I’ve been experiencing alopecia for years. In my early 20’s it was mainly just over the temples/in the frontal region of the scalp, but as I got towards my mid-20's I noticed that I was starting to go a bit flat on top as well. I have managed to keep most of my hair by trying some over the counter medications and prescription medication as well, and I’ve even noticed some new growth. But I started thinking to myself: could the cause of my hair loss be related to wearing headsets? I noticed that my current headset (at the time) wasn’t particularly comfortable for one. It wasn’t very padded across the band, and sometimes I could feel it digging into my scalp. It hurt, so I tried wearing it in different positions, eventually settling for having it hang off the back of my head, not even touching my scalp. This hurt my ears like you wouldn’t believe, but at least it wasn’t affecting my scalp or my hair.
It was a month or two ago that my headset stopped working so well, and I had to go and purchase another one. I got home and tried it out, and within 15 minutes my head started to ache wearing it. It was too heavy. I tried loosening it up a bit, and I tried different positions, but then my ears started to hurt as well as my head. So I resorted to just taking them off and listening to music through my speakers instead.
My scalp felt better, but there was still that niggling question at the back of mind: is my headset really doing anything to my hair? These fears became worse when after the weekend I washed my hair, and the bath was filled with hair! Of course this is a usual occurrence after not having washed my hair for a few days.
I took to the internet and did a few searches, and came across several threads on forums where people were talking about the same thing, and it turns out that it is possible for headphones or a headset to cause hair loss, and it has indeed happened to some people. Now I know some of you are going to roll your eyes, because if someone said it on an online forum, it must be true, right? Please bear with me.
This can happen in one of two ways:
- The one way is that the headphones/headset could potentially result in traction alopecia. Traction alopecia usually happens when there is a strain on the hair, so if your headset is pulling your hair or putting undue stress on your hair in some way, you could risk losing your hair to this method of hair loss. The good news is that traction alopecia can be reversed, but you would have to stop wearing the headset. There is no guarantee that the hair will grow back though.
- The other way is that if you are already losing your hair, the headset could put undue stress on already weakened miniaturised hair, which may or may not have fallen out at some point on its own in any case.
So, two similar ways apart from the key "already losing hair/not experiencing hair loss" part, and it can be hard to tell which it is. Traditionally traction alopecia happens along the hairline in the front of the scalp, and is usually caused by tight hairdos and in some cases tightly worn headgear. And since traction alopecia can be reversed in some cases, if the hair were to grow back that would be a sign that it was indeed the headset that did the damage!
Now there are a lot of people who wear headphones or headsets who aren’t losing their hair, so that has to make one wonder why some people might in rare cases. What can you do to be certain that wearing them won’t result in you losing your hair?
- When buying a headset or headphones, look for a few things before buying. First see if it is possible for you to try a sample pair on. Most stores won’t offer you this privilege, but always ask anyway. If not, see what material they are made of; if it’s light or too heavy, and whether it’s padded or not. Read a few reviews on the product online or ask the opinion of friends or someone in the know as well just to see what their thoughts are before you go ahead and buy it. This is simple consumer logic.
- Make sure your headset fits well. It shouldn’t move around too much. It shouldn’t be too lose, but then it shouldn’t be too tight either. It’s a good thing most headsets are adjustable. If it’s causing pain in the scalp, then it might be for the best to refrain from wearing it. That’s not saying that it will definitely cause hair loss, but it could potentially do so, if say a loose headset is rubbing back and forth across your scalp repeatedly. Basically put, if a headset is causing you pain, don’t wear it.
- Handle your headset correctly. Don’t let it slide off your head when removing it. You should remove it physically by taking the cups and lifting it off and setting it down on the table or your headset stand, if you have one.
- Limit the amount of time wearing it. I only wear headsets for an hour a day at most. I definitely do take it off to give my ears and my head a break.
- Make sure to clean your headset. Headsets can be responsible for a lot of bacteria, just like keyboards, and that’s why they should be cleaned every now and again. Take a wet wipe and focus on cleaning the inner part of the cups that make contact with your ears and the band that goes across your scalp. There are cases where dermatological conditions may arise, and may contribute to hair loss. If nothing else, it could also lead to some nasty ear infections or disgusting blackheads in your ears, which you definitely don’t want!
- You could try to wear the headset in a different position, perhaps with the headband forward or backward so it isn’t technically resting on the scalp. This is likely to put pressure on your ears though, and you don’t want that.
- If you wear it hanging off the back of your head, you can prop it up by having a thick jersey or something similar draped over your shoulders. This will stop it putting too much pressure on your ears.
- You could invest in a pair of neckphones, where the band rests on the neck. I haven’t come across any locally, but you can buy them online, like the Logitech G330, which is a gaming headset.
- You can buy earbuds instead, as these have no headband.
- If your headset cost you a lot of money, and you insist on keeping it, or the store you bought it from won’t take it back just because it's uncomfortable, then you can try wearing a hat or a beanie, and wearing the headset on top of the hat. If it is still too heavy, and the hat you’re wearing is a peak cap, you can then shunt the headband forward so it rests on the peak. Or you could wear the peak cap in reverse and have the band rest on the peak. And before you ask, yes it has been suggested that hats can cause hair loss, but the same conditions apply: hats won’t cause hair loss unless in extreme cases, and there is no scientific evidence that I am personally aware of linking the wearing of hats to hair loss.
Always keep in mind that it is normal to see a dent in your hair after wearing a headset. It doesn’t mean you are losing your hair. It will likely spring up again after you style it or wash and dry it. The headset likely just flattened it down. In the case of headsets causing hair loss, I would say it is possible but unlikely, and not common to come across. I don’t think there is any scientific evidence to suggest there is a link between the two, and while wearing a headset might emit some radiation, which is a cause of hair loss, the amount of radiation is negligible in this case.
90 to 95% of the time, hair loss is genetic, especially in men, and while there are factors that can contribute to the condition, I would suggest it is more likely that you are suffering from male pattern baldness or female androgenic alopecia. In other words you are genetically susceptible to hair loss. If you are that concerned, don’t wear headsets, and if still in doubt, consult a dermatologist.
The real risk of wearing headsets is hearing loss, not hair loss, and for that reason alone, you should practice caution when wearing them.
© 2014 Anti-Valentine