Harmful Effects of Headsets

By Scott Cornell

Headsets should be comfortable and convenient for workers.
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Headsets are a useful hands-free accessory for any executive who frequently speaks on the phone, so businesses often provide them to employees. However, while headsets can be ergonomic and convenient, there are several health risks associated with them. So before a business goes outfitting its employees with headsets, it's important to know the harmful effects that may be linked to them and how to properly maintain headset units to minimize certain health risks.


According to PC Magazine, all cell phones and Bluetooth headsets emit radiation. However, PC Magazine states that Bluetooth headsets "emit a small amount of radiation," or a lesser amount compared to cell phones. And while the verdict is out on whether or not cumulative amounts of radiation from typical use of cell phones and wireless headsets lead to long-term dangers such as cancer, head exposure to radiation has been linked with cancer, autism, brain tumors and hair loss. To capitalize on fears over possible radiation exposure, many manufacturers have released headsets marketed as radiation-free and other phone options.

Hearing Risks

Another risk associated with headsets is premature hearing loss. This risk, however, isn't likely to occur from a malfunction in your headset, but more from an acoustic shock injury resulting from excess noise traveling over your phone line. This excess noise is comprised of electronic feedback from the likes of fax machines and other electronics, or simply from operating the headset at higher-than-recommended levels. Repeat exposure leads to inner ear damage, which, in turn, leads to hearing loss and other hearing-related heath issues. It is important to check the volume level of your headset before putting it on. Apple recommends limiting the amount of time you use its iPhone Bluetooth Headset at high volume, avoiding turning up the volume to block out noisy surroundings, and turning the volume down if you can't hear people speaking near you.

Ear Infections

One risk associated with headsets has more to do about proper maintenance than it does about headset mechanics. Ear infections are likely to occur among headset-using employees in busy call centers where employees wear the equipment for long hours of the work day if they're not properly cared for. For instance, headset ear cushions should be replaced every six months and treated daily with a cleaning agent to reduce the risk of spreading bacteria between workers.

Other Symptoms

Although headsets are more ergonomically correct than holding a phone up to your ear, they must be fitted properly. For instance, if a headset fits too tightly, you might experience headaches and soreness. Other symptoms, such as ear irritation, may occur regardless of how your headset is fitted. If you wear your headset for hours a day, especially if it's a two-piece ear bud model, your ears can grow irritated from the buds. However, these health hazards are preventable. Just make sure your headset fits properly and that you take it off when not in use.