Apple AirPods and EMF – how bad are they?

Lots of people have commented on the possible increase in EMF exposure from Apple AirPods, but how bad are they? I’ve done some measurements with a field strength meter.  Here is a graph to give you an idea.

When you use the new Apple Airpods on a mobile phone call a you are getting approximately 10 times the EMF than if you were just holding the iPhone up to your ear and talking.   We already see these levels on wifi devices.  The difference is that the Apple AirPods are in your ear, not on the table, and they remain there for long periods of time. They are constantly transmitting at this level – they never turn off.


Here are some video’s showing measurements of EMF levels that I have taken with a field strength meter that you can get a feel for the EMF emitted from the Apple AirPods compared to an iPhone on a mobile call.

Video of EMF exposure from an iPhone on a mobile call.

The levels are under 300mV/m

Video of EMF exposure from Apple AirPods.

The levels are up to  3500mV/m – 10 times the level of a mobile phone call.


Video showing the AirPods turning off when they are put away.

You may not realise that the Apple AirPods are transmitting EMF all the time – even when you are not listening to music! they only turn off when you put them away in the case.  Of course you would expect them to transmit Bluetooth EMF when you are speaking on a phone call,  but they also transmit non-stop while you are listening to music and even when you are not doing enything.

Distance to user

Take a look at the measurements of the Airport base station in the table at the top of this page. This was measured right on top of the base station – touching the Airport Extreme base station.  The AirPods are roughly the same level. No one holds their ear up against an Airport base station or wifi router – you are likely to be sitting 1m or more from your wifi base station. EMF levels drop off with distance so the best way to reduce EMF is to separate yourself from the source. Even over a distance of 1m the EMF level of the Airport base station has dropped from 3500mV/m to 300mV/m. If you are 1m from a wifi base station the EMF is approx 1/10th of the level of the Apple AirPods.

Time of exposure

In terms of time of exposure, the Apple AirPods are constantly transmitting.  They never take a break. The only way to turn them off is to put them back in their box and shut the lid.  It is quite feasible that you could have the Apple AirPods in your ears for up to 10 hours a day,  listening to music and making phone calls. They are so light and comfortable.   What you may not realise is they are constantly transmitting, even when you are not on the phone and not listening to any music.

This equates to a massive increase in EMF exposure. In terms of time and distance this  would be the equivalent of holding an Airport base station up to each ear for 10 hours a day or sleeping with an airport base station under your pillow.

The AirPods do not have any speech recognition built into them so they need to be constantly transmitting everything you say to your iPhone.

The iPhones are listening to everything and waiting for a ‘hey Siri’ to arrive. There has to be a better way to do this. Apple could to put a chip into the AirPods that recognise ‘hey Siri’ and then only transmit to the iPhone when you are issuing a command or a phone call.  I don’t think the technology is there to do that yet.  The other option would be to get rid of voice initiated Siri altogether and put some kind of a button or touch sensor on the AirPods to initiate Siri.  I can’t see Apple doing this either. Until a solution is found Apple at least should give the user the option of turning off the ‘hey Siri’ mode on the AirPods like they do on the iPhone, or the option to operate the AirPods in ‘headphone only’ mode where they receive bluetooth data but do not transmit.

Surprisingly, the AirPods are even transmitting EMF when you turn your iPhone to aeroplane mode – the only way to turn them off is to put them back into the charging case.

A case study.

Jim uses his  mobile phone by holding it up to his ear for one hour a day, Jim listens to music for three hours a day with his headphones. Jim replaced his old headphones with Apple AirPods.  Jim has the new AirPods in his ears for 4 hours a day. Jim now has 80x the level of EMF exposure since he switched to AirPods. (4x the time, 10x the level of a cellular call, 2x earbuds. 4x10x2=80.)


Apple AirPods will be giving us much higher levels of overall EMF exposure than any previous Apple devices. I am not suggesting that you do not use them, but you would be wise to manage the way you use the Apple AirPods to reduce your EMF exposure. The biggest problem is that they are always transmitting.

Apple Airpods may not be the best device to use for general music listening until Apple can address the EMF output issues or provide an option to turn the microphone off and operate just in headphone listening mode. Until then I suggest you use them with caution.

Click here for an article by me about EMF.

Click here to read my review of the Apple Airpods.

