Music on the move may not be good for your heart

November 14, 2008

Music has great power to soothe and de-stress, and is very beneficial to those recovering from illness or surgery or just needing to relax, but a new study reported at an American Heart Association meeting may mean rethinking that. It seems that an mp3 player could potentially cause interference and affect heart devices like pacemakers or implanted defibrillators. Apparently it is not the player itself that is the problem, it’s the earphones as many makes have the magnetic substance neodymium, which helps with sound reproduction. It is this that may interfere with the devices if placed directly on your chest above heart level.

It’s not about the listening, but about where you store the headphones while carrying the mp3 player around with you. Dr.William H. Maisel, director of the Medical Device Safety Institute in Boston, USA ran extensive tests and found that the biggest concern was for defibrillator patients, because the magnet can temporarily deactivate it. However, pacemakers are not exempt from concern as they are designed to boost slow heart rhythms, and when exposed to magnets, they may deliver signals that tell the heart to beat faster, whether it needs to or not.

In the new study, the researchers attached eight types of headphones to iPods and mp3 players. These were either earbuds or clip-ons, not the larger noise-cancelling varieties favoured by business travellers to also exclude external noise. Around 23% of the participants experienced electromagnetic interferencewhen the headphones were placed on the chest – directly over the heart. However, there weren’t any problems if the headphones were 3 centimetres, or about 1.2 inches, or more above the skin’s surface.

This is not a conclusive study, but if you have a pacemaker or defibrillator it is sensible advice to not tuck the headphones into the front pocket of your jacket or let them trail over your shoulders near the heart area when they are not in use.


Article by  


What do you think of this health article by ? Join the discussion...