Can headphones damage your brain?

by Alex.   Last Updated On August 10th, 2022.
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Headphones have been a part of our lives since they were invented in 1891. Whether for listening to sounds, producing music, gaming, or recording podcasts, headphones are a great tool to have personally and professionally.

With headphones getting more famous by the day, you might wonder if headphones affect your brain or lead you to be more prone to brain damage.

Although the brain is not negatively affected by headphones sending sound waves directly into your ears, unhealthy habits of wearing headphones can lead to ear infections, deafness, and other ear impairment issues.

In this article, we will tackle how headphones negatively impact our health and whether they have adverse effects on our brains.

Let’s get right into it.

Table of Contents

Are Wired Headphones bad for your brain?

Most people think that wearing headphones can affect your brain directly because they are so near to your ears. But this is entirely false; experts assure us that listening to music for hours on end doesn’t directly affect our brains.

The same thing can be said for Bluetooth headphones, wherein the electromagnetic waves and sound waves coming out of these headphones are entirely harmless. Research also suggests that the electromagnetic waves emitted by these headphones are within the accepted level placed by the World health organization. They also iterate that electronic devices such as cellphones emit more radiation than standard headphones.

However, the unhealthy habits of people who wear headphones can indirectly lead to brain issues such as loud music and ear infections.

Here are some ways wearing headphones can indirectly cause health problems.

Woman afro american doctor general practitioner examining ear of a ill child. Ear infections.

Hearing loss

Hearing loss is categorized into three types, namely sensory hearing loss, conductive hearing loss, and mixed hearing loss. Hearing problems may arise when you are listening to loud music. These losses can, in most cases, be temporary or permanent if causing a significant injury.

When wearing headphones, you risk hearing impairment if you play your music too loudly. Another significant factor is that wearing headphones can cause an ear infection, ultimately affecting hearing.

Ear infections

Several factors can cause ear infections, but they are primarily driven by the build-up of bacteria and fungi in our ear canal. When we are using headphones, we essentially block off air from entering our ear canals, which could lead to the accumulation of bacteria.

Bacteria can also thrive in moist conditions, especially when we wear headphones, specifically the over-ear ones compared to on-ear. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that you cannot wear over-ear headphones when you have an ear infection.

Although earwax is needed to protect our ears from pathogens entering our bodies, earwax, when mixed with air and water, creates an environment wherein bacteria and fungi thrive, which could pose health risks.

So be sure to keep this in mind when wearing headphones for extended periods.


Tinnitus means noise in your ears; this usually happens when people listen to excessively loud music. The sound originates from buzzing noises on your head, and to sum it up; they are phantom noises with no external sources.

Although tinnitus develops when we get older, a research study suggests that tinnitus is rising, especially for adolescents. Though you can still use headphones with tinnitus, just be concerned about the volume level when you are listening to music.

Some people also say that headphones, particularly noise-canceling headphones help improve Tinnitus. If you want to know if this is true, you can read our article discussing this.


Hyperacusis is a condition wherein individuals have a heightened sensitivity to sounds. People having hyperacusis perceive normal environmental sounds, running water, or even their voices sound extremely loud.

Hyperacusis is a condition that can affect people with tinnitus. And it causes mental illness due to noise, such as depression and phonophobia-the intense fear of loud noises, which ultimately leads to isolation and societal withdrawal.


In a ring of earplugs, a person’s ear can become pressured by music and causes dizziness.

When you are wearing headphones, you create some vacuum inside your ears, which could lead to people getting dizzy, especially when paired with really loud music blasting. Studies show that if the level of music exceeds 104 decibels, the insulation layer within nerves can be damaged. If you really want to listen to loud music, I personally suggest using a Bluetooth speaker instead.

Increased psychological stress and anxiety

The use of ear or wireless headphones can increase mental distress or anxiety in an individual. These symptoms have been observed in both adults and adolescents who wear headphones.

These effects affect a person’s mental state and their ability to work out usually and socially. Research has also shown that people wearing a wireless device like headphones results in increased rates of depression or anxiety.

Pain in the ears

The painful earache could be caused when the headphones are not correctly fitted. Here are some reasons why you might be feeling pain in your ears.

Headphones are worn too tight.

Wearing your headphones too tightly for prolonged use can easily hurt your ears. Wireless headphones that are worn too tightly exert a lot of pressure on our skulls, resulting in a compression headache. So, to prevent headphones from giving you headaches, try stretching your headphones for a couple of days.

Headphones don’t have pads.

A soft pad between the headphones and the user is something that most high-end headphone manufacturers have been integrating into their products. These pads provide a soft cushion between the rugged headphones and your skull, leading to stopping headphones from hurting your ears or less pain and fewer headaches.

Headphone cups are too small and shallow.

