Using headphones while charging your phone can shock or even electrocute you

Can Headphones Shock You?

Even the smallest jolt is enough to make me never touch the source again, and for exactly that reason getting a jolt to your head and not knowing where it came from or how it got there can be unnerving.

You take out your earphones, turn them around, check the cable… nothing. Could it be that your headphones shocked you? Don’t toss them just yet, while the answer is yes, it seems that your headphones could be an accomplice to the crime, but it might just be a once-off thing that could have happened for a number of reasons well beyond their control.

There are two potential culprits – the first, and most likely, is our friend Mr. Static Electricity. Dry air, freshly laundered linen, and general friction in bed (no, not that type… well, maybe) can all add to the static electricity load. While the second, more unlikely, fiend would be a fault in the power charge.

While both could happen, just how and why need a bit more investigation.

Let’s consider the two ways your headphones can shock you

As I mentioned, the most likely ways you’re going to get shocked through your headphones will be due to either static or an AC power discharge. While these are both very rare, they do happen. But, how can you know which one happened to you? There are a few telltale signs, and knowing what happened to you can either help you feel better (knowledge is power) or help you avoid it in the future.

AC Power Discharge

To clarify, this is a rare and pretty dangerous occurrence. It would be caused by a fault in the main AC power in your home, and would only be able to travel up into your wired earbuds under very unique circumstances – and it would be very painful.

So, you got a zap from your earbuds, it was kind of painful, could it have been an AC discharge? My friend had a similar experience; she was listening to music in her bed when she was shocked. It all happened so fast that she almost didn’t realize what had happened.

She thought it was an AC discharge, but let’s consider the facts. The laptop runs on around 20 volts DC and should that somehow manage to run up your earphones and shock you; you’ll probably get burned – not just a kick.

While most electrical outlets in the U.S. give out around 120 volts AC, only a small amount of that ever reaches your devices.

Your phone needs about 5 volts DC when charging, but even that voltage is a good enough reason for not using earphones while charging. So, the danger lies in cheap chargers that could potentially send that full current to your ears.

But would it really happen? In all honesty, probably not. If you had a mains shock, you’d probably be rolling around from the pain. So, what’s more likely?

Static Electrical Discharge

There are numerous things that can cause static build-up in the air and a subsequent discharge from your earphones. Dry air, friction, general static from freshly laundered linen, and the list goes on. Luckily, it’s harmless.

If you’ve ever touched someone and there was a “spark” – then you’ve experienced a static electricity discharge.

This happens because our bodies become charged with static electricity while we walk around with rubber-soled shoes or cuddle up under thick blankets during the dry winters, and before you know it, all that charge needs to go somewhere.

It can either go to your friend as you touch their arm, or if you have earphones in with metal bits – yup, you guessed it.

So, it could actually not be your headphones shocking you – it could be you that’s shocking your headphones! While this feeling sucks, it’s perfectly harmless – you and your headphones will be ok.

So how dangerous are your headphones? Can your headphones electrocute you?

So, while it is possible for you to build up a static charge and for that to be discharged to your earphones, is it possible to be electrocuted by your headphones?

The chances are very slim, but there have been cases of reported electrocution via headphones. How is this even possible, you might ask.

Well, it seems that this could happen if a range of unfortunate things happen, such as if you use damaged earphones, while charging (don’t do that), and your charger is somehow broken, allowing the full direct current to flow straight to your brain (Eeek).

While this could technically happen, the likelihood of it happening to you (an informed citizen, reading about headphones zapping ears) is VERY slim.

So, can your headphones shock you? The more likely situation is that your headphones (in a similar way that it happens to you) could have built up a static electrical charge. If you sleep with your headphones on and they rub against the pillowcase, your headphones can shock you.

This isn’t limited to your headphones; any device can build up static electricity. Say you are jogging, and your cellphone is in your pocket, rubbing against the material, and at the same time, your cable is swinging left to right against your shirt.

This can lead to static electricity building up, and this could be released through the earbuds (especially if it has a metal design).

That being said, DC drivers in your headphones don’t have the capacity to hold a charge that can actually kill you, making electrocution by headphones (without any external factors) near impossible.

The 6 best ways to avoid headphone shocks

If you’ve been shocked, you’re probably looking for ways you can avoid it from happening again. Fortunately, there are a few steps you can take to protect yourself from a repeat event.

●       Ground Yourself

I always keep a small bit of metal with me; my metal chain around my neck protects me against random static shocks. The metal is a better conductor of electricity than I am (and my headphones) and offers less resistance.

If you’re constantly getting shocked while at the gym – keep your hands on the heart rate monitor of the treadmill or use metal weights while training, if you have headphones zapping your ears while running outdoors, my one friend has an anti-static band that he swears by.

