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Very few people ever ask “are wireless headphones safe?”

But I’m thankful you have…you wouldn’t be here today if you didn’t have at least some doubts as to their safety. 

I hope to turn your doubts into confidence today and help you finally find a safe way to enjoy your music. 

Let’s get started.

What Are Wireless Headphones & How Do They Work?

Technology is constantly evolving, which means more products and devices are going wireless, including headphones. 

Interest in wireless headphones peaked even further with the recent release of AirPods by Apple. 

Though the aesthetics are cool, the “freedom” is convenient, I’m concerned there aren’t more people questioning their safety. 

The reason I say that is because of how wireless headphones function:

Wireless headphones operate through Bluetooth technology. 

This means that instead of connecting through cables or wires, the headphones transmit audio signals via radio signals.

If you were to open up a pair of wireless headphones, you’d find a small computer chip containing software that allows 2 devices to connect and pair.

When successfully paired with a device (usually a phone), Bluetooth technology allows for data to be exchanged over short distances. 

That’s why you can only be a certain distance away from the paired device – based on how far the radio waves can travel.

I certainly understand their draw – without wires getting in the way, you can move around freely when working out or doing chores. 

They also supposedly provide higher sound quality than traditional wired earphones – a feature especially attractive to gamers.

But I think we have to ask ourselves – is it worth it?

If you don’t already know, wireless headphones emit a form of non-ionizing radiation.

Let’s look at that a bit further…

How Wireless Headphones Emit Radiation

There’s absolutely no debate whether or not wireless headphones emit radiation. If you read your product manual, you’ll find an FCC disclaimer and probably whatever frequencies they operate within. 

What’s debated is whether or not that radiation is harmful to the body. 

Many researches point to the conclusion that Bluetooth products do emit electromagnetic fields (EMF) whose radiation can potentially cause health issues. 

That’s because Bluetooth technology emits non-ionizing EMFs in the radiofrequency range.

That frequency range is the same as cell phones.

However, the radiation (or amount of energy emitted) is less than cell phones because the paired devices are communicating just feet away from each other as opposed to a cell tower that’s miles away. 

But the frequencies are the same, and it’s the frequencies themselves that are being studied more and more as being detrimental to the human body. 

One reason I’m particularly concerned about headphones is because they literally sit in or on the ears.

That means any radiation that’s emitted has a direct path to your brain tissue. 

Not only that, but most of the time when people wear earphones they do so for hours at a time. So the exposure isn’t just super close, it’s continuous over a long period of time. 

Are Wireless Headphones Dangerous? A Look at the Research

Let’s examine those two risk factors further – placement (in the ear) and duration (worn several hours straight).

I mentioned how wireless earbuds allow EMF radiation to reach your brain straight from the ear canal. 

This is extremely important because the ear canal isn’t just any part of your head – it’s the portion where there’s no skull to shield your brain.

And so, despite emitting a lower level of radiation than cell phones, the brain stands to absorb higher amounts due to the earbud’s placement. 

More than that, using wireless headphones adds to the total cumulative EMF exposure you get from cellular devices and other types of technology. 

Take note that when you connect your Bluetooth earphones to a device, that device then emits more radiation than normal in order to function. 

In the end, wireless earphones become one more source of harmful radiation due to prolonged wearing and the cumulative EMF it produces with other devices.

What happens then if we continuously use wireless headphones that emit EMF?

Here are a few of the potential risks:

Research conducted in 2018 found that radiofrequency radiation emitted by 2G and 3G cellphones cause a type of cancer in rats.

- National Toxicology Program

In 2011, studies linked radiation from wireless devices to increased risk of developing glioma and brain cancer.

- International Agency for Research on Cancer

A study from Brazil found that radiation can also cause tinnitus, which is just the medical term for ringing in the ears.

- Brazilian Journal of Otorhinolaryngology

This other piece of research states that the radiation emitted by cellphones and Bluetooth devices can cause:

  • Cellular disruption
  • DNA damage
  • Neurological damage
  • Thinning of the blood-brain barrier
  • Leaking of ion channels
- Andrew Goldsworthy

March 2012

Research also shows that EMF radiation can cause several neuropsychiatric effects such as headaches and depression.

- Journal of Chemical Neuroanatomy

Volume 75, Part B, September 2016, Pages 43-51

To be fair, there are still other scientists who don’t see a cause for alarm. 

For instance, the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) believes that there isn’t sufficient evidence to prove how dangerous EMF is to the body. 

Notice that they do admit there is some evidence. But in their opinion, it’s not “sufficient.”

The guidelines they posted fail to look at the low-intensity and long-term effects of EMF exposure from radiation-emitting devices.