Notes from graph: AirPort Extreme measurement taken touching the airport extreme base station. Apple AirPods measurement was taken by touching the AirPod to the field strength meter. iPhone measurement talking was taken withthe field strength meter held against the iPhone. iMac Wi-Fi was taken with the field strength meter at the user’s head position about half a metre from the iMac. The iPhone wired earbuds measurement was taken touching the earbuds to the field strength meter. iPhone hands-free measurement was taken with the field strength meter approximately 40 cm from the iPhone as if you were using it on speakerphone in hands-free mode. They are all real-world usage measurements except for the Airport Extreme base station which I did to get a comparison with the levels from the AirPods


52 responses to “Apple AirPods and EMF – how bad are they?”

  1. J

    Thanks for the article! It is very informative. Do you think the bluetooth Bose QC35 headphones have the same amount of EMF radiation?

    1. A Bose bluetooth headset is a little bit less- 2500mV/m.

      That was one of these:

      Our Marley Get Together was less again. I don’t have any others to measure.

      The main point is turn them off when you are not using them.

  2. Edison

    Hi Wayne,

    thank you so much for your accurate article! What about the Plantronics Voyager Legend Pro???
    Do they have a high EMF?

    thnx again!

    1. All bluetooth devices have EMF so if you are concerned about EMF you don’t want them close to your body for long periods of time, especially near your head.

      There are 3 classes of bluetooth device:

      Class Maximum Power Operating Range
      Class 1 100mW (20dBm) 100 meters
      Class 2 2.5mW (4dBm) 10 meters
      Class 3 1mW (0dBm) 1 meter

      I think the Apple Airpods are class 1, so they can emit a maximum of 100mW.
      The Plantronics headsets are class 2, so that drops the power to 2.5mW.
      I cannot verify the Apple AirPods as I can’t find it on the Apple website. Anyone know?

      1. Tobias Mixer

        Thanks for your work here. Any idea what the apple pencil / ipad pro class rating is? I’m and artist that loves the feel of the system but feel crummy after long sessions. I noticed the pencil is still connected over 30 feet away so its got to be overpowered. I feel it should be Class three since it’s always within a meter of the screen. Thanks so much.

  3. Lisha

    I have the Apple EarPods with 3.5 mm Headphone Plug that came with the iPhone 6s Plus. I tested the emf level using 3 different iOS EMF meter/detector apps. The headphones are not connected to any devices when the readings were taken. All the 3 apps gave me readings ranging from 3200 to the highest 3499 – measured in microTeslas. The readings are unusually high. It’s the same with another set of headphones that came with my earlier iPhone 6. I’ve always thought that this kind of Apple EarPods have lower EMF levels. I’ve used the same apps to test devices around the house and I get expected readings from them so I can conclude that they are working fine. I don’t know but are these readings normal for them or is it just my EarPods?

    1. You’re no going to be able to test end with a phone you’ll need an emf meter. Also the units are very hard to compare across different instruments, so you really need to compare to background emf and some other known levels like a wifi base station to get a feel for what you are measuring. You are probably just measuring the EMF of the phone itself, or nearby wifi.

  4. Chris

    Wouldn’t these results means Apple isn’t complying with FCC SAR regulations since cellphones are already at the upper limit? Everyone seems under the impression that using bluetooth headsets expose us to less radiation than cellphones and wifi… Any ideas how Apple is getting away with this?

    Maybe emissions change when AirPods are active in your ears?

    1. No. There is an upper limit but most phones will not be operating at their maximum power output. They will operate at the lowest possible level that they are able to keep a good sign to the closest mobile tower.

      “The operator’s network controls and adjusts the output power of each connected mobile phone to the lowest level compatible with a good signal quality. This is obtained by logarithmically scaling the power from the maximum (1 or 2 W at 1800 MHz and 900 MHz, respectively) down to a level that may be as low as 1 mW. Such adaptive power control (APC) takes place continuously, with the selected power level depending on several factors, including the distance from the base station, the presence of physical obstacles, whether the phone is used indoors or outdoors, and handovers.” []

      On the other hand, the Apple AirPods seem to operate at maximum power all the time, even when very close to the iPhone. My concern is that the AirPods are putting out a constant high power signal right inside your ear for a long period of time.

  5. Angelo Ciocca

    Is there anything you can put on your aipods to block the EMF?

    1. Not really. If you block them the won’t work because they need to communicate with the iPhone.

  6. Christel Cloud

    What about beats x wireless earbuds? Thank you!

