they get walked on and fall apart, or the cat thinks they're a chew toy. This electronic spaghetti may be flexible but it's hardly robust. I've also learnt the hard way that they don't survive the spin cycle on the washing machine.

If I can't look after mine, what chance have my children? If they don't lose them they simply wear them out, and try as I might I can't convince them that the wires are not hair ties, or devices for strangling siblings, or for flicking at a classmate in the seat in front of them on the school bus.

It could be worse. A friend received a note from a teacher last week asking her to speak to her 11-year-old son, who had managed to convince a cohort that if he put earphones up his nostrils, opened his mouth and pressed play, Beyonce would bellow forth.

If nothing else, the experiment offers further proof that earphones are destined to do your head in.

Thankfully, the phones slid out of the boy's olfactory orifices without the need for medical intervention. I wouldn't want to be sticking them in my ears afterwards, though.