Stanford Neuroscientist Explains Why He Stopped Using Bluetooth Headphones Over Health Fears

Dr. Andrew Huberman shares personal health reasons as well as other concerns that made him ditch Bluetooth headphones.
Dr. Andrew Huberman shares personal health reasons as well as other concerns that made him ditch Bluetooth headphones.

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The reasons might surprise you.

Dr. Andrew Huberman, a renowned neuroscientist from Stanford University, recently explained why he discontinued the use of Bluetooth headphones, citing health concerns in his Huberman Lab podcast.

Known for his expertise in brain science, Dr. Huberman’s decision brings significant attention to the potential health implications of Bluetooth technology. This prompts both the public and the scientific community to reexamine the risks associated with these everyday gadgets.

Andrew Huberman is an American neuroscientist and podcaster, known for his role as an associate professor of neurobiology and ophthalmology at Stanford University and for hosting the popular Huberman Lab podcast.

Why Huberman Stopped Using Bluetooth Headphones

Huberman has talked about the safety of using Bluetooth headphones in multiple podcasts. But, his stance can be summarized into three:

Personal health issues

Dr. Huberman shares his story on getting cysts on his lymph as a result of using Bluetooth headphones.
Dr. Huberman shares his story on getting cysts on his lymph as a result of using Bluetooth headphones.

Dr. Huberman described a personal health issue that influenced his decision: recurrent lymph cysts behind his ears. He observed a correlation between the use of Bluetooth headphones and the appearance of these cysts.

“I kept getting these cysts behind my ears, which I was told were lymph swellings. They would actually drain lymph if they got big enough. It was really gross and kind of troubling.” Huberman stated.

The issue subsided when he stopped using the headphones, but recurred when he resumed their use. This cycle led him to conclude a potential link between the headphones and the cysts, prompting him to abandon them altogether.

EMFs in Bluetooth headphones

Huberman became more worried because of the possible risk from electromagnetic fields (EMFs) that Bluetooth devices give off. He mentioned that he was doing in-depth research on the topic for a future podcast and found some concerning insights.

“I’ve been researching EMFs for a future episode of the podcast, and EMFs are a real thing. There does seem to be some evidence that electromagnetic fields of sufficient strength can alter the function and health of neural tissue, given that neural tissue is electrically signaling among itself.” he said.

This is in line with a past scientist’s appeal calling for protection from EMF exposure. The appeal mentions the potential risks of cellular stress, genetic damages, etc, as a result of using wireless devices.

Concerns about heat generated by Bluetooth headphones

Huberman also raised an often-overlooked issue: the heat generated by Bluetooth headphones.

He recalled noticing significant heat effects while using them. This led him to think that there’s a potential risk associated with heat accumulation near sensitive neural structures like the cochlea and auditory mechanisms.

“Heat and neural tissue are not friends,” he stated, emphasizing the potential risks of exposing such sensitive areas to continuous warmth.

Contrasting Expert Views on the Safety of Bluetooth Headphones

Dr. Matthew MacDougall as a guest on one of Huberman's podcast episodes. (From: YouTube/Andrew Huberman)
Dr. Matthew MacDougall as a guest on one of Huberman’s podcast episodes. (From: YouTube/Andrew Huberman)

In one of Huberman’s podcast episodes, Dr. Matthew MacDougall, the head neurosurgeon of Neuralink, shares a different opinion about the safety of using Bluetooth headphones.

Dr. MacDougall addresses the fear of tumor-causing EMF fields, especially related to Bluetooth headphones, by highlighting the extremely low energy levels involved.

He points out that the electromagnetic fields, particularly in the Bluetooth frequency range, are far too weak to cause concern.

“The power levels are tiny in these devices… In terms of electromagnetic fields, the energy levels are way, way out of the range where I would be worried about this” he explains.

He also emphasized that we are constantly exposed to various electromagnetic signals, regardless of our use of Bluetooth devices. And, reassured that the human body has inherent mechanisms to handle such exposure.

“I think you just have to trust that your body has the DNA repair mechanisms that it needs to deal with the constant bath of ionizing radiation that you’re in as a result of being in the universe and exposed to cosmic rays.” says Dr. MacDougall.

These views are supported by other studies.

For example, non-ionizing radiation, which is the type of radiation that Bluetooth headphones have, is known to not have enough energy to change the charge of an atom or affect any human’s health. Instead, they are known to just pass through your body without causing any harm.

The electromagnetic spectrum.
The electromagnetic spectrum.

When it comes to heat, Dr. MacDougall downplays the worries about localized heating effects caused by Bluetooth headphones.

Drawing an analogy with a car’s fluid cooling system, he explains how the human body, like a car radiator, has a distributed fluid cooling system that effectively manages heat. This suggests that minor temperature variation caused by the headphones is unlikely to pose a significant problem.

“Your body is very capable of carrying that heat away and dissipating it via sweat evaporation or temperature equalization.” he says. “So for any heat that’s locally generated in the ear, one, there’s a pretty large bony barrier there, and two, there’s a ton of blood flow in the head, in general, that’s going to regulate that temperature.”

Safer Audio Alternatives to Bluetooth Headphones

Although some experts he interviewed did not share Huberman’s concerns, there are some experts raising concerns about the risks of Bluetooth headphones, such as AirPods.

This ambiguity in the scientific community led Huberman to err on the side of caution.

“My feeling was, look, if there’s any concern whatsoever, why would I use them?” says Huberman.

In response, Dr. Andrew Huberman and Rick Rubin, a renowned music producer known for his work with artists like Johnny Cash, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Adele, delved into alternative options that minimize potential health risks.

Rick Rubin as a guest in Huberman's podcast entitled: Protocols to Access Creative Energy and Process (From: YouTube/Andrew Huberman)
Rick Rubin as a guest in Huberman’s podcast entitled: Protocols to Access Creative Energy and Process (From: YouTube/Andrew Huberman)
Huberman remarked, “I use the ones with wires. But you use the ones with wires that are even one step further away from Wi-Fi transmitters.”

Rubin responded by highlighting his preference for a specific type of headphones.

He says, “There are ones with air tubes that I use depending on what’s going on, and those have no electrical, there’s no electric near your head. It’s just an air tube where the sound is traveling. This actual sound is traveling in the tube to your ears.”
How air tube headphones work
How air tube headphones work

Air tube headphones, as Rubin mentioned, are said to present a solution to reducing EMF exposure with headphone use. These headphones resemble traditional wired earbuds but feature a critical design distinction.

The sound is transmitted through traditional metal wires up to a point, where it then travels through hollow plastic tubes before reaching the ears. This design separates the electrical components from the user’s head, reducing EMF exposure.

For more information, check out our comprehensive article, where we answer all the common concerns regarding the safety of Bluetooth headphones.

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