Apple unveiled the much anticipated wireless AirPods wireless headphones in December 2016, and they’ve been a popular product among customers ever since. During Christmas, they actually went out of stock for a short period. Meanwhile, Ming-Chi Kuo, analyst firm KGI Securities believes that shipments will double in 2018, increasing from 26 million to 28 million.
These are the first pair of Bluetooth headphones that the American tech giant has ever put out, and Apple fans have been hugely impressed so far. Not only do they allow you to listen to music on your iPhone, iPad or Mac wirelessly, but you can also chuck them into a protective carry case for quick charging. On just one charge, they can provide up to 5 hours of listening time. But with the case, you get up achieve up to 24 hours of juice. It also only takes 15 minutes for them to charge up.
However, despite all of these cool features, the Airpods haven’t been without criticism. When they first came to market, some people slammed Apple for overpricing the headphones. And others criticised the firm over the fact that they can easily fall out of your ear. Plus, if you lose them, you’ll have to spend more money to get a new replacement. Reports also emerged alleging that the charging case would suddenly discharge, even when the headphones weren’t being used. Apple fixed this with an update, but the point is, the Airpods haven’t always been perfect..
Now, hundreds of AirPods users are taking to online forums to complain that the headphones are causing headaches.
Last month, a user took to the Apple Communities page to warn other people about this problem, and since then, nearly 200 other users reported to have the same issue on that post alone.
The Airpods owner wrote that shortly after buying and using the headphones, they began experiencing “strong pressure” around the ears and head. This is something they’ve only noticed with Apple’s headphones, rather than other brands.
“I don’t have this issue while using wired headphones, but I DO have this problem if I keep an iPhone next to my head while talking. Normally, I use wired headphones and keep the phone away from my head for this very reason. I had also experienced this type of pain/pressure/headache while using bluetooth headsets in the past, but never to the intense level caused by the airpods,” they wrote.
The commenter believes that the Bluetooth technology is to blame, although there’s no indication from Apple that this may be the case. “I can only speculate (I’m sure I’ll get skewered for using that word) that this has something to do with bluetooth signal, or in the case of the phone, cellular signal, which I’ve either become hypersensitive to from years of use, or worse,” they wrote.
Since the incident, they’ve returned the AirPods to Apple, adding: “There is no way I can consciously keep using them, not to mention that the headache becomes very strong after while to the point that it can’t be ignored. I’ll add that I hardly ever get headaches normally, this is an easily identifiable cause for me.”
In the same forum thread, a different user explained that they’re having similar issues. They described similar symptoms to the person in the first comment, writing: “I have been having back of head headaches and slight nausea since beginning to use the airpods.” Initially, they didn’t think that these symptoms could be related to the headphones.
Another forum poster, under the name “janels1”, also noticed pressure when they first started using the AirPods. This soon turned into headaches. They said: “I was anticipating the AirPods but was concerned about them fitting my ears, as I couldn’t wear the wired earpods comfortably. My solution was to just sort of place them in my ears, without trying to make them fit deeply. I loved the feeling of freedom, loved the sound, and convenience. However, I began noticing a feeling of pressure, then a lot of headaches. The headaches seemed to slowly go away when I removed the AirPods. Then I would insert them again, and the pressure and headaches began again.”
A few people have attempted to give a reason for the problem, with one commenting: “While you are out looking for people with headaches, be sure to search for blind tests of non-ionizing radiation, such as Bluetooth and WiFi. If you go for the simplest explanation of your issue it is the shape of your ear and the pressure of the phone upon it and the fit of the IEMs. The other explanation, sensitivity to BT and WiFi and cell signals even, has been extensively tested and rejected.”
Apple hasn’t really spoken about the claims, but experts have warned about potential side effects caused by the Airpods in the past. In September 2016, Dr Joel Moskowitz – who works at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health – claimed that the AirPods could cause harmful radiation. He warned that you’re essentially “putting a microwave-emitting device next to your brain”.
At the time, the professor asked: “Although we don’t know the long-term risks from using Bluetooth devices, why would anyone insert microwave-emitting devices in their ears near their brain when there are safer ways to use a cell phone.” A spokesperson for the tech giant hit back by saying: “Apple products are always designed and tested to meet or exceed all safety requirements.”
Though the expert opinion is plausible, we can’t be certain that microwaves are the cause of users’ headaches. There might actually be a simpler explanation.
Because AirPods fit so snugly within the wearer’s ears, it’s possible that pressure can build up within their ear canals. Try leaving some wiggle room in the ear canal for the AirPods (rather than pressing them in deeply). This will lower pressure build up (or eliminate it) and should reduce the severity of the headache.