Are Wireless Headphones Safe? (And Why Use an Air Tube Headset)
At a glance
- Get the answer to the question — are wireless headphones safe?
- Uncover the key differences between wireless headsets vs Bluetooth headsets
- Understand Bluetooth radiation vs cell phone radiation
- See if wired headsets are better to use than wireless
- Learn about anti-radiation headsets and why you should use an air tube headset
Did you know that revenue from headphones sold in 2019 amounts to a whopping USD $2,216 million so far? And, the market is expected to grow by 1.8% every year.
In fact, analysts predict that headphone annual sales volumes will amount to 176 million pieces by the year 2023.
Now, when it comes to headphones there's no argument that wireless leads the way. This is primarily due to the fact that consumers prefer the convenience of going wire-free and many Smartphone manufacturers have actually done away with the headphone jack altogether.
But, should we be concerned about everything from our mobile phones, routers, keyboards and mice, network cards, PDAs and our headphones going wireless?
Some people certainly think so.
In this post, we'll aim to answer the question — are wireless headphones safe? We'll discuss the technology behind wireless and Bluetooth, and tell you why we think anti-radiation headphones or air tube headphones are the smarter choice.
Table of Contents
- The Eruption of Wireless Headsets
- Are Wireless Headphones Safe?
- What are RFs?
- Are RFs Harmful?
- Wireless Headsets Vs Bluetooth Headsets
- Wireless and Bluetooth Headset Radiation
- Are Bluetooth Headphones Safe?
- Bluetooth Radiation Vs Cell Phone Radiation
- Why RF from Bluetooth and Wireless is Harmful
- Is Wired Better than Wireless or Bluetooth?
- Using Anti-Radiation Headphones
- Why Use an Air Tube Headset?
- What is an Air Tube Headset?
- How Does an Air Tube Headset Work?
- Pros and Cons of Air Tube Headsets
- How to Use an Air Tube Headset
- Key Takeaways
The Eruption of Wireless Headsets
A lot of the demand for wireless headphones erupted in the year 2012, when there was a massive increase in the number of devices that could play audio through a Bluetooth connection.
As a matter of fact, by the year 2016, Bluetooth headphones actually surpassed non-Bluetooth headphone sales accounting for 54% of total revenue and 17% of the total number of units sold.
Within the wireless headphone market, noise-canceling is a feature that is much in demand, with major brands like Sony, Bose and Beats shipping out over 23 million units in 2018 alone.
True wireless headphones (headphones that don't have any wires, not even between each ear-piece) are also hugely popular, and offer a completely tangle-free experience, amounting to 12% of all wireless headphone sales.
The best example of true wireless?
Apple AirPods. According to Fortune, in 2019 alone, Apple is expected to sell 50 million AirPods translating to close to $8 billion in revenue, and sales are expected to grow 50% annually.
So, yes — wireless headphones are serious business.
And, the market is not expected to stop there. By the year 2022, the next big trend in headphones is forecasted to be headphones with voice assistants, which is already apparent in the market today with push-to-talk buttons integrated into the earpiece, and Apple's AirPods with voice-activated access to Siri leading the way.
So, why are we telling you all this?
Well, it's important to understand how technology has evolved and how more and more consumers today are embracing a wireless future with open arms.
In fact, so much so, that nobody really seems to be concerned if going wireless may have any harmful consequences.
Are Wireless Headphones Safe?
So, let's just get right to it. Is it safe to use wireless headphones?
Truth be told, the answer isn't very straightforward. Assurances by the industry and government regulations claim that they are safe, however, there are many scientific studies and experts that say otherwise.
For example, a recent article quoted a petition signed by 250+ scientists from forty different nations worldwide and called on the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations (UN) to reinforce its guidelines on wireless safety. The petition expressed "a “serious concern” about the non-ionizing electromagnetic field (EMF), which is the kind of radiation emitted by wireless devices, including Bluetooth technologies."
The article quoted Jerry Phillips, professor of biochemistry at the University of Colorado, who stated that “My concern for AirPods is that their placement in the ear canal exposes tissues in the head to relatively high levels of radio-frequency radiation.”
In fact, these risks are not restricted just to Apple's Airpods. Phillips emphasized that current evidence “indicates potential concerns for human health and development from all technologies that operate at radio frequencies.”
Although Apple says that they comply with current safety guidelines, there is a growing number of evidence to show that cell phone radiation and radio waves can lead to neurological conditions, damage DNA, and even cause cancer.
So, the next time you plug in your Bluetooth headphones, should you be worried?
In the next segment, we'll discuss some of the technology behind wireless and Bluetooth to help you gain an understanding of what you're dealing with, and if you should be concerned.
What are RFs?
Ever thought about the mysterious energy generated from your device's antenna that enables it to communicate?