  7. Charles

    Hello, thank you for this article!

    I just read your second article “EMF levels of Apple devices” and you wrote that the levels of ‘iPhone 5 – on ear’ are up to 10,000 mV/m but in this article it’s only 300 mV/m. That’s a really big diference. How is that even possible and which number is real?

    Thank you!

    1. 10,000 is with wi-fi on.
      300 is with wifi off. (just a cellular call)

  8. Tim

    Thanks for your information. I am from Taiwan and it is really useful for us.
    However, I got a question coming from my mind, which is that how come the Airpods that is using bluetooth signal has a higher level of EMF than “iPhone – talking”, which is using cellular networks.
    I thought there are more concerns about cellular networks than on WiFi or on Bluetooth.
    And if it results from Bluetooth Class 1 that Airpods follow, how about the result of Bluetooth Class 2?
    Really appreciate your studies!

  9. Joseph

    Hello, thank you for a review.
    I’m curious if Sennheiser Momentum true wireless has similar EMF levels compare to AirPods. Will you be able to tell me, please? I see Sennheiser’s has version of bluetooth 5.0 class 1, BLE. It says the output power is 10 mW (max).

    1. I wouldn’t know without testing one sorry.

  10. Kk

    What about the Apple Watch?

    1. Applewatch has wifi so it’s like having a computer or wifi base station strapped to your wrist with no way to turn it off except for airplane mode. That may or may not bother you depending on your views about emf.

  11. Karim


    Thanks a lot for your post. From what I understood, the Airpods 2 may have a chip that recognise ‘hey Siri’. Are you planning on testing those ? Would be great to see if Apple somehow fixed the problem.


    PS : Would be great to email me if you answer :)

    1. Elena Brown-Hozjan

      Hey Karim!
      Wondering if you have found out whether the h2 chipped has helped reduce the radiation?

  12. John Faulkner

    So this article is extremely deceptive. The readings on the reader are
    3.500~ for the AirPods not 3500.00 . Look for the decimal point on the multimeter. There is a spike when the device is trying to find pairs but the idea that these devices are more harmful than a phonecall is a joke.

    1. It’s a dual range meter. So 3.5V/m = 3500mV/m. Look carefully and you’ll see the range change automatically when it gets above 1000. The measurements are correct.

  13. Dmitry

    To me it suggests that a small thing like an earbud produces EMF field of the same power as Airport does. And the the earbud can be doing so for four hours in a row after a single charge. While airport is connected to power supply all the time.

    Also here is FCC tests results of original Airpods
    In the results I could not find anything that correlates measurements provided here.

    You are also saying that Airpods are bluetooth class 3 device which means it emits maximum of 1mw. While your measures are 3500 times higher.

    I’m far from being expert and really keen to understand all these different numbers. Appreciate if you help me (and probably someone else here) to understand them.

    1. Matt L

      I would also like to hear an explanation of those discrepancies… I like using my Airpods very much, and would not love to part with them, but if the numbers are accurate – and if we find that such emissions are, in fact, harmful – they would give me pause.

      There are plenty of articles out there that contradict this claim, however, so I’m looking for the most fact-based, unbiased, rational explanations possible.


    2. There are all kind of different units people use for EMF measurements – mW, V/m, dB. Some are giving an absolute measurement and some are relative to something. My meter is just showing V/m. It’s hard to convert or compare this to any other unit, especially as my meter is not professionally calibrated, so I am just posting these measurements as a comparison between the devices I have measured. So the main thing is to compare the devices I have tested with other devices I have tested using the same meter. (See the graph at the top). Those FCC readings you quote will be way more accurate than my tests. You should be able to compare the different FCC test for various Apple devices and come up with your own graph in a similar way that I have done. I suspect the results will be similar.

  14. Robyn Machney

    Thank you so much for this article! I wonder if the Bose noise-cancelling bt over-ear headphones are the same as the Bose in-ear buds you mention at the top of these comments. Anyone know?

  15. Tom

    Airpods are class 1 Bluetooth, that is why they read a lot higher than most other devices such as Bose, who only use class 2. Class 1 is a lot more powerful and works up to 100 meters! Class 2 works up to 10 meters.

