A good pair of noise-cancelling headphones is a welcome respite in a world that is noisier than ever. It feels great sometimes to block out all the unnecessary distractions of daily life. This makes it all too tempting to leave them on all the time.
But, as lovely as that thought is, it’s no secret that many people have reported negative side effects from using noise-cancelling headphones for an extended period of time. Frequently, these encounters raise concerns and questions like:
“Are noise cancelling headphones safe?”.
Not to worry, we’ve got all the nitty-gritty details laid out so that you can be better informed before buying your own.
So, Are Noise Cancelling Headphones Safe?
Noise canceling earphones are completely safe to use and pose no risk to your health. They do not emit low-level radiation, unlike mobile phones, so you can use them to block out background noises while knowing they pose no risk to your safety or wellbeing.
HOW DO NOISE-CANCELING HEADPHONES WORK?
Noise cancellation in headphones can be of two types: passive noise cancellation (PNC) or active noise cancellation (ANC) (ANC). PNC headphones form a physical seal around the ear, allowing you to hear less background noise.
ANC, on the other hand, electronically generates an opposing frequency that completely cancels out ambient noise. Let’s look at the mechanics of noise cancellation to see how it all works.
1. Passive Noise Cancellation
The most common type of noise cancellation used by most headphones on the market is passive noise cancellation. PNC headphones, especially over-ear or circumoral models, work by physically soundproofing the ears with specific materials.
PNC headphones’ ear cups form an airtight seal over the ear, preventing sound from leaking out or in, and high-density materials such as memory foam further dampen unwanted noise.
Furthermore, because the technicalities of passive noise cancellation rely solely on the physical seals of the headphones, you can add noise isolation to your headphones or earphones without spending a fortune.
2. Active noise cancellation
The process of ANC begins with a miniature microphone sampling the ambient noise in your environment. If you’re sitting in a crowded coffee shop, for example, the microphone will pick up the sound waves produced by the busy cafe’s constant drone.
These soundwaves are essentially pressure waves that travel at a specific frequency through the air. The sampled audio is then fed into the battery-powered noise-cancelling system in the headphones by the microphone.
The system then inverts it, resulting in a signal that is the inverse of the original. Finally, the opposite signal is played back through the headphones. This is where things get a little more technical.
When two frequencies or signals are completely opposite each other, they are said to be in antiphase. When two antiphase signals collide, destructive interference occurs.
When the highest point of one frequency meets the lowest point of its opposing frequency (as seen in the left image), they cancel each other out. This is in contrast to the rightmost image (constructive interference), where the two frequencies are identical, resulting in a more amplified signal.
All of these additional mechanisms and advanced technology distinguish ANC headphones from Passive Noise Cancelling headphones in terms of noise reduction.
However, the effectiveness of its internal mechanisms is sometimes dependent on how well they were designed and integrated into the headphones. This, in turn, has an impact on overall costs. This is especially noticeable when comparing ANC headphones priced under $100 to those priced under $300.
CAN NOISE CANCELLATION HEADPHONES BE BENEFICIAL TO YOUR HEALTH?
Noise-cancelling headphones can be useful for a variety of reasons. If you find yourself in a situation with extremely loud noises, this can be harmful to your hearing. Some people, for example, have sensitive ears, and loud music at concerts or festivals can be dangerous.
Constantly loud noise can raise blood pressure and cause tension headaches in adults. Noise cancelling headphones can be a very useful pair of headphones in all of these situations.
And then there’s sleep! To function and stay healthy, we all require a good night’s sleep. This leads us to the next question:
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ARE NOISE-CANCELLING HEADPHONES SAFE FOR SLEEPING?
If you have noisy neighbors or live near a busy road, you may be prone to insomnia through no fault of your own. Noise canceling headphones will provide much-needed relief from distracting noises.
They have excellent sound quality and are ideal for people who sleep on their backs or sides. Listening to relaxing music before going to bed will ensure a restful night’s sleep. Then, listening to white noise while sleeping can help to eliminate any disruptions throughout the night.
If the noise cancelling headphones are Bluetooth earphones, they do not have wires, so you can wear them safely while sleeping without worrying about tangled wires. Furthermore, some are made for comfort by using flexible silicones that mold to your head. Fewer still have sleep sensing EEG Brainwave sensors that monitor your sleeping experience.
SO, IS NOISE-CANCELLING SAFE?
Yes, is the short answer. Noise-cancelling headphones are safe on their own. In fact, ANC technology was developed primarily to protect pilots’ hearing from the loud sounds of the plane engine. This is why noise-cancelling headphones can be useful in preventing hearing loss and reducing noise-related stress.
As previously stated, noise-cancelling headphones work by removing continuous low-frequency background noises such as the hum of machinery or the rumble of an airplane engine.
With this noise significantly reduced, the wearer hears clearer sound and no longer feels the need to turn up the volume of the headphones to ear-damaging levels.
This is particularly important for people with sensitive hearing, and children who are more prone to hearing damage when continually exposed to noise. That’s why there are noise cancelling headphones for kids with additional hearing protection, like volume limiters.
However, while some higher-end ANC headphones can cancel out even middle frequencies such as voices, mid-range ANC headphones are more effective at canceling out low-frequency sounds. Noise-cancelling headphones can also aid in the reduction of noise-related stress.
