You’ll find a lot of horror stories on the internet about headphones. Some people think that wireless headphones cause cancer. Others believe anti-noise cancelling technology is bad for the brain. We do know one thing: listening to audio at high volume can cause permanent hearing loss. But can headphones change the shape of your head?
It’s a common question, especially on Quora and Reddit. People are worried that wearing headphones for prolonged periods could be changing the shape of their skulls. The gaming community is particularly prone to asking this question. So much so that there’s even a term for it - gamer’s dent.
And it’s understandable. Few people wear headphones and headsets as regularly and for as long as gamers do. Tyler1 is a Twitch streamer who sparked concerns during one stream with this photograph. The link opens in another window but you can clearly see an indentation in his head.
It’s not just worrying gamers, eithers. Think about it. Many of us wear our headphones regularly. We exercise in the gym with them. We use them to get through the working day or during long study sessions. We commute in them. We wear them when we’re traveling or to relax. Should we also be worried about what they’re doing to our skulls?
No, headphones won’t change the shape of your head. Not permanently, anyway. The human skull is very tough. Headphones don’t exert the level of pressure that would be able to leave a permanent indentation. What you’re actually seeing is an indentation in the skin on the scalp. It only looks like there’s a dent in the head. It’s part of the skin’s elasticity. Take a look at most of the photographs of this online: it’s people with shaved heads. The indentation is just more noticeable. For those with hair, it’s more common to perceive a dent in the head when it’s actually only a flattening of the hair strands.
Take your headphones off, and your head should return to its normal shape relatively quickly. If your hair has flattened, wash it. It’s like wearing a hairband around the wrist. Once you remove it, the deep indent disappears and the skin returns to normal.
It’s important to remember, too, that the skull naturally has lumps and bumps. Nobody’s head is completely smooth. Run your hand through your hair and if you’re looking for an indentation, you’ll probably find one. One that may have been there your entire life but has only just become noticeable.
But there are times when head indentations do require a professional medical opinion. If the dent doesn’t go, even when you’re not wearing headphones, speak to your doctor. Several conditions that could be at play. For most people, an indent is harmless. But rule out anything that could be a medical condition if you’re in doubt.
Indentations can be a sign that you need to adjust your headphones. Clamping pressure is greater on some headphone brands. It’s common when headphones are new, too. Try adjusting the headband for a more comfortable fit. Taking regular breaks from using your headphone can also help. Or adjust them so that they’re sitting on a slightly different part of your head. Some people also stretch their headphones (often done when they’re first purchased) to loosen them. This can be done by placing the headphones over the box they came in for a period of several hours or by doing it over a row of books. Be careful not to overstretch them. The clamping pressure is what helps keep your headphones secure on your head. The last thing you want is to then have headphones that slide right off. Adding additional padding to the underside of the headband may help. Some people wear a thin beanie-style hat, too.
Protecting your head is important but so too is protecting your headphones from moisture damage. Sweat kills headphones. It seeps inside the earpads and makes them smell awful. It can also lead to cracking and peeling. Headphone covers are sleeves that slip easily onto the earpad and help prevent moisture from getting inside. They come in a range of great designs and are machine-washable.