Radio frequencies or RFs are an alternating current (AC) that when input to an antenna, generate an electromagnetic field that can be used for wireless communication and broadcasting. This field is called an RF field or a "radio wave."
Radio waves are very useful and come in both high and low frequencies. At the lowest frequencies they can help to study earthquakes, be used in marine communication and radio broadcasting. At higher frequencies radio waves can be used for air traffic control, GPS navigation, Wi-Fi, satellite radio, cordless phones, your microwave oven, and yes — wireless and Bluetooth headphones.
At even higher frequencies RFs can be used for technologies such as 5G — the potential health risks of which may be a serious cause for concern (but that's a whole other blog).
Are RFs Harmful?
Radio frequencies fall under what is known as non-ionizing radiation, meaning this type of EMF radiation has lower frequencies than visible light, and the frequencies are not strong enough to break through molecular bonds, as compared to ionizing radiation (which can break through bonds) such as X-rays and gamma rays.
Although radio waves are considered to be low-level EMFs, they can still have harmful effects on your health.
In fact, the International Agency for Research on Cancer has determined that electromagnetic fields (EMFs) are “possibly carcinogenic” to humans.
Some experts actually believe that no matter the "strength or intensity," larger doses of EMFs are actually riskier. Recent research titled, "Wi-Fi is an important threat to human health," suggests that the biggest culprits are "pulses" or "quick bursts of electromagnetic energy that help wireless devices communicate."
Lead researcher, Martin Pall, professor emeritus of biochemistry at Washington State University (WSU) states that, “we have repeated studies that clearly show that pulsed EMFs are, in most cases, much more biologically active than are non-pulsed EMFs of the same average intensity,” and that “all wireless communication devices communicate, at least in part, via pulsation, and the smarter they are, the more they pulse.”
He asserts that industry-linked organizations turn a blind eye to these critical factors.
And, this constantly "pulsing" action is important to consider — especially when wearing wireless headphones.
In fact, Apple spokesperson Alex Kirschner, "confirmed that the AirPods, like other Bluetooth headsets, will constantly transmit signals while they are in your ears."
This should definitely be a red flag for wireless and Bluetooth headphone users, especially those who are plugged in all the time.
Also, you'll see that quite often the words "wireless" and "Bluetooth" are used interchangeably.
So, that brings us to the question, are wireless headsets and Bluetooth headsets the same, or is there a difference?
And is one better than the other?
Wireless Headsets Vs Bluetooth Headsets
A lot of people use both wireless and Bluetooth in conjunction, and although both are used for wireless communication, there are a few things that separate both technologies.
The first point to note between wireless vs. Bluetooth is that both "wireless" technologies don't use any type of wires to connect to devices. Also, all Bluetooth headsets are wireless, but all wireless headsets are not necessarily using Bluetooth technology.
So, before we look at the key differences between wireless and Bluetooth headsets, let's quickly understand the technology behind each.
Bluetooth earphones and headsets run on the 2.4GHz radio band frequency and most fall under "Class 2" Bluetooth technology which provides a range of up to 33 feet (roughly around 9 meters). So, with Bluetooth headsets, data is sent and received using radio waves, but only within a short-range.
These types of wireless headsets provide secure, wire-free listening and can easily be connected to any Bluetooth-enabled device such as a smartphone, tablet or laptop.
Wireless headsets also use the RF frequency which can range from 3 kHz to about 300 GHz. Most wireless headphones run under the 2.4 GHz radio frequency and can cover a large wireless range of up to 100 feet (roughly 30.5 meters). A wireless headset is powered by batteries that can connect to a device such as a laptop, TV or gaming console.
The headset wirelessly connects to a transmitter which is connected to the audio input of the device you want to connect to, such as your television. In the case of a wireless headset, you can actually connect multiple headphones to the same transmitter, making this technology popular for at-home multi-user gaming, movie-watching, or silent discos.
Wireless headphones cover a much wider range (100 feet), whereas Bluetooth covers short distances (30 feet).
Since a wireless headset is connected to a base station it is not very portable and is best used for in-home use, such as for gaming or listening to music, office use, and call centers. Whereas in the case of Bluetooth, since most devices are now Bluetooth-enabled you can easily carry your Bluetooth enabled earphones wherever you go, such as in the gym, or while taking a walk or going for a run.
Wireless headsets may or may not connect with different devices and require an adapter to make a connection, however, Bluetooth earphones are compatible with any Bluetooth-enabled device, which usually comes built-in by default.
Now that we know the different types of wireless headsets that we're dealing with and their pros and cons, let's see how they rate in safety.
Wireless and Bluetooth Headset Radiation
Are Bluetooth Headphones Safe?
