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Headphones, AirPods And Cancer: Is There A Link?

Headphones can cause cancer - is something we've all heard on different occasions. But the how and why are mostly not discussed. Common misconceptions such as these are not birthed from thin air and have some facts attached to them.

With technology constantly evolving, along with the many benefits it has, the health effects caused by modern technology such as mobile phones, laptops and computers etc. are plenty and often, serious.

Experts around the world advise people to use technology and gadgets responsibly to avoid or reduce the health risks associated [1]. Out of the several technological innovations, the one that gets all the flack are mobile phones - suffering from headache? Your mum will say it's because of the phone, a stomachache? mobile phones use, what else! and after that comes earphones, headphones and lastly air pods - which are a new addition to the list.

Headphones, Air Pods And Cancer: What Is The Real Link?

There have been several claims and even reports suggesting that continuous use of headphones, especially Bluetooth headphones, AirPods and earphones can be bad for one's brain health, even leading to cancer [2][3]. However, how true are these claims? Let's find out.

  • Some reports claimed that the electromagnetic radiation (EMR) caused by AirPods and headphones (Bluetooth) in your ear canal could cause cellular damage and tumours [4].
  • Many studies claimed that the continuous usage of Bluetooth devices during pregnancy could cause harmful effects, including a higher than usual risk of pregnancy loss and women giving birth to children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) [5].

Wireless headphones:

  • Looking back, it was in 2015 the rumour that wireless headphones could cause cancer gained public attention.
  • The first wireless Bluetooth headphones were released in 2004 and it took around 11 years for the assumptions to begin, which is an indication of the lack of authenticity of those claims [6].
  • In 2015, more than 200 scientists around the globe wrote to the World Health Organization and United Nations to install international guidelines for electromagnetic radiation [7].
  • The letter claimed that several studies found that radiations levels lesser than the ones emitted by the Bluetooth devices could increase the risk of cancer and other health issues.

AirPods:

  • Later on, in 2019, claims that AirPods could cause cancer began making rounds [8].
  • It was claimed that the radiation produced by these wireless inventions can damage the brain cells and even contribute to a hearing loss [9].

What Do Studies Say?

Studies show that the radiation caused by wireless/Bluetooth devices such as AirPods and headphones are extremely lower than the forms of radiation such as cell phones, X-rays, or ultraviolet light [10].

The radiation produced by wireless, or Bluetooth devices are called non-ionizing radiation, that is, the radiations are extremely weak and cannot cause or trigger any severe health issues or diseases, such as cancer [11][12]. To be exact, the amount of radiation in Bluetooth headsets was 10 to 400 times lower than phone radiation.

One point to be taken into consideration is that experts have pointed out that the long-term use of Bluetooth earbuds because of their proximity to your brain, also explained by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (a branch of WHO) where the health body has listed the electromagnetic radiation released by cell phones and Bluetooth devices as potentially cancer-causing [13].

The radiation and the EMR from Bluetooth devices are extremely low that the possibility of risks is only when an individual is directly in contact with them, for intense durations.

Better Safe Than Sorry: Some Precautions You Can Take

While there are no links between Bluetooth device use and cancer, experts suggest that people who use Bluetooth devices should take some minor precautions to reduce the risk of potential health problems [14].

  • Keep your cell phone at least 10 inches away from your face.
  • If a cell phone call duration is long, use the speakerphone option.
  • Use cell phones only when there is a good signal strength because poor reception or low range emits more radiation [15].
  • When buying Bluetooth devices, invest in the quality and buy from trusted brands.
  • Avoid using AirPods or headphones throughout the day; if you are at home, listen to music through a speaker.
  • Do not sleep with gadgets in bed.
  • Remove wireless devices from ears or head when not in use.

On A Final Note...

No, using AirPods or other Bluetooth devices such as headphones will not put you at the risk of cancer. However, prolonged use may pose risks to hearing, and trigger headaches in some people. More studies are required to understand if chronic use of these Bluetooth devices can cause cancer.

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