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Do Headphones Cause Hair Loss?
Dr Mir Malkani
Medically reviewed by
Dr Mir Malkani
Updated on April 15, 2024

If you regularly wear over-ear headphones, you may wonder if they are linked to hair loss. Headphones are associated with hearing loss [1], but so far, there are no studies on headphone-related hair shedding.

Research shows that roughly 85% of men [2] and over 55% of women [3] experience hair loss during their lifetime. While this can happen for many reasons, some people worry that their headgear may be one of them.

In this article, we’ll explore: 

  • Whether headphones cause hair loss 
  • Why people are concerned about headphones and hair loss
  • How to avoid hair loss from wearing headphones
  • Treatments for hair loss
Table of Contents

The link between headphones and hair loss?

There are three reasons why people are concerned that wearing headphones can make their hair fall out. The first one is hair breakage caused by friction. If the headphones are made of hard plastic and they are tight, rubbing against the top of your head, they can cause scalp tenderness in one spot, as well as friction that can lead to hair breakage. This can happen especially if you have dry, brittle hair that breaks off easily.

The second reason is traction alopecia, a condition caused by consistent pulling (traction) on the hair. 

The most common causes of traction alopecia are tight hairstyles worn for extended periods [4]. In recent years, concerns have sparked surrounding headphones and their potential to cause this condition.

The highest-risk hairstyles for traction alopecia are tight braids (such as cornrows and dreadlocks), tight ponytails or man buns, and the attachment of weaves or heavy hair extensions can also cause hair loss.

You can reduce your risk of traction alopecia by choosing looser hairstyles, changing hairstyles regularly, and avoiding any hairstyles that cause pain, stinging, or tenting (where sections of your scalp pull up like a tent) [5].

The third reason is the shape of over-ear headphones. The contact points of headphones with your scalp can mirror the shape of hair loss associated with male androgenetic alopecia (male pattern baldness). 

As you can see from the photo below, the early stages of male pattern baldness cause hair loss on either side of the frontal region of the scalp. It has been speculated that frontal hair loss in this pattern could be linked to regular headphone use; however, there is no evidence of this. 

Male hair loss & stages androgenetic alopecia

In fact, male pattern baldness is caused by genetic factors that result in high levels of dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a sex hormone that causes hair loss in a predictable pattern [6]. 

Male androgenetic alopecia affects up to 80% of men by 80 years old [7].

To date, there is no research into whether headphones cause hair loss. However, there are studies on similar topics that can give us some clues. 

One study looked at 92 sets of identical twins and compared factors that may lead to hair shedding [8]. They found that factors such as dandruff and smoking can cause hair loss, but wearing a hat will likely not. Although a hat is different to headphones, it suggests that regularly wearing something on your head may not cause your hair to fall out.

The exception to this would be if your headphones are particularly tight and you wear them almost continuously. If you wear headphones for most of the day every day and they are so tight that they put excessive pressure on your hair, you could be at risk of traction alopecia.

How to avoid potential hair loss from wearing headphones

Although there is no evidence that wearing headphones can cause hair shedding, here’s how to minimise any chance of it happening. The best way to prevent traction alopecia is to avoid anything that tugs on your hair for an extended period of time, including your headphones. 

Avoiding potential hair loss from wearing headphones

Switching to earbuds or ear-hook headphones instantly solves this issue because neither of these types has any contact with your scalp. If you have headphones with a band, ensure the band is not tight and has only gentle contact with your scalp.

However, avoiding excessively tight hairstyles is the best way to prevent traction alopecia. Your hairstyle is likely to impact your risk of traction alopecia more than your headphone use.

What else could be causing your hair loss?

If hair loss from headphone use is unlikely, what else could be causing your hair loss? It can be difficult to figure it out on your own, so it’s best to see a trichologist to get an accurate diagnosis. Here are some of the causes of hair loss [96]:

Androgenetic alopecia  

Androgenetic alopecia describes both male and female pattern baldness. This is a genetic condition that causes hair loss in a predictable pattern. 

Balding man hair loss potential causes

The pattern is different for men and women. Men experience hair loss at the crown and frontal regions of the scalp, and women experience widening of their central parting. Men and women also experience gradual, diffuse hair loss across their entire scalp. 

Dermatological conditions of the scalp  

Common scalp problems can cause hair loss [10]. A yeast infection of the scalp is a fungal infection such as seborrheic dermatitis. It causes an itchy, flaky scalp rash that can crack and form crusts and inflammation that could cause hair loss [10].

Tinea capitis is another fungal scalp infection, also called ringworm. It mostly affects children and can cause permanent hair loss and lasting scars on the scalp, [11], although it usually resolves with treatment]. 

