Can I Wear Headphones When It’s Cold AF Outside?


Woman in hat and coat looking at camera screen

 

Stick a big fat bobble hat on the Northern hemisphere, why don’t you? And tell Ned Stark to get a new catchphrase.

Winter is almost here.

Persephone has swept off back to the underworld leaving us to survive the season of chapped lips, de-icer and Michael Bublé.

Can I Wear Headphones in the Winter?

Wearing on-ear and over-ear headphones in the summer is easy.  We set-up our playlists, put on our sweat-proof headphone covers and take our podcasts and tunes into gyms, passenger planes, commuter trains, onto the beach, and out and about in the sunshine but what about in the winter?  Can you wear headphones when it’s cold AF outside?

 

Check the Recommended Temperature Range for your Headphones 

Headphone operating manuals give temperature ranges for specific models. These manuals are often included in the box at the point of purchase. You should be able to find them online or by contacting the manufacturer via email or social media. If you’re playing music through a phone or other device, check the temperature range for that, too.

Cold Weather Drains Batteries

Batteries can shut-down in low temperatures. We’ve probably all seen it: one minute you’re riding high on 43% and then the next minute it’s 0 – bye, bye Google Maps in a strange, new city.  One reason this happens is that most phones and Bluetooth headphones use Lithium-ion batteries and they don’t so so well in freezing temperatures.

In Wired magazine, Electrical Engineer, Hanumant Singh, explains that the colder it gets the slower the chemical reaction inside the battery will be and without that chemical reaction, there’s no power and no way to continue using your device. Lithium-ion batteries have a low-voltage shut-off that’s designed to stop them from becoming damaged.  According to the iFixit website, cold temperatures can cause this to kick in and cut out the charge.

Using battery saving mode may help delay a loss of power.

Keeping the phone close to the body in pockets or bags can often be enough to keep it working.

Google searches reveal a considerable number of anecdotal evidence suggesting that most phones and headphones will work just fine in temperatures well below the 0 degree Celsius bottom range specified by most manufacturers.

Forums are filled with replies from people living in some seriously desolate environments reporting that they’ve gone running, walking or gone to work in headphones in temperatures as low as -20 degrees.

Remember that it’s most likely the battery that’s sensitive to low temperatures rather than the headphone. One important thing to remember is that you shouldn’t start charging your phone if the battery dies in the cold weather as this can cause permanent damage to the battery.  Wait for the phone to warm up first and then try turning the power back on. Often this is enough to restore the original charge.

Condensation Kills Headphones 

Moisture is bad for headphones.

We’ve been banging on about it for ages now.  It’s one reason  .  Water and electronics don’t mix.  Whilst low temperatures are unlikely to damage headphones, moving them from a colder temperature into a warmer one and then continuing to use them or turning them on too quickly can cause condensation to form inside the headphone – bad news for the drivers.

Think about how walking into a warm room from outside can sometimes cause a person’s glasses to steam up.

It’s always worth waiting for the headphones to warm up before turning them on and using them. 

Better safe than sorry.

Phantom Commands on Sony Headphones

Sony’s much-lauded 1000XM3 headphones were initially found to be unsuitable in lower temperatures.

Users complained that the touch controls would “go bananas” (volume going up and down, settings being activated without being pressed)  when the headphones were worn outside. Only when people went inside and out of the cold air did the glitches disappear.

Sony looked into the problem to see whether it was a bad batch or whether it was part of a design oversight after users became concerned that the headphone might be unusable for three to four months of the year.  The problem has since been resolved but it shows how temperature affects the usability of even popular premium headphones.  

Headphone Wires Can Become Brittle

Cables can be less flexible in the cold weather making them vulnerable to snapping or breaking.  Slipping them underneath a coat or scarf should help keep them warmer and more pliable.  Be careful whenever you take your headphones out of your bag and don’t pull the headphone jack out of your device by the wire.

 

EarSnugz headphone covers

 

Wear Earmuff Headphone Covers to Keep Warm

Winter isn’t everyone’s favourite season. If you wear open-backed headphones, then it might not be yours, either.  Anyone suffering through the winter months (especially on the ears) should add a pair of super-soft headphone cushion covers to their cans.  EarSnugz helps keep cold air out without affecting the sound quality of your headphones.

Turn Noise-cancellation Off When Visibility is Low

We love noise-cancelling technology; it’s certainly saved us during some pretty awful commutes but turning off ambient noise during the winter can be dangerous. Situational awareness is important when there’s low-visibility or when weather patterns conspire to keep dangers hidden. You might be putting yourself at unnecessary risk by using active noise-cancellation in the colder months.

Wearing Headphones Over Hats

Co-ordinating headwear and headphones is tough.  Beanies are generally pretty good as a tighter-fitting hat is often best. One where you can fold the material over just above the ear can work well. Putting headphones on over a hat is often the most straightforward way of keeping your head warm and your tunes playing. Bobble hats are difficult to wear with headphones and trapper hats make it nearly impossible.  Wearing a hood over the top of the headphones is also one way of trying to keep warm.

 

There’s a lot to love about the winter: the cosy nights in, the colourful knitwear, the hot drinks cradled between gently warming fingers and, of course, those crisp cold temperatures which shouldn’t stop you wearing and enjoying your on-ear or over-ear headphones.

Fed up of cold ears in the winter?  We’d love to show off the EarSnugz range.

Attractive and affordable, these subtle and soft headphone accessories are a must-have for on-ear and over-ear headphones.

 

EarSnugz Range