Thousands of people have been reporting headaches after using their new Apple AirPods. The increase in complaints on sites like Reddit and the Apple support forums might be in part due to the increasing popularity of the item as well as the hundreds of thousands of pairs that people were gifted for Christmas 2018.
However, that doesn’t answer the question of why so many people are complaining about headaches from the device.
Since their release in 2016, the Apple AirPods have been largely met with praise. They let you wirelessly listen to music, Podcasts, phone calls and more. On top of that, the charge lasts a long time, and you can easily charge them in your protective case.
They have had their issues, such as the case discharging randomly (fixed with an update) or the fact that they can easily fall out of your ear and break or get lost.
However, the recent surge in headache complaints leaves us wondering what might be going on?
AirPod Headaches – What Is Going On?
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Back in 2016 when the Airpods first game out, users almost immediately started complaining on the Apple community forums. Hundreds of people marked that they were also experiencing the same issues.
Some people were just mentioning that they seemed to get headaches almost every time they wore the AirPods for any extended length of time. Others mentioned that they felt “strong pressure” around their ears when using the device.
One forum user wrote: “I was anticipating the AirPods but was concerned about them fitting my ears, as I couldn’t wear the wired earpods comfortably. My solution was to just sort of place them in my ears, without trying to make them fit deeply. I loved the feeling of freedom, loved the sound, and convenience. However, I began noticing a feeling of pressure, then a lot of headaches. The headaches seemed to slowly go away when I removed the AirPods. Then I would insert them again, and the pressure and headaches began again.”
Another wrote: “I can only speculate (I’m sure I’ll get skewered for using that word) that this has something to do with the Bluetooth signal, or in the case of the phone, cellular signal, which I’ve either become hypersensitive to from years of use, or worse,”
Still, another commented: “I was anticipating the AirPods but was concerned about them fitting my ears, as I couldn’t wear the wired earpods comfortably. My solution was to just sort of place them in my ears, without trying to make them fit deeply. I loved the feeling of freedom, loved the sound, and convenience. However, I began noticing a feeling of pressure, then a lot of headaches. The headaches seemed to slowly go away when I removed the AirPods. Then I would insert them again, and the pressure and headaches began again.”
To date, Apple hasn’t seemed to comment much on the issue. So, with so many people complaining about AirPod headaches, what are some possible reasons this is happening?
Why Am I Getting A Headache From My AirPods?
There is no definitive answer, but a few have been suggested, let’s talk about each one.
EMF Radiation From AirPods
One strong possibility is the high amounts of EMF radiation being emitted from the device in such close proximity to your head.
If you’ve read my post on EMF exposure symptoms, you probably noticed that one of the most common symptoms to EMF radiation are headaches.
Although this is even more common with people that suffer from electro-hypersensitivity (EHS), it is commonly reported with any length of EMF radiation exposure from cell phones, laptops, smart meters, WiFi, and yes, Bluetooth headphones.
In an article published by Express, Dr. Joel Moskowitz, a professor at the UC Berekely School of Public Health warned that AirPods could be very dangerous to our health for this very reason.
In an interview with Daily Mail Online in 2015, Dr. Moskowitz said:
“We are playing with fire here,” Dr Joel Moskowitz, a professor at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health, told Daily Mail Online. “You are putting a microwave-emitting device next to your brain. This has been observed over several decades, he says. It’s like we keep rediscovering that Bluetooth is harmful and trying to forget it because we don’t know how to handle it from a policy standpoint.
Although we don’t know the long-term risks from using Bluetooth devices, why would anyone insert microwave-emitting devices in their ears near their brain when there are safer ways to use a cell phone? Essentially I recommend using corded headsets or hands-free use of cell phones, not wireless earbuds.”
Apple did respond to Moskowitz’s comments by saying that: “Apple products are always designed and tested to meet or exceed all safety requirements.”
The “safety requirements” that Apple is mentioning are the FCC mandated specific absorption rate (SAR) limits. A mandated maximum that wireless devices can emit, meant to protect the public from EMF radiation.
So, what is the SAR rating of the Apple AirPods? The listed SAR for the Apple AirPods is .466 watts per kilogram, which is in fact below the FCC limit of 1.60 w/kg.
However, as Dr. Moskowitz has pointed out, a group of more than 200 scientists who study EMF radiation finds that these FCC guidelines are far from adequate to protect human health.
They are not alone, in fact, many groups and organizations believe that the SAR limit of 1.60 w/kg is not adequate, and may very well have been influenced by lobbyists from the telecommunication and electronics industries.
So, are the headaches caused by AirPods from the EMF radiation emitted?
It is certainly a strong possibility, and one that many researchers believe could be the case, but there is no certain way to know at this point.
So, you may just want to err on the side of Dr. Moskowitz advice:
“Although we don’t know the long-term risks from using Bluetooth devices, why would anyone insert microwave-emitting devices in their ears near their brain when there are safer ways to use a cell phone.
Ear Canal Pressure from Apple AirPods
Another possibility that people have suggested, is that the AirPod headaches are a result of pressure building up inside the wearer’s ear canal.
Since the AirPods are designed to fit snuggly so that they won’t fall out (it still happens) they can also block air from getting in or out, causing a pressure buildup.
You can likely solve this yourself, but taking them out periodically to allow the pressure to release, or by not shoving them into your ear too tightly.
If you can leave a little bit of wiggle room, it should help to alleviate any pressure.
Do Apple AirPods Always Cause Headaches?
No, in fact, considering the millions and millions of pairs that have been sold, the thousands complaining of headaches may, in fact, be a rather small percentage.
However, we certainly can’t ignore the many that are complaining of these headaches, and they do seem to be only while wearing the device and shortly after.
Do Other Bluetooth Headphones Cause Headaches?
Absolutely. In fact, if you do a web search of “(insert name of Bluetooth headphone) + headaches” you’ll likely find some forums and articles about it.
Again, this could be in part due to the fairly high levels of Bluetooth radiation that these devices emit, in such close proximity to the head.
If you’ve read other articles on EMF Academy, you have probably heard me talk about the inverse square law of physics. This law essentially states that as we double our distance from a source of radiation, we quarter our exposure to it.
So, gaining distance gives us exponentially more protection and safety, which is why it’s always best to try and keep devices as far from our body and brain as is reasonable.
It’s also the reason that cell phone manufacturers suggest keeping your cell phone at least a few inches away from your head, which obviously almost no one does.
How Can I Prevent AirPod Headaches?
The first thing I would try, if you aren’t willing to just give them up, would be to make sure that you have some wiggle room to move them around so that pressure doesn’t build up in the ear canal.
However, if this still isn’t helping, then I would consider not using Bluetooth headphones. (I am not a medical professional, if you are experiencing headaches right away while using anything, seek out medical help.)
However, essentially they are wired headphones, where the top portion of the wire is actually a tube of air. This allows the speakers to be farther down on the cord, away from your head and brain.
This allows you to get distance from a source of radiation (instead of placing it directly in your ear) while still being able to use your phone hands-free and listen to music.