Choosing the appropriate headphone cup is a big deal-breaker when purchasing a new headphone. Too shallow of a cup could press too hard on your ears, leading to ear numbness.

The same can also be said for small cups, and this is one of the reasons why most podcasters and music producers prefer over-ear headphones as they fully cover the area of their ears. Though sometimes, over-ear headphones can still hurt.

A close up shot of a pair of headphones

Tell me the best way to reverse hearing loss from headphones

If you already have hearing damage, then it’s best to go to your doctor to get it treated right away, as there are no home remedies for hearing impairments, but if you are looking for ways to prevent hearing loss from headphones, here are some things you can do.

Follow the 80/90 rule.

The 80/90 rule suggests limiting your listening time to 90 minutes, at a volume level between 80-85 decibels. Experts suggest that listening to music wearing headphones is all right if the volume level does not exceed 90 decibels or 60-70% of the maximum volume.

Using headphones that have active noise cancellation

It’s no surprise that we mostly wear headphones when we are outside where the environment is loud. So if you are outside studying, you are more likely to increase the volume of your music, which is detrimental to your ears.

But if your headphones have active noise cancellation, they easily block out most background noises, enabling you to play music at a significantly low volume.

Using headphones that have great padding

If you want to minimize the risk of developing hearing loss or pain in the ears, be sure to purchase headphones that have great padding. Experts advise using over-ear headphones that entirely cover the circumference of your ears. It’s also recommended to use deeper cups of headphones so that the hard part of the headphones doesn’t directly press up against your ears.

Sanitizing headphones often to avoid infections from bacteria

Bacteria, viruses, and fungi are almost everywhere, and to stop the spread of these microorganisms from entering our ears, be sure to always sanitize your headphones before and after they are worn.

Sanitizing headphones will make them cleaner and safer to use, but it will also make them last longer.

Switch earbuds with headphones

Earbuds like the ENACFIRE E20 are certainly a great invention as they are convenient and do not require to be plugged in. However, earbuds can be more harmful compared to headphones.

Since earbuds need to be inserted deeper into your ear canal, they block off air from entering your ears. Earbuds also create the problem of developing excessive earwax build-up, resulting in ear infections and deafness.

Here are some reasons why you should shift from using earbuds to headphones

Headphones are placed farther from your eardrums.

Since headphones rest outside your ears, they minimize the distance between the sound source and our eardrums, which is necessary for hearing sound frequencies. The design of headphones allows them to create louder and better sound when compared to earbuds which are less bad for your brain and significantly lessen the risk of deafness and infections.

Headphones have better noise cancellation.

Because of their design, headphones block outside noise better when compared to earbuds; this allows you to listen to your favorite tracks at significantly lower volumes, even in loud environments, which ultimately lowers your risk of damaging your eardrums.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Studio Headphones Cause Vertigo?

Several studio headsets tend to give people headaches and even neck pain. Vertigo is defined as the sensation wherein you feel like your environment is moving or spinning around; vertigo is also directly related to issues regarding your inner ear.

Since headphones have excellent noise cancellation, they make these environments where people tend to be nauseous; a great example of this is the Bose Acoustic Noise Cancelling headphones.

Headphones affect people’s hearing since they transmit low-frequency vibrations to cancel out background noise which alters the way we usually listen to music, messing up our auditory input and causing dizziness and disorientation.

How long can I listen to music at a time?

Duration to noise is directly linked to deafness, and experts suggest that people wear headphones for 60 minutes a day.

However, audiologists also suggest that you can listen to music for more than an hour a day. But it would be best if you took 20-30 minute breaks between your streaming sessions; this will allow your ears to welcome air into your ear canal, which is crucial to maintain our balance.

Is Bluetooth technology safe?

Bluetooth devices emit low-frequency waves. Despite these, the low-frequency waves that Bluetooth headsets emit are not nearly enough to cause permanent damage to our brains; the frequencies are also too low to alter any change in our nerve cells.

Even microwaves and cell phones pose a greater risk to our brains than Bluetooth technology.

Are regular headphones safer than Bluetooth headphones?

Neither of the two headphones is terrible for your brain, but since wired headphones don’t emit radiofrequency waves, they tend to be the safer option for users, especially for people who use headphones for long periods.

Can headphones cause brain infection?

Brain infections caused by headphones are extremely rare, but they can happen if you don’t sanitize before and after using headphones. Bacteria can live on your headphones and can potentially travel through your ear canal, reaching your brain.


Headphones are indeed excellent tools to have in our arsenals. They are very portable, light, and allow us to listen to our favorite tracks discreetly. These perfectly safe devices don’t damage your brain, but always keep in mind some tips mentioned in this article to prevent any issues regarding your ears.

We hope this informative article has helped you become more knowledgeable about headphones and their effects on our brains.