Apart from that, others articles (that you can easily find through a search engine) deny the dangers of wireless devices because they’re written by companies that sell those products. 

Of course, people trying to make money from these devices wouldn’t publish information that would threaten their sales. 

Even worse, some studies on the subject are funded by people in the Telecommunications industry – big names like Motorola.

Do you think they would publish info that makes users doubt their product’s safety?

So unfortunately you have to be very leery of where you get your information.

Wireless vs Bluetooth Headphones: Is There A Difference?

When discussing wireless and Bluetooth devices, it might get confusing what those terms mean. 

But when searching for the right type of headphones, “wireless” and “Bluetooth” are generally synonymous with each other. On a technical level, they only differ in the technology that they use. 

I have an article that discusses this more in-depth here: Bluetooth vs Wired Headphones.

You can also check out this video for more information:

Why There’s No Such Thing As EMF-Free Wireless Headphones

Since the dangers of EMF are becoming more mainstream, many users search for wireless headphones that don’t emit EMF. 

However, despite what a product may advertise, there can be no such thing as radiation-free wireless earbuds. 

ALL types of wireless headphones must operate within the radiofrequency range, so they’ll emit EMFs no matter what. 

I think a lot of people are just looking for a way to still enjoy their wireless tech without having to change their lifestyle and give it up, which I get. 

But unfortunately, that’s just not how it works. 

If you want to protect yourself, you’ll have to ditch wireless headphones altogether.  

Which brings us to the next most pressing question people have…

Are Wired Headphones Safer than Wireless?

Definitely yes, but there’s a caveat. 

Wired headphones are largely considered safer because they don’t have to use radiofrequencies to operate, and therefore they don’t emit radiation.

They work simply by plugging the wire directly to the phone.

The sound waves are then carried from your phone to the earbuds, where the waves are converted into the sound you can hear. 

Simple, right? 

Well, it turns out that there may be a flaw to even traditional headphones after all.

Remember that wired headphones make use of metallic wires as conductors for sound signals. 

These metals may be useful in allowing sound signals to reach your ears, but they also act as conductors (because metal is conductive).

While the headphones themselves don’t emit RF, they do conduct the radiofrequency from your cell phone up the wire and into your ear. This is true UNLESS your cell phone is in airplane mode.

What’s the Best Alternative to Wireless Headphones?

The good news is that you CAN still listen to music/talk on your phone with little to no radiation exposure.

These are wired headphones that make use of Ferrite Beads, and in particular, a device from ShieldYourBody called H.A.R.D. 

Let’s look at these products: 

Ferrite Beads

Ferrite beads are simply structured and inexpensive.

They look like little clips that you put on the wire of your headset to prevent microwave radiation from traveling to your brain. 

This bead allows low-frequency electromagnetic energy in order to produce sound while stopping high-frequency waves from passing through.

The simple addition of some ferrite beads can significantly lower the amount of RF that reaches your body.

SYB’s Headset Anti-Radiation Device

Abbreviated H.A.R.D., this device from Shield Your Body is the best option currently on the market (that I know of at least). 

It looks kinda like an adapter, but it contains a dielectric gel that absorbs microwave radiation.

It’s the standard 3.5 mm audio jack size, so it can turn virtually any pair of headphones into ones that are radiation free. 

It can be used for earbuds or outside-the-ear headphones connected to phones, tablets, or laptops to stop the radiation from traveling up the wire into your head. 

Air Tube Headphones

The only other option is a pair of air tube headphones. These are just what they sound like. Instead of using wires, they use hollow tubes (air) to conduct sound waves.

They are EMF-free, but the sound quality isn’t the greatest. 

Final Verdict: Are Wireless Earbuds Safe?

Even though wireless earbuds are popular and convenient, the truth is they’re not safe.

Wireless headphones are potential sources of EMF radiation that can cause discomfort and even certain conditions over a long period of time. 

The biggest problem is the fact that they are worn so close to your brain and for long periods. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Are wired headphones better than wireless?

Yes because wired headphones don’t emit EMF. However, the wires can still conduct radiation from whatever device it’s plugged into. For this reason, I suggest air tube headphones or the universal radiation-free adapter from Shield Your Body

Are wireless headphones bad for your brain?

Yes. Wireless headphones can send EMF radiation directly to your brain because of how they are typically worn (inside the ear). Read more in this “Is Bluetooth Safe for Your Brain” post.

Are Bluetooth headsets safe to use?

No. After long and frequent use, you can absorb a cumulatively high amount of EMF radiation, which can damage sensitive body tissues. 

Are AirPods safe?

No. Airpods use Bluetooth technology, which is a source of EMF radiation – just like cell phones. 

 

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