2022 Edition: Will Bluetooth earbuds rot your brain?

At this point in the 21st century it’s a little bit hard to imagine that something isn’t bad for you. For about the last 50 years the parade of things that could either harm you or the environment has seemed never-ending. I get it, some people are cynical and other people worry too much. Both are a really reasonable way to live life today.

And this is why people ask me if 5G will rot their brains out. Now, I’m no doctor and if you are really worried you should ask a doctor as I have.  I consulted with several of them when I wrote this article that says there’s no real cause for concern right now. But, if we have to talk about the risk of cell phones broadcasting into our brains, we should probably talk about Bluetooth devices as well.

Hey, didn’t you already write this article?

A wise member of the team pointed out, I did write a little bit about this, about two and a half years ago. I pointed out that the broadcast power of these things is so low that it shouldn’t be a concern. I also pointed out in big letters that I’m not a doctor and you should consult a doctor if you’re really worried. Which reminds me, before I go any further I should point out that…

I’m not a doctor. I write blogs for a living. If you want real medical advice, ask a doctor. If you want an entertaining article, I’m your huckleberry.

So let’s dig in. It’s 2022 and a lot has changed since I wrote that article. And while it was a good article, there were some things I didn’t really cover. It’s time to go a little further with the discussion.

The brass tacks of it

I have seen no new evidence to suggest that Bluetooth devices will rot your brain, give you cancer, or any of that stuff even if they are used all day every day. As I said in the previous article, the power level given off by Bluetooth devices is so low, even compared to cell phones, that the danger level is really minimal. I’m not sure it’s an apples to apples comparison, but it’s not even approaching the energy level you get on your ears on a sunny day. If you’re not worried about sunburning your ears, you don’t need to worry about Bluetooth devices.

Bluetooth still broadcasts at a fairly low frequency, 2.45GHz. Yes, this is roughly the same frequency that microwave ovens use. But microwave ovens operate at around 1,000 watts. That’s 300,000 times more powerful than a Bluetooth headset. It’s not something you should have to worry about.

Other dangers from Bluetooth devices?

Because of Apple and their oh-so-sexy Airpods (and their Earpods before them) many folks use in-ear headsets. They’re lighter and let in more sound from the outside world when you want them to. A pair of ear buds, even the ones we sell at Solid Signal, are a lot easier to keep in your pocket than a pair of full-size over-the-ear headphones. But, convenient doesn’t always mean good.

I’ve been told that children shouldn’t use in-ear headphones, because they can damage growing ears. I think that all of us are at a danger of overusing headphones or cranking them up too loud. Doing so can cause hearing loss and headaches. I find that if I use my ear buds for more than about two hours I get an aching sensation in my ears and that’s my cue to switch to a more traditional headset.

All in all the danger of hearing loss is the greatest worry you should have about Bluetooth devices. It’s much more of a risk than anything stemming from the radio broadcasts.

Another risk of Bluetooth devices, compared to wired earphones, is strictly economic. They’re more expensive, and they don’t last as long. The batteries wear out, new standards come out, and suddenly those expensive devices don’t work as well as they used to. Not only that, there is so much wiring inside Bluetooth devices that it’s hard to make them durable. Without sounding like an oldster, they don’t make headphones like they used to, and a new pair can cost more than I used to pay for a month’s rent.

It’s also worth pointing out that within the next few years, every pair of AirPods made is going to end up in a landfill. They’re notoriously hard to recycle, and that’s not good for the environment.

Bottom line…

There’s still no reason to think there’s a medical reason to avoid Bluetooth devices. They’re safe, they work well, and while they aren’t incredibly secure, they’re still a good way to take calls, make calls, or listen to your favorite tunes.

And with that, I’ll be back in another few years with an update.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.