Are Bluetooth Earphones Safe?

INTRODUCTION
DISAPPEARING WIRES

Oh no! The audio jacks are disappearing from smartphones, tablets, and the cyber world seems to be moving towards the mass adoption of Bluetooth earphones. But are Bluetooth earphones safe to use in the long term? Is it harmful to human health?

Till date, there are no known reports (nor proof) of people getting cancer, deaths resulting from the direct use of Bluetooth earphones. So yes, Bluetooth earphones are considered to be safe.

You can rest easy that the wireless earpieces are not going to cause a zombie apocalypse anytime soon. But that does not mean they are completely harmless and without risk – Read on to find out!

 

NAVIGATION
TABLE OF CONTENTS

Section A
The Basics

Section B
Bluetooth is Safe

Section C
Not-so-safe

Extra
Useful Bits

Closing
What’s Next?

 

 

SECTION A
THE BASICS

First, let us start with the basic understanding – What is Bluetooth and the primary health concerns.

 

WHAT IS BLUETOOTH?

Bluetooth is a standard wire-replacement communications protocol primarily designed for low power consumption, with a short range based on low-cost transceiver microchips in each device.

Wikipedia

Just for the record for you folks who are confused – Bluetooth is a completely different technology from WIFI (wireless fidelity) and mobile networks. It is a very low powered wireless technology that is meant to replace “traditional” wires by creating a small private area network (PAN).

 

THE HEALTH & DANGER CONCERNS

Now, I do believe that the main concerns most people have are over the radiation levels, the bad effects that Bluetooth may have on a human, and overall usage safety:

  • Will it cause cancer?
  • Maybe brain damage on prolonged exposure?
  • Can it cause mental health issues? Autism, depression?
  • Security issues – Can Bluetooth be hacked?
  • Will it trigger a massive zombie apocalypse?

 

 

SECTION B
BLUETOOTH IS SAFE

The short answer to all of the above concerns is “Bluetooth is safe”. But to further explain why – There will be some technical stuff, which we shall explore in layman terms within this section.

 

ELECTROMAGNETIC RADIATION

“Radiation is bad”, so the doomsayers love to chant. But just what the heck is radiation? In the layman terms, radiation is simply invisible energy traveling through space. So guess what? Radiation is already everywhere naturally.

Sunlight is a part of the electromagnetic radiation given off by the Sun; There is radiation even in a world without WIFI and electronic devices. But here is something that most people would not know, that there are several different levels and intensity of radiation:

  • Gamma Ray
  • X-Ray
  • Infrared
  • Ultraviolet
  • Microwave
  • Radiowave

 

RADIATION THAT HURTS

Electromagnetic Spectrum (Source: Britannica)

To correct that “radiation kills” myth – Only a certain range within the electromagnetic spectrum will cause harm to human beings. That is, the radiation is so “strong and intense” enough to cause cell damage, mutation, or outright kills the cells.

This range of harmful radiation is also known as “ionizing radiation”, and it covers ultraviolet, x-ray, and gamma rays. But of course, exposure to the harmful radiation range will not instantly kill a human being (it’s not like a sci-fi instant death ray or something). The keyword here is exposure.

Every human is actually capable of regenerating damaged cells, it is only past a certain tipping point that the damage is too much beyond repair. So this is where the main concern lies – Don’t go beyond the tipping point. Because even overexposure to intense sunlight can kill. Stay outdoors somewhere with a lot of ultraviolet for too long, and it will cause skin cancer.

Now that you know, please don’t be one of those uneducated doomsayers. We can’t run away from radiation, and it isn’t that bad as long as we keep exposure to harmful radiation to a minimum.

 

 

ARE BLUETOOTH EARPHONES DANGEROUS?

Can the radiation from Bluetooth devices kill? Will overexposure turn someone into a zombie? First, let us look at where Bluetooth sits in the electromagnetic spectrum:

  • The microwave ranges from 300MHz to 300GHz, this is where our WIFI and mobile networks sit in.
  • The lower radio wave frequency ranges from 300KHz to 300GHz.
  • Bluetooth uses 2402 to 2480MHz, or 2400 to 2483.5 MHz over short distances using short-wavelength UHF radio waves – Wikipedia.

