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Music Tech

Can wearing Headphones Cause Hair Loss?

Headphones Cause Hair Loss

Some of my music producer friends have mentioned that wearing headphones can cause your hair to fall out. However, their statement was never accompanied by facts. I’ve always believed that there was some correlation between wearing headphones and hair loss. However, the question remains, does wearing headphones really cause hair loss?

Potential for hair loss from headphones

The obvious reason that hair loss could be caused by headphones is because of the typical headphone design. The definition of headphones is “a pair of earphones joined by a band placed over the head.” The headband is what distinguishes headphones from earphones.

Headphones Cause Hair Loss
Definition of headphones

The band that connects the pair of earphones is usually quite firm on the scalp. This is so the headphones stay in place while you move around.

Many people avoid this altogether by wearing headphones with the headband behind the head or neck.

Headphones Cause Hair Loss
Photo by Max Wolfs on Unsplash

However, what about musicians who need to wear headphones while playing an instrument? Musicians need the headphones to stay in place. Not fall off.

Most headphone manufacturers design their headphones to be secure on the head. However, could this firm fitting design be the cause of hair loss for frequent headphone users?

Here’s the science…

Headphones Cause Hair Loss

Many people who have heard that headphones cause hair loss immediately dismiss the notion. They assume that hair loss is caused only due to genetics and nutrition.

However, the causes of hair loss are quite varied and complex.

Here are some reasons you can lose your hair:

  • Androgenetic alopecia (primarily due to testosterone levels)
  • Thyroid disease
  • Anemia
  • Chemotherapy
  • Alopecia areata (an autoimmune disease)
  • Traction alopecia

What is traction alopecia?

Most people have heard of alopecia, but are mostly familiar with Alopecia areata. Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease that results in patches of missing hair. It is also totally unpredictable.

However, traction alopecia is quite different.

Traction alopecia is baldness caused by friction or traction to the hair follicles. The hair falls out due to pulling on the hair roots.

When headphones are worn for several hours each day, traction alopecia is a reality. Some people also experience traction alopecia from wearing tight braids and ponytails.

While wearing headphones you regularly need to adjust them for the sake of comfort. However, with each adjustment, there is rubbing (traction) on the scalp.

This causes traction alopecia or hair loss. This is especially true for people with short hair. With short hair, individual hair strands are pulled which makes them more susceptible to being damaged.

Is traction alopecia reversible?

This depends. Most dermatologists believe that the sooner traction alopecia is stopped and treatment begins, the better. Several years of traction alopecia will like result in permanent damage to the hair follicle.

Most dermatologists recommend giving your hair several months to regrow after experiencing hair loss due to traction alopecia.

How to avoid hair loss from headphones

Headphones Cause Hair Loss
A guy wearing a blue beanie with headphones. Photo by Trust “Tru” Katsande on Unsplash

Now that we have identified traction, pulling, and rubbing on the hair follicles, how do you avoid losing hair from headphones?

This is quite difficult especially if your work/profession requires frequent headphone use.

The immediate issue that needs to be remedied is the pull of hair/rubbing of the hair follicle. You can greatly reduce the amount of friction on the scalp from headphones is wearing a well fitted (not tight) hat.

Avoid Headphones with non-adjustable bands that cause hair loss

Headphone manufacturers often market non-adjustable headphones as “self-adjusting”.

These “self-adjusting”, friction producing headphones have an elastic band or flexible cushions that sit on the head firmly. There is no way to loosen these headbands.

Here are examples of headphones that cause traction alopecia:

  • Audio-Technica ATH-R70x (view)
  • Pioneer SE-M521 (view)
  • AKG K77 (view)
  • AKG K99 (view)

Audio-Technica ATH-R70x. Great audio quality, but hair loss nightmare!

Headphones least likely to cause hair loss

When looking for headphones, you want to be aware of how much friction is caused by the headband. Luckily, most of the best headphones have adjustable headbands.

Obviously, there are many factors to consider when purchasing a pair of headphones.

For audio professionals, audio quality is the primary selling point. However, we cannot negate the fact that headphones need to be functional.

Things like the weight, materials, and comfort must be considered when selecting a pair of headphones.

If possible, use headphones with an adjustable headband

Most people do not realize the benefits of having an adjustable headband.

I recently purchased a pair of Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO Studio 250 Ohm mixing headphones and I love them!

They are very comfortable and the headband adjusts so that the headband barely touches my hair.

The DT 990 PRO headphones have a headband that almost locks in place once it is adjusted. You can greatly minimize the friction on your scalp with these headphones.

Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO Studio 250 Ohm

Lightweight headphones to reduce friction

The weight of the headphones is a difficult factor. Typically headphones with high-powered drivers tend to be quite heavy.