Both Bluetooth and wireless headsets run on a 2.4GHz frequency which is also the same band used by microwave ovens, wireless modems in virtually all computers, mobile phones and printers, cordless phones, baby monitors, keyless entry systems and more.
In simple words, when you wear a Bluetooth headset, it's like having tiny Wi-Fi routers plugged into your ears for hours on end. And remember, they run on the same frequency that your microwave uses to cook food. Sure, the watts are different, but the frequency range is exactly the same.
Research has made it clear that radio frequencies produce radiation which can have an adverse effect on us, biologically, neurologically and right down to the DNA level.
Bluetooth Radiation Vs Cell Phone Radiation
While Bluetooth and wireless headsets don't operate at higher frequencies such as the EMF you are exposed to when you hold a mobile phone directly over your ear, they are nevertheless placed in the ear for long periods of time, increasing the time of contact between the EMF radiation and your brain.
So, when you’re using Bluetooth earphones, you’re literally putting them as close to your head (and brain) as you possibly can.
Converse to the reports that suggest that low-dose radiation has "no-effect," research clearly shows that EMF exposure causes changes in brain activity. In fact, wireless EMF radiation has shown to cross the protective blood-brain barrier, potentially allowing toxic substances to reach the brain and cause cognitive impairment.
Although, it was previously assumed that the body would not respond to low levels of radiation, a groundbreaking study demonstrated that just 50 minutes of holding a wirelessly connected cell phone next to the head (and brain) increases the rate of glucose metabolism, altering the brain's electrical activity, potentially leading to inflammation and disease. This study proved that even at low levels, EMFs can affect the body's biochemistry.
Source: Environmental Health Trust
A lot of people argue that when people ask the question, "are Bluetooth headphones safe?" there just aren't as many studies like those done for cell phone radiation to prove that they aren't safe. But the thing is that Bluetooth headsets work on the exact same RF frequencies as cell phones.
Both Bluetooth and wireless technologies use the same microwave radiation to transmit information, just like mobile phones — the only real difference is the range.
Cell phone antennas pick up signals from mobile towers and satellites, while a Bluetooth or wireless headset receives these signals from some feet away.
And, more importantly, a lack of studies still doesn't make the case for safety.
Why RF from Bluetooth and Wireless is Harmful
As per Wikipedia, "The question of harm to biological systems due to low-power ionizing and non-ionizing radiation is not settled. Controversy continues about possible non-heating effects of low-power non-ionizing radiation, such as non-heating microwave and radio wave exposure."
What this basically means is that although industry regulators zone in on just the "heating" aspect of microwave radiation, there is growing evidence to show that it's not just the thermal aspect of EMF radiation that causes biological harm.
This is also why SAR ratings are so controversial. SAR or Specific Absorption Rate is a measurement of the "rate at which energy is absorbed by the human body when exposed to a radio frequency (RF) electromagnetic field."
A 2015 study proved that even at weaker radiation levels, cell phone signals accelerated faster tumor growth in mice, disputing the fact that SAR should not be the only form of measurement to determine low-EMF damage.
The research emphasized that "tumor-promoting effects in our study were seen at low to moderate exposure levels (0.04 and 0.4 W/kg SAR), thus well below exposure limits for the users of mobile phones."
This is far below regulated safety standards in countries worldwide, and many times less than the USA's maximum SAR rating of 1.60 W/Kg, making certain phones like the iPhone 7 (1.38 SAR), OnePlus 6T (1.55 SAR) and Google Pixel3 XL (1.39 SAR), way above the numbers reported in the study.
And, to those who say that there aren't enough conclusive studies to show the adverse effects of wireless radiation, Dr. Keith Black, head of neurosurgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in LA, provided the answer to CNN by stating that, " The biggest problem we have is that we know most environmental factors take several decades of exposure before we really see the consequences," and that, "what microwave radiation does, in most simplistic terms, is similar to what happens to food in microwaves, essentially cooking the brain."
"So in addition to leading to a development of cancer and tumors, there could be a whole host of other effects like cognitive memory function, since the memory temporal lobes are where we hold our cell phones."
The article emphasized that this type of radiation is not just limited to cell phones but "the RF of any wireless device -- a cell phone, Bluetooth headphones or a wireless router -- emits non-ionizing radiation."
So, now that we know that wireless and Bluetooth headsets emit EMF radiation that can have long-term repercussions — what about alternatives, such as using wired headphones?
Is Wired Better than Wireless or Bluetooth?
A wired headset is one that simply connects a device (such as your phone, laptop, or tablet), with a wired cable. Just like any wire that carries an "electric current" and has both an electric and magnetic frequency, the wire in a wired headset also produces an electric current.
The way it works is that the wire that connects the device to the headset stimulates or acts as an antenna, carrying the RF frequencies right up the cord, and directly into the ears, head, and brain.
