Can these Valkee light in-earbuds treat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?

Update: Please read the comments below for a response from Valkee’s CEO which clears up a few of the issues discussed in the article.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), according to the NHS, is a type of depression that has a seasonal pattern. The episodes of depression tend to occur at the same time each year, usually during the winter.

The reason for SAD is thought to be down to the lack of sunlight in the winter months. So now is the prime time for the winter blues. Because their is less sunlight, your body receives less vitamin D (or close to zero in the UK). In turn this then reduced the production of the hormone melatonin and serotonin. The body’s internal clock can also be affected, causing people to become more lethargic.

A popular form of treatment to SAD is a light box. This provides the light you’re not receiving from the sun during winter months and tops you up with vitamin D (you can also take vitamin D pills). The light boxes are generally large, not portable and not very inconspicuous.

But now, one company, Valkee, is selling a more discrete and portable solution, and one that shines light not at a person’s face, but inside their ear canal.

Based on their own research, Valkee found that the human brain is sensitive to light, not just our eyes, and that it responds functionally to light when it’s administered directly through the ear canal. After creating the light earbuds, a further study showed that 92% of SAD sufferers experienced total symptom relief with 8-12 minutes.

It sounds great, but some are not convinced. In fact, a website has been set up to debunk the Valkee story, The site points out that the only research carried out has been by the company itself, and that in Finland (the home country of Valkee) the company is known for being a con, with it now trying to break into other markets because of this.

At €200, it is quite the investment. Of course the money is absolutely worth it (in my opinion) for sufferes of SAD. But whether or not it works is up for question. And to spend €200 to find out is more than most can bear.

What do you think of Valkee? Have you tried it? Would you try it? Let us know in the comments below.

There are 20 comments

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  1. Pekka / Valkee Ltd

    Thanks David for mentioning our product on onemorelifehack.

    The publisher of the slanderous website you mention is a self-proclaimed opponent of all medical industry practices. I recommend to take the claims on that site with a grain of salt: the author mixes liberal doses of fiction and paranoia with facts, keeps always behind anonymity, and the site is mostly quoted by other anonymous nicknames on various discussion forums. In science that is not a source.

    Valkee bright light headset is clinically tested, and even in uncontrolled studies delivers SAD symptom remission of 80-90% which is about double or more the customary anti-depressant placebo remission rate. Since mid 2012 all of Valkee’s clinical studies have been randomized, double-blinded, and placebo-controlled. The science journal publishing leadtimes are long in my experience – the first ever peer-reviewed article regarding Valkee came out 3 years after the study – so I expect it will take a while before 2012-13 studies are eventually published, but we will continue to present much quicker at conferences in the meanwhile, and to share information with anybody interested in their own well-being.

    For what it’s worth, in a 3rd party conducted Valkee user survey (a sample of the already 50,000+ customers) in February 2013, 87% said they recommend Valkee to others.
    A new version of the product has just been launched, and the Valkee 2 addresses all major issues that we have received corrective feedback on from our customers. More on that on our website

    Lastly, Valkee is a bona-fide medical device in Class 2(a) and meets the applicable requirements of the European Medical Device Directive.

    Let it be disclosed that I work as Valkee Ltd’s CEO.

    • David Clare

      Hi Pekka,

      Many thanks for your response to this. And thank you for flagging the research.

      I have updated this article to direct people to your comment so they are aware of your response.

      I think the product sounds great. As I say, if it works, then it is worth far more than the asking price. So I look forward to seeing people’s personal experiences with the device.

      Thanks again for the response.

      • Editor

        Good evening David,

        I find it sad to see, how Valkee’s representatives are trying to defame an inconvenient website and it’s supposed author. On one hand, it may be understandable that as a company, which sells humbug products online,[1] Valkee is upset about, which has become as popular as their own marketing projects. On the other hand, I think that consumers have a right to independent and well-founded information. Valkee has so far been unable to name a single false information on the site, and instead answers with made-up, insulting comments about me. Yet more important, they have been unable to prove any of their health claims. I am confident that readers will recognize this.

        Their science is largely unknown to the scientific community. Not a single earlight-related peer-reviewed article is existing. This is crucial, and so Valkee has produced a few fakes in journals where authors name their reviewers themselves – the direct opposite of independent peer review.[2] [3] One article even came in a pay-for-publication pseudojournal,[3] and was then ”confirmed” by a parapsychologist.[4]

        What Pekka Somerto also forgets to tell: In the meantime, independent researchers have shown, that against the company’s claims, Valkee’s earlight does not influence important brain functions.* I am looking forward to see this study in a respected journal – it will then be the first real publication on the topic. The negative results of Valkee’s own placebo-controlled trial remain buried.[5]


        *not linked, to give them a chance to correct this lapsus

        • David Clare

          Hi Editor,

          Thank you for joining the conversation and providing your account, plus the links.

