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.
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.
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…
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
- 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
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?
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.