Will wireless earbuds give you cancer or rot your brain?

Big disclaimer. I’m not a doctor. I’m a person who does research on the internet, like you. If you’re worried about something, call a doctor.

Everything today is wireless. We connect wireless earbuds to our wireless cell phones which connect to wireless networks and charge on wireless chargers. Everyone says it’s not a problem. Yet, we sometimes feel uneasy with all this radiation. Should we?

So far, there is no independently verified research that says that radiation in the range of 600MHz – 5GHz (in other words, the frequencies used for cellular, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi) can hurt you. This is especially true in the doses provided by your wireless devices. Most communication uses fractions of a watt; the strongest is cellular radios which are still lower than a watt. In other words, the strongest radiation used by these devices is about a third of what’s used in the most common type of night light or flashlight.

Wireless earbuds, specifically, use very low power. Bluetooth’s transmit power tops out at about 3/1000ths of a watt. There’s no evidence that you could be harmed by that small amount of electricity, even if it’s right inside your ears and inches from your brain.

X-Rays are different

I know that people worry about wireless stuff because all radiation is, on a basic level, the same. Light, radio, Wi-Fi, satellite TV, cellular… it’s all part of the electromagnetic spectrum and it’s all technically radiation. The difference is in the wavelength. All forms of broadcasting take place in relatively low wavelengths. The higher the wavelength, the more of an issue we tend to see. We use megahertz and gigahertz to measure the wavelengths of broadcasting. 1 megahertz is one million cycles per second. One gigahertz is one billion. Those sound like big numbers, but visible light’s frequency is up in the terahertz area, 1,000 times higher than satellite and 1,000,000 times higher than Bluetooth. X-rays, some of the most common radiation that can hurt you, is up in the petahertz range, 1,000 times higher than light.

What I’m trying to say there is that X-rays and Bluetooth are technically both radiation, but they have about as much in common as walking and riding a rocket do. Just because X-rays are harmful to you, doesn’t mean that Bluetooth is.

One more thing to consider

I wasn’t able to find any evidence that wireless earbuds are any more hazardous to you than wired ones. However, I should probably mention that there is a lot of evidence that suggests that in-ear headphones, especially used at high sound levels, are hazardous to younger people. Of course playing the music too loud is going to hurt anyone, but children are a special cause for concern here. Young children should always use over-the-ear headphones if they use headphones at all, Their headphone use should be monitored to make sure the volume level is kept low.

Of course children and wireless earbuds are probably a bad mix anyway because the earbuds are likely to go missing. But that’s another story altogether.

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.