          I find this an extremely interesting topic and am quite on the fence about it right now.

          Therefore, I will be trying out the device soon, so in a month or so I will post a personal account of using the device. Disclosure: I personally do not suffer from SAD, so a friend will be testing on my behalf and helping with the review.

          This feels like the best way to truly put them to the test. I can also confirm that this will be an independent review – no payments or influence from Valkee. Disclosure: Valkee are providing the device for the purpose of review.


      • Manuel

        David, even in his comment th owner of Valkee presents only claims. If the seller of the product says “Valkee bright light headset is clinically tested, and even in uncontrolled studies delivers SAD symptom remission of 80-90%” that is a claim, not proof.

        The skeptic site presents facts and sources, the CEO says “the product is great”, but of course he would. Don’t simply chose zo trust him, but do your own research and find objective tests.

        Now, even if the product would work, there is no reason to pay $200, simply buy some LED lights and stick them in your ear.

    • David Clare

      Hi Wilpert,

      Not yet – I have been testing the device for two weeks now and would like to give it a full month of testing, so will be reporting back around the beginning of December.


  2. Editor

    Hi David,

    like promised: The first-ever placebo-controlled study, published as a peer-reviewed article, about Valkee:

    It was independent, and negative, of course. Some more here:

    Valkee has to react. They have to compete with a real publication in a peer-reviewed journal now.

    I wanted to write about anecdotal evidence and how Valkee replaced scientific claims with testimonials. But instead: Wow. I think they have a real problem now.

  3. Stephanie

    Interested to hear your feedback on this device – for both consumers and retailers (with ethics) these debates can get mired in scientific he said, she said. Did it work for you, or should that be Did you feel it worked for you… that’s my question. Looking forward to your update.

  4. Rob

    Whilst initially I was sympathetic to Valkee’s points about the anonymity of the editor of the website – having read the negative result in the study posted on 20/11, it does seem that they may be based on faulty science… If Valkee is to be believed, surely some effects would have been found in the study, no?
    To respond to Stephanie – Scientific he said/she said usually ends up with a consensus, and it’s certainly better to trust a study than anecdotal evidence. “did you feel it worked for you” sounds like “are you susceptible to the placebo effect” to me.

  5. Parick

    Valkee didn’t work for me…2 month trial. Bright light therapy works fairly well, which I have used for several years. I wanted Valkee to work, but it was very disappointing.

  6. Pekka / Valkee Ltd

    Hello again David,
    I recently blogged about the anonymous slander-website (who appears anonymously in this discussion thread too) and you’ll find the post here if there’s more interest: .
    One of the studies that this anonymous person falsely claims to have been “buried” was instead recently peer-reviewed and published as expected. If interested, you’ll find it here: .
    If your readers would like to be kept informed of new related science publications as they come out, they can send me an e-mail address to info(at)valkee(dot)com, and I will keep you all posted.

  7. Shawn

    Hey David, am on the fence about getting one of these after reading the comments above. Has your friend tried it and what were the results if he did?

    • Tim Bond

      Hi Shawn,

      Tim here and thanks for the question. Unfortunately, I’ve not had the chance to try out the headphones myself and David has now taken some time away from the site (hence not responding himself). You can see David’s full review here:

      From my side I can’t help but thinking that $200 is a lot to pay and there’s also alternatives out there with a little less debate over the efficacy of the product. Hope that helps you make a decision.

  8. Susannah

    Having used a conventional SAD lamp for 10 years, I needed to buy a new one. The lamps I find quite painful on the eyes and annoying in the time slaved next to them, so I was thrilled to hear of Valkee ear light system. I purchased a device last winter and used it the whole season. Like for like with a SAD lamp, I found them to be just as good. I am just a normal consumer with no association of affiliation. I’ve recommended them to my friends too.

  9. Sue P

    I suffer from SAD and have sometimes been so ill I have been off work for weeks. Using a list box requires a routine that doesn’t always fit with a busy job. Started using Valkee three years ago and if combined with extra b vits and regular daytime walks I have found the results to be as good as the light box I used to use

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