However, if you have a choice between wired and wireless, it's still better to use traditional wired headsets as at least some of the EMF radiation is dispersed away from the brain as it's carried along the cord.
But, although this is the better option, don't be mistaken, there is still EMF being emitted all through the wire and the headset itself.
Using Anti-Radiation Headphones
Why Use an Air Tube Headset?
Let's recap — wireless or Bluetooth headphones emit a considerable amount of EMF and as they are placed in the ears for long periods of time, day in and day out, the effect of EMF radiation is literally at the maximum. Wired headsets pose a lesser degree of exposure to the brain, but nonetheless, they still emit EMF. However, both are still better than putting your cell phone directly against your head.
So, is there a way to use headsets while eliminating almost all EMF exposure to the head?
Yes there is! Air Tube headsets or anti-radiation headsets are a proactive way to do away with close to 99.9% of EMF exposure to the head.
Next, we'll cover what they are, how they work and why you should use them.
What is an Air Tube Headset?
The major difference between a wired and an air tube headset is how the audio is transmitted to your ears.
As discussed above, in a standard wired headset the sound travels up the cord and directly into your ears, and just like any wire carrying a current, this emits EMF radiation.
While standard headsets are 100% wire, an air tube headset is created with an "air tube" component designed from hollow, bendable air tubing.
This tubing replaces the traditional wire connected to the microphone earpiece and delivers quality sound while eliminating up to 99% of EMF radiation.
How Does an Air Tube Headset Work?
In an air tube headset, the part of the wire that carries the sound to the ears is replaced with a hollow tube, that carries the sound from the device to your ears, using sound waves. This not only protects against EMF but also provides an immersive sound experience.
Since there is no loudspeaker in the earpiece, and the speaker is moved away from the head, and all RF frequencies are blocked at the hollow air tube, the radiation simply does not reach the ears.
So, an anti-radiation headset basically protects the eardrum and the brain by completely eliminating almost 1000 Gaus of magnetic and alternating magnetic fields.
The air tubes isolate the magnetic field and the source of radiation and extend the distance between the cell phone and the body itself which decreases a massive amount of EMF exposure.
Pros and Cons of Air Tube Headsets
If you're a hard-core audiophile and want to experience all the high and low notes of your music, you may find that the sound quality of air tube headphones may not quite match up to those of traditional headphones, since the speaker is not sitting directly in your ear, but rather the sound is traveling to your ear through the hollow tubing.
Secondly, since air tubes use a hollow tube they need to be handled with a bit more care than with regular wired headsets. Most quality air tube headsets will actually come with a carrying case for better protection.
At EMF Protector, we believe that the pros of using air tube headsets far outweigh the cons.
Can you really put a price on your health?
We believe that any device that drastically reduces radiation to important organs such as the brain is worth investing in.
Just by taking a little extra care in handling them, and placing them in the included protective carrying case when not in use will ensure that you'll enjoy an EMF-free listening experience going forward!
How to Use an Air Tube Headset
Air tube headsets don't work any differently than regular wired headsets. In fact, you can plug them into any device that has a 3.5 mm outlet (headphone jack), such as your cell phone, laptop, tablet or music player.
They are an excellent option to using speakerphone and are great for listening to music, enjoying podcasts, having muffle-free conversations with family and friends, and going into long meetings.
In fact, one of the main reasons you should use any type of headset is to get the phone as far away from your head as possible. An air tube headset just takes this to another level, giving your head and brain maximum protection.
So, essentially, an air tube headset protects in two ways:
- Increases the distance between you and your cell phone
- Provides up to 99.9% of additional EMF protection with the air tube
You also enjoy the following benefits:
- Up to 99% EMF protection for your brain
- Sound cavity free of a magnetic field
- No loudspeaker in the earplug
- Adjustable earbuds
- Easy listening to your favorite audio
- Compatible will all devices with a headphone jack
- More and more consumers today are embracing wireless and Bluetooth headsets with open arms — without quite understanding the health risks
- Research shows that placing earphones in the ear canal exposes the brain to relatively high levels of EMF radiation
- RF radio waves are considered to be low-level EMFs, but there is extensive evidence to show that they can still have harmful effects especially with long-term exposure
- Wireless and Bluetooth headsets both operate using microwave frequencies (the same as cell phones) and emit EMF, the only real difference is the range they operate in
- Any headset, wired or wireless, is better than holding a cell phone directly to your head
- While a wired headset uses 100% wire and carries electrical signals that emit EMF, anti-radiation or air tube headsets deliver sound using hollow tubing while eliminating up to 99% of EMF radiation.
- Air tube headsets not only increase the distance between you and your cell phone, but provide complete EMF protection with the air tube
- Simply plug them into any device that has a 3.5 mm outlet such as your cell phone, laptop, tablet or music and enjoy all of your audio EMF-free!