Music is generally associated with feeling good. So why does listening to some music with Apple AirPods give you headaches? A few theories exist for the cause of this painful problem.
While AirPods can cause headaches, it is common for any type of headphones to cause a headache when placing the earbuds too deep into the ear, playing music too loud, or wearing headphones for too long.
According to medical professionals, AirPods and most other headphones can cause headaches when they are placed incorrectly into the ear. If incorrectly fitted AirPods are placed in the ear for too long, a headache can emerge.
That being said, we should also take into account the EMF radiation emitted by the devices. These could potentially cause minor and temporary side-effects to users.
Common Side Effects Of Wearing AirPods
Wireless devices like Apple AirPods use Bluetooth frequencies to transmit information, which can possibly have minor health-related side effects. AirPods use Bluetooth 4 technology, which is known to emit (non-ionizing) radiofrequency radiation between 2.4 and 2.485 GHz.
With normal use, users might experience the following common side effects from using AirPods for prolonged periods of time:
- Headaches: Caused by sensitivity to radiofrequency waves or incorrectly wearing the AirPods in the ears.
- Tinnitus: Refers to hearing nonexistent noises, such as ringing, buzzing, hissing, or whistling. Using too high a volume on loud music can also cause this persistent health problem.
- Insomnia: And other sleep-related problems like waking up often. Especially when using AirPods in bed while sleeping.
- Irritability: Brushing AirPods can be irritating to the skin, and using the devices near their ears can result in a burning sensation for some people.
- Nausea: Rare cases of nausea are reported, often as a result of dizziness and disorientation after using AirPods for prolonged periods of time.
Is Wearing AirPods Harmful?
There is no evidence that the Bluetooth radiation emitted by AirPods is harmful to humans. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), exposure to the type of Bluetooth radiation used by AirPods is “generally perceived as harmless to humans”.
Any of the aforementioned health-related side effects should be temporary in nature. Some users are more sensitive to EMF radiation than others. However, there are more factors at play that can alter the severity of possible side effects:
- How deep and firm the AirPods are placed in the ear canal;
- For how long the AirPods are used in a single session;
- The general health and well-being of the person using the AirPods;
- Environmental circumstances such as temperature, humidity, or air pressure.
Some scientists have suggested that placing Bluetooth devices deep inside the ear canal can increase the risk of cancer. According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), non-ionizing EMFs in the radiofrequency range are classified as a possible human carcinogen.
The IARC, part of the World Health Organization (WHO), mentions cellphones, tablets, and wireless smart devices (such as AirPods) as possible contributors. In particular, using these types of devices could contribute to glioma, a malignant type of brain cancer.
However, the scientific consensus currently is that there is no conclusive evidence for this claim, so we cannot say this is true.
Using AirPods Safely: Best Practices
To reduce your exposure to harmful side effects from AirPods and avoid health issues like headaches, users should consider the following best practices:
- Don’t place too deep: Firmly placing the earbuds into your ear canal can immediately cause headaches, it is advised to comfortably and loosely place the buds in the ear. You might want to consider the upside-down wear method if that works better for you.
- Reduce exposure time: When you spend less time with AirPods in your ears, the potential headaches caused by the wireless Apple headphones are going to diminish. It’s very simple, but it works.
- Use only a single AirPod: If you do want to use those AirPods, it might help to only place one AirPod in (preferably alternating sides of) your ears. Combine this method with the reduced exposure time.
- Unplug and unwind: Take a day off from electricity completely if you’re sensitive to EMF radiation from electronic devices. You don’t need to plaster your walls with aluminum foil, but going out in nature with your phone turned off for a while doesn’t hurt. Just make sure people know where you are.
How To Quickly Get Rid Of An Headache
In case you’re already experiencing a headache from using your Apple AirPods at this very moment, all these preventive tips aren’t going to help you. To release your pain, you might want to consider the following practical advice:
- Use a common painkiller: An aspirin or paracetamol gets rid of some of the immediate pain. Take the painkiller with a glass of water. These should start working within 30 minutes, but remember to read the safety information first.
- Take a quick nap: Sleeping is suggested to help against a headache for the majority of people, a quick afternoon nap or siesta will count too. But don’t listen to your AirPods while doing it.
- Take a warm shower: Warm showers benefit the blood flow in the body and will relieve tension on the nerves in your head. Again, don’t take your AirPods with you in the bathroom as it is unsafe.
- Get a head massage: Gently rub the temples on both sides of your head with two fingers. Use a circular motion. Alternatively, ask someone to give you a head and neck massage to relieve tension in your body.
- Get some fresh air: A walk in nature might be one of the best things to do to against headaches. Not only does it immediately distract from the pain, it will also improve your oxygen intake, get your muscles moving, and therefore relieve any existing headache tensions.
The next time you’re planning on using those AirPods, remember that the wired variations might be better for you. Especially for hypersensitive people prone to headaches, this could be a lifesaver. If you want to listen to some music, you can always use an old-fashioned radio as well!