Can You Get Electrocuted by Headphones? (And How to be Safe)


Can You Get Electrocuted by Headphones

Yes, it is possible to get electrocuted by headphones when certain factors such as a faulty charger, power fluctuation, exposed wiring, or water are involved. Electrocution by headphones is not a real threat and extremely unlikely under normal circumstances. However, experiencing mild electric shocks due to the buildup of static electricity is not uncommon.

The thought of being electrocuted while listening to music using your favorite pair of headphones is scary to some and absolutely unbelievable to others. However, it is a fact that plugging headphones in a smartphone while it is being charged has caused a few people to die. In this article, we will explore the truth about the topic.

What can cause electric shock while wearing headphones?

There are two ways through which may experience an electric shock while wearing headphones – Static electric discharge and AC power discharge. Let’s discuss them in detail below.

1. Static Electric Discharge – People who live in a dry and windy environment may experience a mild shock from time to time when using a headphone. This is not something to be afraid of as it is just static electricity and is not enough to electrocute you or cause pain. Your headphones may build up a static charge when the headphone wire or cord constantly rubs against your clothes. Once it reaches a certain threshold, you may feel a mild zap as the charge jumps from the wires to your body. 

The intensity is similar to the shock people feel in winter when wearing woolen clothes and touching a metal door handle. The factors that promote the build-up of static electricity when wearing headphones are:

  • A hot and windy environment with low humidity
  • Wearing synthetic or woolen clothes
  • Wearing your headphones while jogging or any other habit that allows it to constantly rub against your body

Headphones contain DC drivers that don’t have the capacity to hold enough charge to kill you. So, a static discharge would never electrocute a person.

2. AC Power Discharge – Unlike static electric or DC power discharge, AC power discharge can cause you real harm if you ever have the bad luck to experience it. It is possible to experience an AC power discharge using headphones when the media source (laptop, smartphone, etc) it is connected to is plugged into the main AC wall power socket at the time of use. 

The typical standard for AC power in a household is either 110V or 220V which is dangerous to the human body. That being said, AC power discharge can be painful but not fatal unless other factors come into play such as exposed wiring, faulty power plugs, short-circuit, being wet and barefoot. Factors that may cause an AC power discharge when wearing headphones are listed below: 

  • Headphones connected to a faulty media source that is connected to an AC wall power socket
  • Using them with an AC power source when wet and barefoot.
  • Using a power connector with no ground source i.e 2-pin power jack

What makes it possible to get electrocuted by headphones?

Millions of people all over the world use headphones to listen to their favorite music, exciting podcasts, and even use them while watching movies. However, there are only a handful of cases where people have been suspected to die due to being electrocuted by headphones. This proves that it is extremely unlikely under normal circumstances to get electrocuted when using headphones.

Initially, the direct cause of death in most of these cases was assumed to be electrocution caused by headphones. However, further investigation and consultations with experts have revealed that the cause for these accidents was different. In fact, an article published by Vice was updated to fix the previous errors. In that article, it is now stated that the cause of electrocution was due to a massive electricity surge when the power came back in one case. Power surges may also happen during lightning strikes. In another case, it was due to the victim using a third-party charge and cables. The charger was faulty which caused it to arc between 240V input and 5V output.

Can wet headphones electrocute you?

Headphones in the rain

Wet headphones don’t pose a problem on their own if they are connected to a portable media source that runs on DC charge. However, if the media source is connected to an AC power source, it may prove to be a threat especially if you are barefoot. Wireless headphones are completely safe and wired headphones connected to a DC power source don’t have the capacity to hold a charge strong enough to be fatal. 

Still, it is recommended that you don’t use a wet headphone or use a headphone when you are wet as water can damage the device if it is not water-resistant. Plus, it is better to be safe than sorry.

Is it okay to wear headphones while charging a laptop or smartphone?

The function of a charger is to convert the high-voltage AC power of your home into an output that the device it is connected to can utilize. In the case of smartphone chargers, it means converting an input of 110V-240V or more to 5V. In the case of laptops, the output of the charger may increase to 20V. The output of current from your smartphone or laptop to your headphones is much lower and not a cause of concern.

The problem arises when you use a bad-quality aftermarket charger or faulty equipment that doesn’t work efficiently and sends the full 240V directly to your laptop or smartphone. This can not only destroy your device but cause you a fatal injury as well.

Is using broken headphones safe?

If your broken headphone is broken enough to expose the metal circuits or parts inside it, you may experience occasional power zaps due to static electricity. Some people can handle it while others cannot. However, it is better to not use broken wired headphones because if you accidentally plug them into a media source that uses AC power, it can pose a threat to your life.

Can exposed wires in headphones be dangerous to you?

Exposed wires

Headphones don’t carry enough voltage to pose a painful problem. However, exposed wires can become a source of ignition as they can spark. If you are not careful, a spark may occur which can cause a fire and it can become a real threat to your life.

How to avoid electric shock while wearing headphones?

To avoid any kind of electric shock while wearing headphones, use the tips provided below: 

1. Use a wireless headphone –  A wireless headphone prevents any contact with powerful current sources such as wall power socket.

2. Reduce the build-up of static electricity – Wearing clothes made of natural fibers such as cotton can reduce the accumulation of static electricity. Avoid wearing woolen or synthetic clothes like nylon as these hold more static charge. You can wear anti-static wristbands or hold a piece of metal while jogging to ground yourself. 

If the environment in your region is too dry, use a humidifier to control the humidity levels in your room and maintain it to an optimal level. Spraying anti-static sprays on your workout clothes or furniture can also help. 

Also, if the weather is windy, keep your headphones and media source in place that is shielded from the wind. 

3. Make sure there are no exposed metal components in your home or device – Stop using your headphone or media source if it is damaged enough to expose the inner wires or other metal components. Also, make sure the electrical installations are well-fitted in your home to avoid electric shocks when touching any kind component.

4. Follow proper safety standards – Never use your headphones when you are charging the media source. Don’t use third-party chargers to charge any device. If the device gets hot while charging, turn the power off or unplug it from the power source. And, if you have to use headphones while the media source is being charged, be sure not to fall asleep.

Conclusion

It is very difficult to get electrocuted by headphones if you remain sensible and follow the proper safety precautions listed in these articles. Never use aftermarket products such as third-party chargers or cables as such products pose a serious risk of electric shock or fire. Don’t be convinced with a ‘CE’ mark as it is not a lab certification. If you have to buy such products, make sure it is certified safe by CSA, UL, TUV, and Intertek. Still, it is best to use official products, as the certificates of aftermarket products can be faked. 

Also, avoid using any electrical device when you are wet as it increases the likelihood of you receiving a nasty shock. To be safe and keep your product in good condition, never use it while it is being charged. Not even to listen to music by plugging in your headphones. And, if you suspect that your headphone or any device that it is connected to is faulty, you should stop using it and replace it as soon as possible. If you are still worried, start using a wireless headphone as it would guarantee that you don’t get electrocuted; at least while wearing headphones!

Rune Bearson

As you can see, I love my headphones! I use them every day when commuting, watching YouTube videos, playing guitar/piano and doing chores. I'm a podcast addict and I like all kinds of music from metal to chillout ambient.

Recent Posts