●       Use a humidifier

Dry air can add to the static charge in the air. To solve this problem, use a humidifier that puts moisture back into the air. Moisture is an effective way of preventing static shock indoors.

You will need to maintain a humidity level of between 30 – 40%, so having a humidifier that’s big enough to maintain the humidity throughout the day.

Units like Elechomes’ Warm and Cool Mist Humidifier, are made to maintain constant levels of humidity and stop static shock.

Just remember to not sit right in the flow of air from your humidifier, you don’t want to get your electronics wet.

Humidifiers also have numerous other benefits, like keeping your skin moisturized, reducing your chance of getting the flu, and reducing allergic reactions.

●       Minimize Exposure to Wind Charging

Wind charging is a natural phenomenon where basically dirty; dusty air can build a static charge.

So, while this won’t necessarily affect you in your 10th-floor office, it could affect you while running outdoors on a windy day or while visiting your gran’s dusty apartment when she’s got the fan on.

●       Natural Fiber Clothing

Clothes made of synthetic fibers are more likely to build up a static charge than natural fibers. By wearing clothes made from 100% cotton or wool will reduce your chances of a static shock.

To further reduce static cling while drying your clothes, use wool dryer balls, or make your own dryer balls from aluminum foil.

You can easily make an aluminum foil ball by just compressing a sheet of foil into a ball and then wrapping another sheet around that until you have a ball that fits in your palm.

Throw it in the dryer and experience the wonder of this easy DIY solution. It helps to reduce static in the dryer and also keeps your clothes fresh.

Bonus: You can reuse your aluminum ball for up to 2 months, which will save you a lot of money on your laundry (and keep you safe from getting a zap from your headphones).

●      Keep your earbuds inside an anti-static case

An anti-static case can help your headphones discharge safely. These cases are lined with anti-static fabric and will also protect your headphones when you’re not using them.

If you don’t have an anti-static case, you can also keep your headphones in a small bag with a piece of an anti-static dryer sheet.

The anti-static material is coated by a special anti-static coating, which allows the fibers to retain a little bit of moisture.

This moisture helps discharge the static build-up but doesn’t release any moisture that could damage your headphones.

●      Don’t use your headphones while you are wet

Some moisture is good and can reduce static shock, but using your headphones in the bath, while you’re still drying off or if you’re sweating heavily during a jog, can be a health hazard.

This is especially true if your headphones are damaged or charging (read more about the risks here).

It is also true that using your headphones while you are wet is that it could short circuit the electronics inside your headphone drivers. This will get damage your headphones instantly, and if the damage is extensive, you’d have to get new headphones – not a good idea, needless to say.

●      Don’t use your headphones if you’re barefoot

If you’re using a faulty charger or your electrical installation is shoddy, touching it (or being connected to it because you’re charging your device and listening to music through your headphones) while you are grounded (e.g. barefoot), you might get a nasty electric shock from any metal components in your headphones.

The reason this happens is because if the wiring in your charger or any other part is faulty, it won’t ground through the usual channel, but it will find its way through your headphones to the ground straight through you.

Avoid this by using only original and visibly sound cables for charging and connecting your headphones to your device.

●      Discharge your earbuds before using them

If your headphones seem to easily build up a static charge and you can’t solve it, try discharging your headphones before putting them in your ears. You can do this by exhaling some warm breath over your headphones while cupping your hands.

Just don’t use a wet cloth to do this as it could create an electrical short or cause your headphones to eventually rust – which can all lead to increased risk of shock.

If you’re worried about an AC power discharge, there are a few more things you can do to reduce the chance of shocking:

●       Always use your original charger or the charger type that is specific to your device.

Using a damaged, old or non-original charger can give your device a higher volt; this could ultimately increase your risk of being shocked, or worse, electrocuted.

●       Always check your earphones for damages before using them

Using damaged headphones will increase your chance of being shocked. Just check your headphones before putting them on – if they show any signs of exposed parts, or if they’re not working properly, rather don’t use them or get a new pair.

●       Don’t charge your headphones while you wear them to help you sleep.

While sleep headphones are great, you should take extra precautions if you’re worried about being shocked.

Sleep headphones do have many benefits, such as better and deeper sleep, just take a few precautions if you’re using them. Check out my post on the best sleep headphones of 2022.

While getting a static shock can be, well, shocking… it doesn’t have to keep you from enjoying your favorite tunes, podcasts, and movies.

Taking a few easy steps can solve the problem and get you back to the things you love, faster.


Attention: You have to take care of your own safety and health. The information on only serves for learning and entertainment purposes and is not intended to serve as a substitute for the consultation, diagnosis, and/or medical treatment of a qualified physician or healthcare provider. Before you use any audio equipment or soundproof your space, make sure you have been properly instructed by an expert and adhere to all safety precautions. This site is owned and operated by Media Pantheon, Inc., Media Pantheon, Inc. is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for websites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to