Many consumers may have concerns regarding the safety of using Bluetooth earbuds. Can the volume levels damage your eardrums? Are the radio waves emitted by the Bluetooth radio dangerous?
As with all portable listening devices, wireless earbuds should not be used at excessively high volume levels. ” [Earbuds] are even more likely to cause hearing loss than [traditional] earphones”, says Dean Garstecki, a professor of audiology at Northwestern University(1). Earbuds have the potential to cause more damage because they rest extremely close to the eardrums. High volume levels also mean less awareness of your surroundings. This is especially true of earbuds that act as earplugs to the outside world.
This means in order to safely use earbuds, one should reduce the sound volume and duration of use. ”Use headphones that do a better job blocking out background noise, and you won’t be as tempted to crank up the volume.” advises Dr. Daniel Landes, an ear nose and throat specialist(2). Many popular models of Bluetooth earbuds, like the Jaybird JF3 and the Sony DRBT100CX are designed to make a seal in your ear canal to effectively block out background noise.
Bluetooth Radio Waves
Bluetooth is a form of wireless communication. This means it emits some form of radiation, as do all things that communicate wirelessly like your cell phone or wireless internet router. The concern with Bluetooth earbuds is that the Bluetooth radio rests extremely close to the user’s head, thereby giving the impression that the radiation has a more direct effect on the wearer than, say, a Bluetooth keyboard. Are Bluetooth radio waves harmful?
The U.S. and Canadian governments have set a maximum SAR “specific absorption rate” of 1.6 for all all consumer wireless devices(3). In other words, that is the upper limit of radiation a device can give off to be considered acceptable. A typical Bluetooth radio module, as measured by William G. Scanlon of Queen’s University in Belfast, generates a SAR of just 0.001 watts per kilogram(4). This is well below the levels of a cell phone and an insignificant amount on the SAR scale. This is because Bluetooth is a very low power and short range wireless communication standard. Think of how far a cell phone signal needs to travel in order to reach the closest cell tower. Compare that to the small distance Bluetooth signals can travel. It can therefore be concluded that radiation from Bluetooth earbuds is insignificant and should not be a concern.
It is apparent that the volume levels from wireless earbuds pose a far greater risk to your safety and health than radiation emission. As with any consumer electronics device, proper use is always the best way to ensure safety.
1. iPod’s Popular Earbuds: Hip Or Harmful? - http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/12/051216191834.htm
2. Dangerous Decibels: Earbuds and Hearing - http://www.nbc29.com/story/10301515/dangerous-decibels-earbuds-and-hearing
3. Wikipedia: Specific absorption rate - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Specific_absorption_rate
4. Bluetooth: Dangerous Waves? - http://www.businessweek.com/technology/content/apr2005/tc20050427_5651.htm