Monday, December 22, 2008

Headphones and Heart Pacemakers: Lethal Bedfellows?

Given that AARP baby-boomers who were there for the birth of rock n’ roll have bought the i-Pod craze hook line and sinker, will this be an accident waiting to happen?

By: Ringo Bones

Yep, it’s true. During the 1970’s and 1980’s it was microwave ovens, now the magnetic headphones of i-Pods might be endangering users with implanted heart pace makers. And given that this Holiday Season where baby-boomers who had recently become AARP members might be getting / receiving their first or umpteenth i-Pod players should be careful about using magnetic headphones of their i-Pods.

Cardiologists across America had recently warned that the fairly powerful magnets of the headphones used in personal stereos / Walkman / i-Pods can interfere with proper heart pacemaker function and also that of defibrillator-type implants. This is especially true when fairly powerful magnets are placed squarely on the pacemaker. Given that the inductive coils of implanted pacemakers that deliver live-saving jolts of electricity to the heart are very susceptible to external magnetic fields, placing a magnet of sufficient power squarely on a pacemaker could interfere with the device’s intended function. Either the voltage level delivered by the pacemaker could go dangerously too high or too low. Though cardiologists had warned of microwave oven radiation of heart pacemaker recipients during the 1980’s, they seem to overlook the dangers of hand-held police radar which operate at the K-Band - i.e. microwave oven frequencies.

Though the normal placement of headphones for normal listening – on the ears – is quite far enough from the usual pacemaker location, keeping magnets away from one’s pacemaker could be more than just a “mere” precautionary measure. Doctors have not yet warned patients with pacemakers who reposition their loudspeakers, given that those have more powerful magnets touching squarely at their chest area. To be safe, people with pacemakers should avoid devices with strong magnetic fields when possible. This prudent practice could make our aging baby-boomers rocking for the foreseeable future.

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