The good news is iPods and most MP3 players do not have an effect on your implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) or pacemaker, according to a study presented at the American Heart Association 2008 Scientific Sessions. The bad news is, their head phones or ear phones do. And where would your music player be without the head phones?
All speakers big and small contain magnets. Magnets are necessary to make vibrations and the sound that we can hear. However, anybody with a heart implant knows very well that magnets can cause interference with a pacemaker or defibrillator.
The other good news is that the magnets in the headphones are small, with not-so-strong magnetic field and their effect are only discernible in very short distances when the magnets are placed right above the heart at a distance of 3 cm or less.
Lead author Dr William Maisel told heartwire
“Because exposure of a pacemaker or defibrillator to portable headphones can result in interaction between the two, we recommend that pacemaker or defibrillator patients not allow portable headphones to be near their device. Enough headphones have enough magnetic field strength that we believe that our recommendations apply to all portable headphones; they do not apply to one particular brand or one particular model.”
Last year, there were reports of MP3 players interfering with heart implants which lead the researchers to conduct the study. They looked at the effect of two brands of iPod brands, the Shuffle and the Nano. Their results show that
- No interference by the players on pacemakers or ICDs was observed.
- 14 out of 60 patients with heart implants (23%) experienced implant interference with headphones.
- The interferences “ranged from inappropriate (asynchronous) pacing in four out of 27 pacemaker patients to inhibition of ICD detection in 10 out of 33 ICD patients.”
- In one patient, head phones caused reprogramming of the implant.
- Highest interference comes from “clip-on type headphones such as the Sony MDR Q22 LP and Phillips SBC HS430.”
Here are some recommendations and things to pay attention to:
- Do not place your portable head phones in your shirt’s or jacket’s breast pocket.
- Do not let the head phones hang around your neck and drape down your chest.
- The magnets are still working even if the digital music player is off.
- Avoid falling asleep with your headphones on.
- Do not let somebody with an ear phone rest his/her head on your chest. (Grannies and Grandpas – make sure your grandchildren know this before they come for that bear hug!)
- Finally, pay attention to other devices that have speakers such as mobile phones and hands-free headsets. They, too, have magnets and can interfere with you implants.