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Railway companies in Japan are calling on customers to avoid dropping their wireless earphones onto rail tracks because of difficulty in retrieving the small audio devices.

There were about 950 cases of dropped earphones at 78 stations in the Tokyo area between July and September, making up one-quarter of all cases of dropped items, according to East Japan Railway Co., better known as JR East.

Wireless earphones often slip out when people get on and off a train or while waiting for a train on a platform.

According to JR East, officials usually use a grabber tool to collect objects falling onto rail tracks. But it is difficult for the tool to pick up a dropped earphone as the gadget often gets stuck among gravel.

Officials sometimes have to search after the last trains of the day. “It’s burdensome” to collect dropped earphones, a JR East official said.

West Japan Railway Co., Keio Corp., Tokyu Corp. and other railway operators in the country are also facing similar cases, calling on passengers to use wireless earphones more carefully.

JR East has started a project with Panasonic Corp. to develop a vacuum cleaner-type device that picks up dropped earphones.

Tests under way at JR East’s Ikebukuro Station show the device can collect earphones much faster than a grabber tool.

Despite the struggle, Masakatsu Iijima, a senior official at JR East’s Tokyo branch office, called on customers to ask railway staff to collect dropped items instead of picking up them by themselves.

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