If you’ve ever gotten zapped while wearing earbuds, you’re not alone. Colleen Zaremski, a Pittsburgh native, shared her experience of this on Facebook, detailing the moment her earbuds seemed to send an electric spark into her ears. “I could hear a zapping,” Zaremski wrote in a post. “I could feel the shock in my mouth.”
Zaremski, a mother of five, was reportedly folding laundry when the zing happened, which instantly prompted her to pull the earbuds out. It was then that she realized her lips were swollen, and she suddenly had a metallic taste in her mouth. “It took about five to 10 minutes before my lips went down to normal,” Zaremski told a local Fox news outlet. “But my ears immediately — as soon as I pulled the ear buds out, the pain stopped.”
So what exactly happened, and is it something that should concern you?
According to a post about the phenomenon on Apple’s website, it is possible to “receive a small and quick electrostatic shock from your earbuds” when using them, but it’s not necessarily dangerous, and reactions like swollen lips are rare. Most times people will feel nothing more than a small shock.
Apple says that this especially happens in certain weather conditions, like those that are extra dry or windy, as well as with certain synthetic fabrics like nylon. The event itself is caused by a buildup of static electricity, which Apple explains this way: “[It’s] similar to dragging your feet across a carpet and receiving a static shock when you touch a doorknob. However, instead of the static charge building up on your body, the charge builds up on the device that the earbuds are connected to,” Apple says. “Instead of the static buildup discharging through your finger when you touch a doorknob, it discharges through the earbuds.”
Although this kind of small electrostatic shock is uncomfortable, it’s generally nothing that will cause you actual harm. If it’s something that bothers you, thankfully Lifehacker provides some tips on how to avoid it. One major way is to pay attention to what you’re wearing. Wool sweaters (and socks) are common culprits when it comes to static buildup, but rubber-soled shoes or cotton socks can offset this.
Apple offers advice as well. For indoors, they suggest that you increase the moisture level in the air (through things like humidifiers), spray anti-static spray, or use anti-static spray on dry skin. Outdoors, they recommend keeping your device out of the wind (especially when jogging) and trying to avoid moving it quickly in and out of pockets, or rubbing it on things that can cause static buildup.
If those suggestions don’t help, or you can’t bear to put away the wool sweater, then you could try switching your earbuds to headphones that sit outside your ears.
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