Do headphones and earphones damage your brain? This question divides opinion right down the middle. Audiophiles find it ludicrous that someone could even think of linking their favorite music gear with life-threatening outcomes. They, therefore, brush aside this question with minimal fuss.
Doom mongers do the exact opposite. These are people who think we should believe them when they say that the sound waves coming out of headphones damage our brain. They cite various case studies and researches carried out on the subject to add credence to their viewpoint.
Which of the two claims is closer to reality? Do headphones actually harm the health of our brains? Is there a straight line that links them to vertigo? Or are both these myths peddled by conspiracy theorists to scare us from making the most of our pastime? Let’s find out.
Do Headphones And Earphones Damage Your Brain?
Headphones and earphones cannot damage your brain. Experts in the field of non-ionizing radiation protection assure us that it’s safe to use headsets to listen to our favorite tracks. They are yet to find a ‘smoking gun’ evidence that links headphones to brain damage.
The same goes for Bluetooth headsets. Over the years, many experts have raised questions about whether their proximity to our brain increases the risk of electromagnetic fields (EMFs) coming out of wireless headphones damaging our brain. Research proves that is not the case.
Here’s why. The amount of radiation that Bluetooth headphones emit is significantly less than those coming out of your average cell phone – and one that is well below the level the US Federal Government and World Health Organization (WHO) considers safe to be emitted from consumer devices.
Guidelines issued by the California Department of Public Health state the same. They claim that there’s ‘no definitive proof’ that EMF radiations coming out of devices (like headphones) pose health risks. All these pieces of evidence should be enough for you to use these devices without any worry.
Can Studio Headphones Cause Vertigo?
Some studio headphones may cause vertigo. Take the example of Bose’s “Acoustic Noise Canceling” QC3 headphones. Health experts at the Wall Street Journal quoted experts who speculated that headphones that send a correction signal to eliminate unwanted noise might cause dizziness.
The sound waves that these headphones produce to cancel unwanted noise may then transmit low-frequency vibrations. These vibrations stimulate the hearing hair cells in our inner ear, with their impact akin to the one ‘caused by blast explosions’. That’s not where the bad news end.
After sending sensations through our hearing hair cells, the vibrations may falsely signal to our brain that the head is moving. That despite the fact that our eyes are reporting everything as stationary. Such a disequilibrium might make the headphone wearer feel dizzy.
Not all users of studio headphones will encounter this unnerving sensation, though. Only those who are extremely sensitive to such sensations will experience vertigo. Such people would do well to either do away with studio headphones altogether or use headsets without a tight seal.
Why Does My Headset Hurt My Head?
Following are the possible reasons:
- You’re wearing your headphones too tight
Did your headphones come with a slider? One that lets you increase or decrease the length of their headband? It’s time to put it to use. Here’s why we’re stating the obvious.
Headphones that are worn too tight exert enormous pressure on your skull’s temporal bone. That, in turn, will stimulate the cutaneous nerves in your hand, which will then give way to what experts call a ‘compression headache’.
- Your headphones don’t have ‘head pads’
Most high-end headphones you see on the market have one thing in common: they come with head pads that lower the clamping pressure on your head by distributing it evenly throughout your skull.
Such an arrangement reduces the chances of developing a ‘hotspot’ – the one area on your head where the headphones will exert most of their pressure. This, in turn, minimizes the chances of headache.
- Your headphones don’t have a slider
The majority of headphones these days come with a slider. It lets you increase or decrease the headband’s length, thereby freeing you from the headset’s vice-like grip around your head.
However, if you have already invested in a cheap pair of headsets – one that belongs to the ‘one-size-fits-all category’ – it’s time to spend more money and get a pair that comes with a slider.
- Your headphones’ cups are too shallow
Most headsets that hurt the wearer’s head do so by clamping too hard against the skull. Some, however, have shallow cups doing the same. Their cups may press too hard against your ears and cause a headache.
Those of you who are facing such a scenario may do well to add more padding to their ear cups, all the way around. This will increase the pad’s thickness and will give your ears more room to maneuver.
- You’re listening to your music too loud
Want to know one of the best ways using which you can have a pounding headache? Listening to loud music for several hours. That’s what is found by a study linking electronic media with headaches.
The study, which observed 13 – 17 year olds, found out that listening to music at full volume for one to two hours a day increases the risk of pounding headaches and migraines.
- Is it dangerous to wear headphones every day?
Wearing headphones every day isn’t dangerous. Researchers have made it clear that it isn’t the frequency of wearing headphones that may pose a risk to your health. There are other factors at play that might make them dangerous. Start with the volume.
One study has found out that 1 in 5 people who hear loud music for extended intervals every day may have some hearing impairment. Researchers further clarify this point by indicating what they mean by ‘loud music’ and ‘extended interval’.
Health experts tell us that it’s safe to wear headphones every day as long as a) you keep the volume level below 85dB and b) your hearing sessions don’t go above eight hours a day. Here are a few tips using which you can stay within these prescribed limits.
Audiophiles recommend following ‘60/60’ rule to keep a lid on your daily headphone usage. That means listening to your favorite tracks at 60% of the headphones’ max volume, for 60 minutes at a time. You can also download volume monitoring apps on your smartphone to keep your headphones’ level in check.
Are Headphones Safer Than Earphones?
Headphones tend to be safer than earphones for the following reasons:
- Less proximity to the ear canal
In contrast to headphones that encapsulate your ears from outside, earphones sit right inside your ear, thereby minimizing the distance between them and your ear canal. Their position allows them to squirt more volume at your ear canal than headphones when both of them are at the same volume level.
As a result, while earphones generally sound better than headphones – especially when neither of them comes with active noise cancellation technology – they expose your ears to louder volume and, by extension, pose a greater risk of hearing impairment on long-term usage.
- Block outside noise better
Ever wondered why headphones are better at isolating background noises? That’s because they cover your ears and make it very difficult for useless chatter to make its way inside. This arrangement provides more benefits than most of us know.
As they dilute external noises with more efficiency, headphones don’t require you to set the volume at dangerous levels, even when you’re hearing your music clearly at a low level. That isn’t the case with earphones whose inefficiency at isolating external sounds forces you to increase the volume.
There are three facts that we have been able to establish in this article. The first is that headphones and earphones don’t damage your brain. We have reached that conclusion by looking at multiple types of research that didn’t find any evidence to link headsets to brain damage.
Secondly, while not all headphones may reduce the quality of your life, studio headsets have been shown to cause vertigo. Their tendency to create signals of their own to counteract external noise may induce disequilibrium between our mind and our eyes, causing our head to spin.
Finally, as long as you keep their volume level below 85% and keep a check on your daily headphones’ usage, you can use them every day without having to worry about your health.
Started as a rapper and songwriter back in 2015 then quickly and gradually developed his skills to become a beatmaker, music producer, sound designer and an audio engineer.