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Is your Bluetooth headphones’ battery a ticking time bomb?
On November 10th, 2023, a man opened his backpack to find his headphones melting and on fire. The headphone model was the Soundcore Q45, one of many Bluetooth cans to have self-combusted or exploded in the recent past due to possible power surges or other battery malfunctions.
The man, going by the name of Quincy, was commuting to work when something very odd happened.
These relatively budget-friendly headphones (selling for $99 on Amazon) were not the only items ruined. The mechanical burn destroyed the rest of his belongings and forced Quincy to run outside and let the contents of his bag burn off.
Similar Occurrences in Other Headphone Brands
This accident isn’t the first of its kind; even headphones from bigger brands have experienced similar issues.
In a recent air travel incident, a woman’s Beats headphones unexpectedly exploded mid-flight on her trip to Melbourne, creating panic. Fortunately, she and the other passengers escaped mostly unharmed, though the victim suffered minor burns on her face.
Meanwhile, another individual in Florida narrowly avoided a potentially dangerous scenario when his Apple AirPods began emitting smoke. He managed to remove the headphones from his ears just in time.
But others were not as lucky. A 28-year-old man in India met a horrifying fate when his Bluetooth headphones exploded during a phone call. This led him to experience a possible cardiac arrest and his subsequent death.
These alarming incidents have raised concerns about the safety of both budget-friendly and more established headphone brands. Ultimately, it prompts a closer look at the potential risks associated with these widely used devices.
Why Do Some Bluetooth Headphones Self-Combust?
In a recent interview, headphone expert and audio engineer, Garrett Kemp, said that these incidents are becoming increasingly common and unavoidable given the fragility of batteries.
“Electric bikes have exploded. Phones have melted. I’m not surprised that Bluetooth headphones have self-combusted on people.” says Kemp.
Kemp says that low-quality assembly and possible power surges or short circuits are the cause of such events, but people have yet to come to a consensus on how to prevent these incidents entirely.
Tips to Avoid Headphone Combustion
There are ways to minimize the risk of your headphones exploding. And the first way is to not opt for Bluetooth headphones at all. Instead, opt for wired alternatives. Traditional wired headphones eliminate the risk of explosions and other battery-related issues.
But if you just can’t tolerate a wire, here are some precautions you might want to consider with respect to your wireless headphones:
- Remain vigilant for signs of damage: If wireless headphones show any signs of swelling, immediately discontinue use. Swelling is a warning sign of potential battery failure, possibly leading to a rupture or fire.
- Monitor charging conditions: Charging wireless headphones in extreme temperatures adds stress to lithium-ion batteries. This potentially results in damage or fire.
- Exercise caution with chargers: Ensure compatibility with a manufacturer-approved charger when charging wireless headphones. Using underpowered or fast-chargers may damage the headphone battery, increasing the risk of explosion.
- Handle with care: Damaging wireless headphones, such as dropping or sitting on them, raises the risk of compromising the lithium-ion battery. Always use a case when transporting your cans.
- Don’t buy the crappy stuff: Avoid opting for obscure, budget wireless headphones available online. Their affordability may come at the expense of essential safety features. Manufacturers cutting corners on lithium-ion batteries or charging circuitry mean potentially bad news.
However, as mentioned above, it’s not just the cheap stuff that explodes. And it might be that no one is safe. But when asked if he would invest in a lesser-known brand, like Soundcore, on his next purchase, Quincy stated, “Definitely not. I’ll go for a more trusted and trustworthy brand next time.”