Why Are My Earbuds Zapping Me


Have your earbuds ever shocked you? If so, you’ve probably thought that there is something wrong with the earbuds. The instinctive thing to do is check the wires for possible damage. Probably, there’s nothing wrong with your earbuds and the wires are fine. So, why are your earbuds zapping you?

Wired earbuds can build up a static charge along the wire. The static charge comes not from the earbuds but from the environment. When the wires rub against synthetic clothes, or when the weather is dry and windy, earbuds buildup a charge. The charge can travel all the way to the speakers.

You’ll want to know how to get rid of the static charge. In due time, we’ll go everything you need to know.

How Does Static Build Up On My Earbuds

Let’s clear things up first. Static builds up only on wired earbuds or headphones. Fully wireless earbuds cannot hold a charge because they don’t have any wires. Wireless earbuds with wires only to connect the cans can build up a charge but are less likely to. So, the problem is located in the wires.

The earbuds don’t necessarily have to shock you in the ears. The wires want to release that static charge as quickly as possible. You may get zapped on your cheeks or your hands. If the static isn’t able to release in some part of your body, it will travel to the speakers. That’s when you get zapped in the ears.

If you’ve dealt with zapping earbuds for a while now, you know that it only happens in certain situations. Here, we’ll go over the most likely situations where earbuds build up a static. See if your earbuds are zapping you in one of the situations I will list.

Static Build Up From Clothes

We all know that some clothing materials can be conducive. You certainly have a sweater that zaps people when they touch you. Well, it’s the same with earbuds. Whenever the wire is rubbed against the clothes it builds up a static charge.

This happens more than you may think, it’s just that the static is released without zapping you. Clothes made from synthetic materials are more prone to building up a static than other materials. Wires are always in the way, eventually, they’ll get rubbed against your clothes.

Zapping Earbuds When Running

Zapping Earbuds When Running

Now, you may think that the static build-up is from all the sweating but that’s not right. While you’re running you’re moving your hands back and forth. The hands are close to your chest. So, while you’re running, you’re rubbing your hands on your clothes. And that’s how the static builds up when you’re running.

Any kind of exercise that involves hand movement can have this effect. Especially, if you’re wearing synthetic clothes. Earbuds can shock you when you’re running on a treadmill too. It doesn’t matter where you’re running. Weather conditions matter though.

Zapping Earbuds In Winter

During the winter, the air is cold and the humidity is low. Many electrical appliances are prone to building up a static charge in an environment like this. Have you noticed that in winter you can get zapped while you’re in your room? That’s because the humidity in your room is low. In other words, the air is dry.

The wires from the earbuds don’t go well with dry air too. In the winter, earbuds will usually build up a charge if you’re outside because that’s where the humidity is the lowest. This doesn’t always have to be the case though. If you let dry air in through the window, the earbuds will build up a charge when you’re in your room too.

Static Build Up From Wind

Static Build Up From Wind

Wind is another weather condition that can cause an imbalance charge. It is a source of energy, we have wind turbines which produce electrical energy. So, when the wind is blowing against the wire, it creates a charge. An imbalance that must be released.

This a rare occurrence but it can happen. Most likely, your earbuds are zapping you because you rubbed the wire on your clothes. It’s worth knowing that wind can have that same effect though. Be on the lookout for wind blowing against your wire.

Indeed, you can’t control the weather conditions. But you can control what you wear. Let me give you some tips on how to prevent this from happening.

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How To Keep Earbuds From Building Up A Charge

If you’re dealing with zapping earbuds for quite some time now, you will want to know how to get rid of the charge. Not that the shock is dangerous or anything. The charge is not powerful at all. It’s still annoying though. Anyways, if you follow these steps, you’ll be fine. Keep in mind what we said above too, you’ll want to avoid those situations.

  1. Avoid synthetic clothes when running. 
    It would be absurd to try not to rub the wire with the clothes. You can just wear something that won’t create a static charge. Avoid clothes made from polyester, nylon, and cotton. Anything else is fine. Running clothes which you can buy from sports stores shouldn’t be conducive.
  2. Touch the metal poles on the treadmill before starting.
    This is a really neat trick to avoid getting zapped from the earbuds. As I said, the static charge is looking for a way to be released. So, by touching the metal poles, you’re releasing that charge. You can do this while you’re resting too, in case the earbuds have a charge from all the running.
  3. Avoid using earbuds when the air is dry outside.
    Winter is not ideal for listening to music while you’re out. I’m not saying that the earbuds will build up a charge in the cold for sure. Earbuds don’t build up a charge regularly. It’s been know to happen though.
  4. Keep the humidity in your room at an ideal percentage.
    You don’t have to be outside for the air to be dry. Some homes have a real problem with low humidity. They use humidifiers. I don’t think that’s necessary for you. However, if your earbuds are building up a charge in your room, most likely, the humidity is low.
  5. Avoid exposing the wire in windy conditions.
    If your earbuds are zapping you only when there is wind present, there’s an easy solution. Just tuck the wire underneath your shirt. If the shirt is not conducive too, your earbuds won’t build up a charge.
  6. Use fully wireless earbuds.
    By far, the easiest way to get rid of zapping earbuds is to buy wireless earbuds. If there’s no wire, you don’t have to worry about a static charge. So, in case you haven’t considered wireless earbuds, I highly recommend them.
  7. Replace a damaged wire.
    Now, no matter the clothing or weather conditions, a snapped wire will sometimes zap you. I don’t think you will continue using earbuds with a bad wire for long, especially if it’s zapping you. Replace the wire or get a new pair of earbuds.
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Related Questions And Other FAQs

Can Headphones Shock You

Wired headphones can build up a static charge too. It happens when the wire is rubbed against clothes or the weather conditions are windy and dry. When the static charge is released, your headphones will zap you.

Can Zapping Earbuds Hurt You

No, zapping earbuds can’t hurt you. Usually, the wire will zap you somewhere around your hands or chest. Even if the charge makes its way to the speakers, the shock won’t damage your ears. The charge is really weak.

Nothing more to add here. I think that’s all you need to know. Follow this guide to get rid of zapping earbuds.

Andrej Jovanovski

Hi there, I'm Andrej. I've always been an electronic devices addict, especially audio devices like headphones, earbuds, and headsets. I am staying up-to-date with the technology, so why not write about what you know? I'll share some useful tips about all your headphones related questions.

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