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iPods and iPhones May Give Static Shock Through Headphones, Warns Apple

May 20, 2009

Apple iPod

iPhone and iPod users may experience a “small and quick” shock via their earbuds due to a buildup of static electricity, Apple has warned.

People listening to one of the devices in extremely dry air are most at risk of receiving a static electricity shock through the ear buds, according to a warning posted on Apple’s Web site. The post likened the condition to the discharge that occurs when a person drags his or her feet across a carpet then gets a shock by touching a door knob.

However, Apple said that this condition did not necessarily indicate that Apple’s equipment was malfunctioning.

“This condition is not limited to Apple hardware and static can potentially build up on almost any hardware and could be discharged using any brand of earbuds,” Apple said.

Apple’s warning didn’t mention what prompted the company to issue the warning, but a discussion thread on the company’s support site showed a few users had voiced concern about the condition.

“Maybe it’s just me but for a couple of weeks now my earphones are delivering little electric shocks into my ears,” wrote one reader. “I just wonder if anyone else is going through this issue.”

Apple made several suggestions in the warning on how to remedy the condition when indoors, including the use of a humidifier to raise the moisture level of the air, hand lotions to moisturize dry skin, or an anti-static spray. The site also recommends users wear clothes made of natural fibers instead of synthetic fibers.

When users are outdoors, Apple suggests users keep their device in a bag or a case to keep it out of the wind and refrain from frequently removing it from pockets as the rubbing may cause static buildup.

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From Apple’s Support Site:

Apple Earbuds and static electricity

  • Last Modified: May 18, 2009
  • Article: TS2729

Symptoms

It’s possible to receive a small and quick electrical (static) shock from your earbuds while listening to iPod or iPhone.

Products Affected

iPhone Accessories, iPod, iPhone, iPod Accessories

Resolution

What is happening?

When using headphones in areas where the air is very dry, it is easy to build up static electricity and possible for your ear to receive a small electrostatic discharge from the headphones. Receiving a static shock from a pair of earbuds does not necessarily indicate an issue with the iPod, iPhone, or earbuds.

This condition is very similar to dragging your feet across a carpet and receiving a static shock by touching a door knob. However, instead of the static charge building up on your body, the charge builds up on the device that the earbuds are connected to. Likewise, instead of the static buildup discharging through your finger when you touch a door knob, it discharges through the earbuds.

Note: This condition is not limited to Apple hardware and static can potentially build up on almost any hardware and could be discharged using any brand of earbuds.

Why does static build up on my device?

Static buildup on your electronic device is largely due to the environment that it is used in. Certain environments and actions can encourage static electricity buildup.

  • Very low humidity (dry) environments are conducive for static buildup.

  • Very windy environments are conducive for static buildup.

  • Taking your device in and out of your pocket can create a static charge.

  • Jogging or exercising with your device can cause a static charge.

  • Clothes made with synthetic fibers (like nylon) can easily become charged with static electricity.

What else can be done to alleviate static build up on my device?

To minimize the risks of electrostatic discharge from the headphones, avoid using the headphones in extremely dry environments or touch a grounded unpainted metal object before inserting the headphones. Static electricity can be controlled by a number of different methods.

Indoors

  • Try raising the moisture level in the air of the local environment by using a portable humidifier or adjusting the humidity control on your air conditioner.

  • There are a number of anti-static sprays that can be sprayed into the air that can be used to reduce static.

  • If you have dry skin, try anti-static hand lotion.

  • Try wearing different clothes. Try clothes with natural fibers since synthetic fibers are more likely to hold a static charge.

Outdoors

  • Try to keep your device out of the wind by using a case, or leaving it in your bag or pocket.

  • Avoid removing your device from your pockets frequently as rubbing the device on certain materials can cause a static build up.

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