The Rise in Popularity of Wireless Bluetooth Earbuds
In 2016, Over 334 million headphones and headsets were sold worldwide in 2016. In the same year, sales of wireless Bluetooth headphones surpassed that of wired headphones for the first time in history, amounting to 54% of revenue and 17% of total headphone sales. According to market researchers, “Consumers are already embracing a wireless future.” Many people enjoy the convenience of Bluetooth, as it is wireless and hands-free.
Yet at the same time, some consumers are cautious about this wireless headphones. Understandably so, when you consider how they operate and the EMF radiation emissions they produce. Bluetooth is a form of the radio frequency (2.4 to 2.485 GHz) that works by sending data (audio, video, text etc) through the air over short distances. Most wireless Bluetooth headphones are “Class 2” which can emit energy up to 33 feet (the effective range of Bluetooth varies due to propagation conditions, material coverage, production sample variations, antenna configurations, and battery conditions).
While it is true Bluetooth generally operates at lower intensities then cellular signals (which themselves have been linked to a number of health risks) wireless headphones are designed to be placed directly in the ear, next to the head for long periods of time. This increases the contact time that EMF radiation has to your head and brain tissue.
Dangers of EMF Exposure to the Head
Your head is an ideal antenna as it is filled with conductive soft tissue and salty fluid. Your cells communicate through electrochemical signals, which can be interrupted by external electromagnetic fields. The following are just a few of the health concerns related to EMF exposure to the head:
Dr. Andrew Goldsworthy, a retired lecturer from the Imperial College of London, one of the top three UK universities after Oxford and Cambridge, described “The Biological Effects of Weak Electromagnetic Fields” in an extensive publication dated March 2012. Short wavelengths, as well as the rapid rise and fall times of the pulses emitted by Bluetooth and cell phones, can damage human cells by throwing off calcium ion signaling and causing ion channels to leak. This cellular disruption can cause irreparable DNA damage, which increases cancer risk.
Dr. Goldsworthy also linked excessive EMF exposure to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) through the same mechanisms. EMFs are purported to create unscheduled calcium leakage into cells, making cells hypersensitive and more likely to transmit spurious signals. This may cloud normal mental activity, triggering random thoughts and contribute to a loss of concentration, which is typical for those with ADHD. Children are thought to be especially at risk, as their brains are still developing.
Headaches & Depression
On Reddit, a popular Internet community forum, users have posted threads describing the onset of headaches from use of headphones. Other forums have users self-reporting similar symptoms. Recently, Dr. Martin Pall of Washington State University published an article in September 2016 in the Journal of Neuroanatomy (Pall 2016) to help summarize current research to-date on EMF radiation and its neuropsychiatric effects, including those linked to depression and headaches. He essentially describes the mechanism by which EMFs act and cites numerous reports. Some observations he made include:
- EMFs were shown to activate VGCC (voltage-gated calcium ion channels) in the brain and these channels are responsible for neural communication.
- Animal studies showed that low level exposure had a wide range of impact.
- Genetic studies indicated VCGG cause widespread neuropsychiatric effects.
In a review of over 165 clinically relevant studies, a Brazilian study found that cell phone radiation emissions may trigger the onset or worsening of tinnitus. Tinnitus is the perception of noise or ringing in the ears, and affects as much as 20% of the population. According to the Mayo Clinic, tinnitus is not a condition itself, but an underlying condition that can be related to age-related hearing loss, ear injury or circulatory system disorder.
Alternatives to Wireless Headphones
Obviously, none of these symptoms and conditions are desirable, and are just sample. Seeking to avoid such risks, many people are exploring alternatives to wireless technology for example: traditional, wired headphones or non-traditional air tube headphones.
Traditional Wired Headphones
Headphones operate by being plugged into “a signal source”, such as a radio or mobile phone. Most people do not consider the headphone as a potential source of harm. After all, its “just wires”. Yet, radiation strength dramatically increases as a function of its proximity to source. Essentially headphones, as well as the popular earbud model, are EMF emitters that fit right over the ears or snugly into a user’s ear canal.
Being a curious bunch, some scientists have put their headphones to the test. They have published articles and even a number of YouTube videos, illustrating the amount of radiation released by traditional headphones. In one recorded test, the headphone EMF emissions reached levels over 3 mG, a warning threshold almost double the amount recognized as dangerous. For example, governmental agencies studies have shown an association between household EMF exposure and a measurable increase risk of childhood leukemia at average exposures above 3 mG.
EMF Radiation-Free Air Tube Headphones
If you like listening to music or podcasts, but don’t like increasing your risk for certain ailments, you may want to consider non-traditional headphones such as EMF-free air tube headphones.
EMF-free earbuds contain no metal conductors, and deliver sound via flexible hollow air tubes rather than traditional wires. This allows sound to travel, but not EMF emissions. When put under the same test as regular headphones, they do not emit the same radiation readout. In fact, the readout is essentially zero Gauss as no electrical conduction or EMF transmission is taking place.
EMF-free air tube headphones are a smart alternative to other headphones, as they provide peace of mind. Besides listening to speakers, they are perhaps the safest way to listen to audio, because they completely eliminate any exposure of EMF radiation to your head.