However, if you are not necessarily looking for headphones with tons of power (volume), maybe try lightweight headphones.

Alternatives to headphones

There are other ways of listening to music even if you are an audio professional or musician. I have begun to listen to music on my studio monitors more often.

This way I avoid the amount of friction on my head caused by my headphones.

To be honest, I only use headphones to check my mixes and when I am doing recording sessions.

A great alternative to wearing headphones during recording sessions is to simply use in-ear monitoring.

I had a pair of Shure in-ear monitors for years that I used for live shows and recording. Even now, I have several friends in Los Angeles who use their own in-ear monitors when they record.

This has several benefits. No more wearing headphones that have had other people’s sweat and germs. Also, you know can be reassured that you are wearing something that is comfortable.

Custom-fitted in-ear monitoring

I have become increasingly interested in purchasing a pair of custom-fit earphones. Having earphones that are literally molded to fit your ears sounds like a dream, right?

Check out these cool earphones by Linsoul Peacock Audio

Linsoul Peacock Audio P1 Dynamic HiFi in-Ear Earphones

Headphone, hair loss myth busted?

What do you think? It is fairly simple to understand that headphones that have headbands that rub and pull on hair which can cause hair fall.

However, I think that very few headphone makers have taken hair loss into consideration. I certainly have not seen “will not cause traction alopecia” on any AKG or Audio-Technica’s specifications!

Would you buy a pair of headphones that was designed to minimize traction alopecia and maximize audio quality and comfort? I think I would.

10 comments
  1. Frank

    At 56, I have all my hair and no sign of losing any. I hardly ever watch TV but when the pandemic hit, coupled with the ‘stay at home’ order, that all changed. I now spend about 5 hours daily watching TV (as opposed to 0 to 1 hour a day), especially during the winter months and so I turned to my self-adjustable headphones to reduce sound in the house and so I could hear the TV at the sound level that I enjoy. After months of this, one day when looking in the mirror I noticed a 3 inch long strip of redness in the middle of my scalp (and about 2 inches wide). Weeks later I started noticing that my hair was a bit thinner exactly in that same spot along with a light ‘burning’ sensation. Everytime I put my headset back on it feels uncomfortable (sort of sensitive and numb, making me want to take it off) and it rests exactly where the issue is, so I measured it: the part of the headset band touching my scalp is 1.5 inches wide (but it slides 3 inches back and forth on my head as I watch TV), and the length of the band that touches my scalp is also… 2 inches! It’s an exact match and so the headphone in my case is the definite culprit. I’m now switching to ear plugs. The material of the headphone band that was touching my scalp is made of a plastic/rubber mix and the pressure on my scalp was about that of a regular winter hat (but concentrated on one small region using a harder surface). Come to think of it, I get the same thing with hair loss on my calves from the friction of my socks or from the rim of my winter boots if the rims are not fluffy. – Thank you for this article and to those who left comments as they’ve brought everything into focus, helping me quickly find the right solution. Cheers.

  2. Martin

    Last year was a wild ride, and quarantine forced me to work from home, which included wearing headphones every day for several hours. I’ve recently detected some mild alopecia at the top of the back of my head and my first thought was “those bloody headphones!”

    Maybe it’s just my genetics, but if I can help prevent the hair loss in any way I will. I’ll start by following the solid advice on this great post. Thanks for sharing this.

  3. Daniel

    Could be possible that for example a heavy headphone that realies all the weight in a narrow headband.
    Would it be possible that as that imply distributing all the weight in a small area, if used for long periods of time reduce blood circulation in the scalp and producing a hair lose due to the lack of proper blood supply?
    I mean imagine a 400grams headphones with a headband 1 to 2 inches wide is used to rest most of the weight

    1. Caleb Vaughn-Jones

      We do know that the increase in blood circulation stimulates hair growth. (This is essentially what minoxidil does.) So yes, it makes sense that the reduction of blood to areas of the scalp can result in hair loss.

  4. baldness solution

    I really found this post. fascinating and well written I am a 2nd year medical student.
    I am currently right now specializing in dermatology.
    I shared this with my friends and they enjoyed it to.

    Grateful for the effort.

    1. Caleb Vaughn-Jones

      Hello,

      I am glad you found this helpful. My wife is medical doctor and helped me with some of the information of this article. All the best with your studies. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Caleb Vaughn-Jones

      Hi Danish,

      That is a slightly different topic, but maybe I’ll include some info about scalp calcification in my next update of this post. This could be helpful in helping people distinguish the many causes (and symptoms) of baldness.

      Thanks for your comment!

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