Have you ever asked yourself: “Is getting electrocuted by headphones really possible?” Yes, you’ve read this correctly, I assure you. Just imagine: you buy yourself a brand new pair of earbuds, plug them into your iPod or whichever portable device you use, go on a little jogging session. Then suddenly: Zap! – and you’re gone.
Electrocution by headphones. A shocking concept (pun intended!), isn’t it?
Feeling slight electric shocks with your headphones on is not uncommon, but the question of electrocution is another matter entirely. These shocks can be rather unpleasant unless you’re a certain hammer-wielding Marvel Comics demigod, but they cannot actually kill us.
Or can they?
In the following text, we will explain these electric shocks, how they happen, and how to avoid earbud shocks. We will also try to find out which earbuds are safest to wear and try and find out whether or we can actually get electrocuted by headphones.
Is Wearing Headphones Dangerous?
Not necessarily, no. It can be problematic or tedious at times, but not dangerous, unless in cases we’re about to discuss.
You have probably had the chance to hear how excessive use of headphones could cause you a world of troubles. Ear inflammation, headaches, and hearing issues - all of these may stem from using your headphones for far too long periods of time. The abovementioned shocks, however, happen for a different reason.
The shock comes from static energy build up. Take the above-mentioned jogging example. As you run or move in general, the cord your earbuds or headphones rubs against your clothes, which causes the static charge to build up. Eventually, the charge will reach the threshold and zap you, but not hard enough to actually kill you.
Other reasons for the static charge build-up include:
- Dry, low humidity environment
- Windy or droughty environment
- Moving your device in and out of your pocket often
- Clothes made out of synthetic fibers, i.e. nylon
Generally speaking, DC drivers in earphones have no capacity to hold a charge strong enough to actually kill a human being. On their own then, chances for you to be electrocuted by headphones are slim at best.
Electrocution by Earbuds
However, there are recorded cases of people dying to the headphone electrocution, but those are very specific cases.
If the inner mechanisms are connected with a material which has good conducting properties, such as metal, and if that metal is somehow exposed (i.e. broken earbud casing), you will likely get zapped. Combine that with a faulty device placed on a charger, and you’ll be in for a very bad time.
Another important factor which may bring to potential electrocution is faulty wirings. Any overly large power fluctuation may cause your charger to malfunction, send more power than your device and earbuds can handle, and seriously injure you, if not outright kill you.
And please, check the quality of your chargers. If you’re using a cheap, substandard charger, you’re testing your luck, not just in the context of this text, but regarding the “health” of your device as well.
You see, a wall socket usually has an output of 240V. Most phone charges today can give an output of 5V. Because of this huge difference in voltage, having a reliable charger is a must. Cheaper chargers have a chance to send full 240V directly into your phone, up the earphones, then straight into your head.
So, if you have the habit of sleeping with your earbuds on while charging your phone battery on a stormy night, please, don’t do that anymore. As we can see, it’s a very bad idea.
How to Avoid Earphone Shocks?
Electrocution is possible, but rest assured - like I’ve said earlier, the chances for that happening are rare, and it happens in very particular situations. The most frequent zap you may feel is from the build-up of the static charge, but that charge is usually harmless, though still highly unpleasant.
These are some of the ways to avoid earbud shocks, and consequently, reduce the chances of possible electrocution to an even lesser degree.
- Ground Yourselves
When jogging, touch a piece of metal. That will allow you to ground yourselves and prevent static charge build-up. If you’re running on a treadmill in a gym, you can touch the metal sensor for measuring heart rate (most of the treadmills of today have it). That way, you can prevent the headphones form potentially shocking you.
Another thing you can do to ground yourself is to buy an anti-static wristband. You can attach it to metal, that way is constantly grounded while jogging.
Natural Fiber Clothing
As we have stated earlier, wearing clothes made out of synthetic fibers creates the build-up of static charge. To prevent this, start wearing clothes made out of natural materials, such as cotton or wool. That way, the charge will build up at a significantly slower rate.
Humidifiers and Anti-Static Sprays
In case you’re living in an overly dry environment, a good thing for you to do would be to use a humidifier to keep the humidity levels in your room on an optimal level.
Anti-Static sprays are really useful for minimizing potential earbud shock. Spray it over your work-out clothes, gym gear, and furniture, and you’ll be good to go.
Minimize Wind Charging
If you plan on running on a windy day, or if you’re planning to spend a lot of time in front of a fan, I strongly suggest you keep your media devices out of the air current’s reach. For example, place your iPods or other devices you may use in your bags or pockets, or armbands even. That way, the risk of static build-up due to strong wind will be minimized.
There are also some other options you’ll need to take into consideration:
- Only use the charger specifically designed for your phone or media devices
- Check for damage on your earbud cords and on the cord of your charger
- Do not sleep with your headphones on, especially while charging your phones
Safe Headphones for You to Wear
Now that we have seen the reasons for earbud shocks and potential electrocution, let us review some of the safest earbuds for you to wear, whether you’re exercising or just resting after a hard day at work.
The true, static charge will build upon any kind of earbuds and headphones, so the absolute safest charge-resistant earbuds do not resist, but some the earbuds presented here may be a good choice for you nonetheless.
- Shure SE215
Shure SE215 offers excellent sound quality and great noise canceling abilities. Praised for their durability and performance despite their slightly awkward design, they are able to block out up to 37 dB of background noise.
What is important for this topic is the fact that they are completely sweat-proof, so you can use them while exercising without worrying, and since their cords are removable, chances of them getting damaged are small, and so are the chances of you getting zapped by the static shock.
Sennheiser IE 80
Another pair of earbuds with removable cords, Sennheiser IE 80 are stable earbuds which fit perfectly in your ear due to the selection of the ear tip material (silicon and foam). They’re ergonomic and snug, their metal casing increasing their durability, but it’s probably not a good idea to go wear them outside on a stormy day.
Brainwavz M2’s classical design is all about functionality. You’ll feel comfortable while wearing them, their aluminum housing boosts their durability, though in this particular case, it might be a negative for some users.
When it comes to stability, the sturdy and thick cables might cause you some trouble, so you’ll need to find a way to fit them properly. Yet, the thickness of the cords is a good thing - they won’t get damaged that easily, thus the wirings within will be safe, so you won’t need to worry about the electrocution or shock that much.
Electrocution by earbuds is a real threat, but it is a threat very unlikely to happen, especially if all the necessary precautionary measures are implemented. If you’re still insecure regarding the corded earbuds, you may try and substitute them with Bluetooth earbuds. Bear in mind that some of them may come with faulty batteries, so the risk of a mild shock or a serious injury is still present.
But since we are not hammer-wielding, electricity-resistant gods of thunder from the comics (though one can only dream), all we need to do is to follow the abovementioned pieces of advice, and we’ll keep on enjoying using our earbuds in all the possible safety.