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MP3 Player Headphones Can Interfere With Heart Devices

Posted by Chrissie Cole
Monday, November 10, 2008 3:50 PM EST
Category: Major Medical
Tags: FDA and Prescription Drugs, Medical Devices, Pacemakers, Implantable Defibrillators, MP3 Players, Arrhythmia


IMAGE SOURCE:© iStockPhoto/ MP3 Player / Author: IvanWuPI

MP3 digital music players and iPod headphones may dangerously interact with implantable defibrillators and heart pacemakers, finds U.S. researchers.

The actual MP3 players posed no threat to defibrillators and pacemakers, used to normalize heart rhythm. But, tiny little magnets located inside the headphones can clash with the devices when placed within inches of them, researchers said.

Dr. William Maisel of the Medical Device Security Center led a team of researchers that tested eight models of MP3 player headphones (including earbuds) by Philips Electronics, Sony Corp. and others, in 60 patients with defibrillators or pacemakers.

The headphones were placed directly over the device, on the patient’s chest for the study. Researchers found that the headphones interfered with 14 of the 60 patients (23 percent) and interference was twice as likely to occur in patients with a defibrillator then a pacemaker.

Cellular phones with Bluetooth wireless technology is not likely to interfere with pacemakers, found a separate study.

A pacemaker sends an electrical impulse to the patient’s heart to speed up or slow down cardiac rhythm. However, the magnet could make the device deliver an unnecessary signal, possibly leading to arrhythmia (abnormal heartbeat), researchers said.

When a patient’s heart beats too fast or slow an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) detects cardiac arrhythmia and corrects it by delivering a jolt of electricity. A magnet could potentially deactivate the device, causing it to ignore abnormal heart rhythm when an electric shock is needed to normalize rhythm.

Researchers found that patient devices worked properly after the headphones were removed in most instances.

The important message here is rather simple: it is safe for patients to listen to music on their players so long as the headphones are in their ears. What patients should not do is put the headphones near their device, Maisel said in a phone interview.

To explain further, patients with defibrillators and pacemakers should not keep headphones in their shirt or coat pocket near the chest or around their neck when not in use.

An estimated 2 million people worldwide have a pacemaker, defibrillator or other heart device to help their hearts beat faster, slower or more regularly.

The findings were presented at the American Heart Association meeting in New Orleans. #

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