So yeah. Bluetooth is at the lowest, safest end of the electromagnetic spectrum. To put it bluntly, it is even safer than WIFI and mobile networks that are already out there.

 

BUT WILL IT STILL FRY BRAINS?

Of course, they can. But to put things into perspective in a rather unscientific way, here is how much power Bluetooth devices use by their class (adapted from Wikipedia again):

ClassMax Power (mW)Max Range (m)
1100100
1.51020
22.510
311
40.50.5

Most typical Bluetooth earphones are either class 1.5 or 2, using at most 10mW of power – That is 0.01 watt. Let us now compare that against a compact microwave:

  • A compact microwave uses between 500 to 800 watts of power during heating (energyusecalculator.com).
  • That should be enough to fry a brain if someone is dumb enough to stick their head inside.
  • Meaning, we will need an equivalent of (500 ÷ 0.01) 50000 Bluetooth devices – All active at the same time, within in-your-face distance to fry a human brain.

Yep. Unscientifically speaking, we can fry brains if we put enough Bluetooth devices in a short distance, and activate all of them at the same time.

 

 

SECTION C
THE BAD PARTS OF BLUETOOTH

Before the Internet hater troll things start to spit fire and acid – Bluetooth earphones are not totally safe either. Here’s why.

 

POTENTIALLY EXPLOSIVE BATTERY PACKS

The bad thing about Bluetooth headsets is that they are wireless and require a battery pack. Remember how the lithium-ion batteries in smartphones exploded? eScooter battery catching on fire? Yes, there is also a rare case of headphone battery exploding in mid-flight as well.

But the lithium batteries are still generally safe and enclosed inside the device. Just don’t be a part of “natural selection” to open a battery pack when it reads “flammable, do not dismantle”. It will not be a big issue as long as the battery stays safely enclosed within.

 

“HANDS-FREE” DISTRACTION

In some regions, Bluetooth earpieces are allowed for drivers – As long as it is hands-free and does not disrupt driving. But how “hand-free” can one be when talking on the phone or listening to loud music while driving? Especially when the earphones come with noise cancellation? Like it or not, Bluetooth earpieces may still be a source of driving distraction.

 

 

WILL PROLONGED EXPOSURE CAUSE CANCER!?

There is no strong evidence that suggests Bluetooth and WIFI will cause cancer in humans. But research has shown otherwise that high exposure to radio frequency caused cancer in male rats. Yep, “no known reports nor evidence” is just a nice way of saying “we don’t know the side effects to the full extent”.

Whichever way it is, if the idea of sticking a radio device permanently into your ears does not sound good, then don’t do it. Use the Bluetooth earpiece sparingly. Switch back to wired earphones once in a while, and minimize your own exposure to the radio waves.

 

CAN BLUETOOTH EARPHONES BE HACKED?

The final million-dollar question – Can Bluetooth earphones be hacked? Can someone else tap on the signal and hijack it? The answer is yes. But it will be pretty funny if someone actually does it. I mean, Bluetooth is short-range. Just imagine someone walking all around with a big laptop, trying to follow you and keep within the Bluetooth range?

Anyway, if you are on a mobile phone, then the signals are already broadcasted everywhere on the mobile network. Right?

 

EXTRA
USEFUL BITS

That’s all for this guide, and here is a small section on some extras and links that may be useful to you.

 

TO USE OR NOT TO USE? THAT IS THE QUESTION.

So far, there are zero deaths from the usage of Bluetooth earpieces. So yep, I don’t think it warrants a knee jerk reaction to “stay away from that hellish wireless technology”. But that said, don’t abuse the earpieces, don’t puncture the battery, nor wear it for long hours – Just keep yourself safe and things should be just fine.

 

 

LINKS & REFERENCES

 

CLOSING
WHAT’S NEXT?

Thank you for reading, and we have come to the end of this guide. I hope this has helped you to better understand, and if you have anything to share with this guide, please feel free to comment below. Good luck and may the cyber force be with you.

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