Finally, scalp psoriasis causes patches of skin that are dry and covered in scales. It can cause your hair to fall out in extreme cases, but this is usually temporary [12].

Alopecia areata

Alopecia areata is an autoimmune condition in which your body’s white blood cells attack your hair follicles. This causes patchy hair loss anywhere on the scalp, which may (by coincidence) match the contact point of your headphones. 

Emotional stress  

Stress can play a huge role in hair loss, and it is known to cause a type of alopecia called telogen effluvium [13]. This condition affects people when they experience severe psychological pressure or a major change in their body, such as childbirth, severe infections or major surgery [14]. Stress can also contribute to other types of hair thinning, and a study on diffuse hair loss in women found that 30% of cases were likely due to psychological stress [15].

Emotional stress and hair loss

Hormonal changes  

Hormones are strongly linked to hair growth so hormonal changes can cause hair loss [16]. Many different hormones and hormonal changes can cause hair thinning, including menopause hair loss, excess dihydrotestosterone (DHT), and high levels of cortisol [16].

If your thyroid is severely overactive or underactive for a prolonged period of time, you can experience hair loss [17]. Hair shedding/loss from thyroid disorders is normally diffuse, affecting the whole scalp rather than specific areas. 

When your thyroid imbalance is treated, your hair usually regrows. However, it may take several months, and it may not regrow completely [17].

Nutrient deficiencies  

Research suggests that certain mineral and vitamin deficiencies can cause hair loss. These include [18]:

Hairstyles that can cause hair damage and hair loss

Damaging hair products

Some hair products and treatments can contain harsh chemicals that may lead to damaged hair that falls off easily. For example, the overuse of perms, hot-oil hair treatments, bleach and hair dyes can cause hair loss  [19].

Treatments for hair loss caused by headphones

If you experience traction alopecia, you should seek treatment, whether it is caused by your headphones or not. If traction alopecia is treated too late, it can cause scarring on your scalp, making new hair growth impossible [4].

Stop the traction

The first intervention for traction alopecia is to immediately stop the behaviour causing your symptoms. If you wear excessively tight headphones, take them off and replace them with earbuds or headphones that fit more loosely on your head. 

Hairstyles that can cause mild hair loss in women

Natural treatments

Once you’ve uncovered the cause of your hair shedding, there are treatments available for hair loss to encourage regrowth. If your hair loss is mild, natural treatments such as rosemary oil for hair growth may be helpful [20]. Consider using a derma roller or trying a scalp massage to maximise the effects of natural treatments. 

Moderate hair loss

More extensive hair loss will likely require medical treatment. If you have any inflammation on your scalp, you may be prescribed steroid creams or steroid injections to treat it.

If your scalp has open sores, you might need medication to prevent or treat infection. These include antibiotics and topical antifungal shampoos, such as Nizoral shampoo [21].

Minoxidil can improve hair density in people with traction alopecia [22] and is often the first line of treatment for moderate hair loss. Minoxidil can increase the supply of nutrients and oxygen to hair follicles by increasing vasodilation (the widening of blood vessels). Therefore, it may encourage hair follicles to enter their active growth phase [23] or remain in this phase if they are already in it.

Medication that can help with severe hair loss

Severe hair loss

In some cases of severe hair loss, the only way to restore your hair may be through hair transplant surgery [24].

Wimpole Clinic offers two main types of hair transplant surgery: Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE) and Follicular Unit Transplantation (FUT)

FUE hair transplants involve harvesting individual hair follicles from a donor area of the scalp. These are then transplanted to areas with hair loss. 

FUT hair transplants involve taking a thin strip of skin from an area of healthy hair growth on the scalp. This strip is then cut up into grafts that are implanted to treat hair loss.

Treating hair loss at Wimpole Clinic

If you are experiencing hair loss, regardless of its cause, it is best to book an appointment with one of our experienced hair specialists. Our expert trichologists can carry out any tests you need to diagnose the cause of your symptoms, such as hair pull tests, dermoscopies or blood tests for hair loss. They will then work with you to arrange a personalised treatment plan to curb your hair loss and promote regrowth.

If you already have a diagnosis and you’re searching for the best natural-looking hair transplant, look no further. The Wimpole Clinic works with some of the best hair transplant surgeons in the UK who will explain the procedure to you, address any questions or concerns, and complete an in-depth examination to see whether hair restoration is right for you.

Do Headphones Cause Hair Loss?, Wimpole Clinic

Dr Mir Malkani
Medically reviewed by Dr Mir MalkaniUpdated on April 15, 2024
The Wimpole Clinic offers FUE Hair, Beard & Eyebrow Transplants & Trichology.
Talk to a specialist ☎ 020 7935 1861.

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