  16. Richard

    Thanks for the article. Your radiation figures were alarming. Ever since WiFi was invented it concerned me that microwave oven frequencies were beaming around my house. The convenience and the invisible nature of a signal makes it easier to accept, but your figures were a real wake-up call. I think Apple make some great products, but I as I say to my friends “go Apple; go wired”. Nothings beats a solid Ethernet connection. That said, 20 years ago I remember reading speculation that Nokia wired headsets transmitted radiation in to the ear as the cord was acting as an antenna. Is there no escape? I can’t wait for 5G ;)

  17. Theresa

    I was wondering about the Apple Watch EMF. Is it also as high as the AirPods?

    1. Possibly more because the Apple watch has wifi, but I couldn’t be sure, I don’t own an iWatch and am not planning on getting one!

  18. Dave Blatt

    During AirPod setup it is possible to turn off the “Hey Siri” function. Would turning it off resolve this issue? Would it be worth rechecking the meter measurements with “Hey Siri” turned off?

    PS on previous comment…
    > wired headsets transmitted radiation in to the ear as the cord was acting as an antenna
    I read somewhere that this was an urban legend and has been debunked by IEE. If so, wired connections remain as the least controversial way to connect to your phone.

  19. Christine

    Thank you for your article, at home we used ethernet cable instead of Wifi, we do not use smartphone,
    if it would be less harmful to use bluetooth headphone to watch TV with Ethernet cable than Wifi? (wireless because the distance from the TV). Thanks

    1. If you are worries about EMF, just use wired everything if you can.
      Otherwise just limit the time used.

  20. Someone

    Just saying, it says for the video of EMF exposure from Apple AirPods that the levels are up to 3.500m V/m. 3 POINT 500 V/M.

    1. x

      Someone: No it doesn’t. Look at the units indicator at the bottom right of the displayed value. In the AirPod measurement video, it’s V/m, so it’s showing 3.5 V/m which equals 3500 mV/m. In the cell phone video the units shown are mV/m. The meter auto-ranges to volts/m (V/m) from millivolts/m (mV/m) when the signal received exceeds 1000 mV/m.

  21. Andy

    Could you run a comparison against the AirPod Pros? There are 76 pages of comments from users complaining of ear weepage, dead skin shedding and moulting inside the ear and pain after using them. There is conjecture about allergy to materials but I am interested in whether there is an increase in RF energy exposure that could be the cause as people have tried changing the latex buds for other brands or foam but that doesn’t cure the problem.

  22. Sid

    You are doing a wonderful study. I pinned this webpage for further updates!

  23. Kayla

    Would you say that having only wifi is better than cellular data? My phone doesn’t have a service plan, i only use my wifi and the router is mounted outside my house.

  24. Alex E

    The airpods are generating high level of EMF constantly not because they are listening for something but because they synchronise with each other all the time (left/right channel). I am waiting for my own EMF meter and will add some test results in a month too.

    1. Andreas P

      Hi Alex,
      Did you receive your meter and manage to do some tests? I’m curious!

  25. Guilherme

    Hi Wayne,

    What about neckband earbuds? I assume they are not as dangerous since they are not as close to your ears?

  26. chris

    I agree with you Guilherme, i was wondering the same thing. I get the impression maybe they are safer? I want a safer bluetooth music option for my workouts.

  27. John cover

    What about hearing aids? I have rechargeable Widex hearing aids that work wirelessly with iPhone 10, car radio, and television.
    Do see this as a comparable problem as I wear them 12 hours a day
    Also if you can point me toward scientific research regarding this and the possible dangers/effects I would appreciate it. What is FDA’s current stance on EMF effects on the brain?
    Thank you

    1. John most people think there are no dangers to EMF. It’s probably more a precaution. I would not be too worried.

  28. Kathi

    Do those WaveBlock stickers work to dampen EMF for people (like my son) who wear AirPods day and night?

    1. You would want to see some diagrams of measurements to see the difference (if any) that they make. But no reason why this idea can’t work. I’d be surprised if Apple didn’t build in some directionality to point the bluetooth away from the head, but maybe they didn’t. Worth looking into.
      THe wave block site is down at the moment.

  29. Katie

    Hi there can you do a updated test on the AirPods Max pro?

  30. Marc

    The following article reports “iPhone 5 over ear” as emitting 10,000 mV/m, but this article states 300 mV/m. There is a huge difference. Which one is correct?

    1. It looks like the first measurement is with wifi on: “The next highest is the iPhone 5. This was measured at the ear during a cellular mobile phone voice call with wifi on.”

      This article looks like it has wifi off. Wifi makes a massive difference.

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