This type of stress not only impairs our concentration, but it can also lead to high blood pressure, ulcers, and migraines. Having a good pair of noise-cancelling headphones reduces our exposure to annoying background noise and keeps our stress levels in check.
WHAT CAN NOISE-CANCELLING HEADPHONES BE USED FOR?
If you have trouble sleeping at night, it could be due to annoying noises from the outside world. Worse, you might have a partner who snores, which can be aggravating. They are ideal for blocking out the rest of the world.
It’s possible that you work in a noisy environment or that you simply want some “downtime” without distractions. Imagine you’re on a long flight and you just want to block out the background noise of people talking or, worse, a young child who is understandably becoming increasingly loud.
With noise-cancelling headphones, you can simply sit back and relax while traveling. You might be at a concert or festival with your family, and the music is simply too loud for those sensitive ears.
During meditation or yoga sessions, noise cancelling headphones will help you block out distractions so you can fully appreciate the experience.
If you go to the gym on a regular basis, you most likely follow a strict regimen. Busy gyms can be quite noisy at times. Wearing noise-cancelling headphones allows you to enjoy your workout while also listening to music or audio.
Some people who suffer from anxiety or panic disorders can find their intolerance for noise is heightened. This can make for uncomfortable travel or just everyday activities can become an issue. During these instances noise cancelling headphones can become very useful.
Alternative Video: Is Noise Cancelling Safe?
HOW ARE NOISE CANCELLING HEADPHONES BENEFICIAL FOR HEALTH?
If you live or work in a noisy environment and are subjected to constant noise, noise cancelling headphones may be beneficial to your hearing. For extended periods of time, being exposed to loud noises such as airplane engines, rumbling trains, jackhammers, or even simple traffic noise can be hazardous to your hearing and health.
There are various types of noise, each with a different frequency (pitch) and amplitude (loudness), and thus each with a different effect on your hearing. Loud noises can be harmful to your health by causing hearing damage, interfering with sleep, increasing stress levels, and causing headaches.
Constant low-level noise is as much dangerous for your health as loud noises are. While low-level noise does not cause hearing loss, it can be harmful in other ways, particularly if it is continuous.
People who live in noisy areas or near all-day traffic noise have higher levels of the stress hormone than those who live in quiet areas. Elevated cortisol levels have been linked to high blood pressure and high cholesterol, both of which raise the risk of heart disease.
Low-level noise has been shown in studies to be harmful to one’s health. A study published in the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America discovered that children who grew up in areas with constant low-level noise had higher levels of the stress hormone than those who grew up in quieter areas.
Wearing noise cancelling headphones protects you from the potential consequences of prolonged noise exposure. Noise-cancelling headphones, in fact, have numerous advantages.
Because noise cancelling headphones cancel out background noise, you can listen to music without having to turn up the volume so loud that it endangers your hearing.
There are specially designed headphones that shield the ears from all types of noise. As a result, it’s critical to find the right noise canceling headphones and ensure that they’re a good fit for you.
SAFETY CONCERNS INVOLVING NOISE-CANCELING HEADPHONES
Despite the benefits of noise-canceling headphones established, a simple Google search will tell you that there have been several safety-related user complaints regarding the said devices, no matter if they’re budget-friendly or premium.
Let’s talk about some of the most common safety concerns involving noise-canceling headphones.
1. Pressure on the ears
Jaw pain, headaches, dizziness, and ear pressure are some of the most common complaints about noise-cancelling headphones. The ear pressure, in particular, has been compared to that experienced on an ascending airplane.
To understand this better, you must first understand how changes in barometric pressure affect us. When we take off in a plane, the ear pressure we feel is caused by differences in air density inside and outside your ears.
When the air density inside your ears is higher, the inner ear vibrates less, causing you to perceive low-frequency sounds less.
Some people adapt well to ANC headphones and have no symptoms at all. Others can only wear them for a few hours a day before feeling the need to remove them. Regrettably, there is no “cure” for this. People who suffer from the symptoms have no choice but to switch from ANC to PNC headphones.
Tinnitus is a persistent ringing or buzzing sound in the ears that becomes more noticeable in the absence of external background noise. It is a common disorder that can affect people of all ages and can be caused by anything that damages or interferes with the sensitive internal structures of your ears.
Many people have reported tinnitus as a result of using ANC headphones; however, there is no scientific evidence linking tinnitus and ANC headphones. The increased noise reduction provided by ANC headphones is a plausible explanation for the perception of tinnitus.
For example, if you use noise cancelling headphones to study in a hall or a library, ambient noise can become close to zero and we become hyper-aware of the ringing sounds in our ears.
3. Using Noise-cancelling Headphones Outdoors
It seems inconceivable to not have music to motivate you through a workout or your favorite podcast to listen to while running errands. But it’s the simple act of wearing noise-cancelling headphones while out and about that puts millions of people at risk every year.
Many of us are accustomed to donning a pair of headphones before venturing out. However, by doing so, we are impairing one of the most important senses for detecting danger. We prevent ourselves from mentally registering things like car horns, fire alarms, and other critical alerts.
This increases our chances of being involved in an accident. If you’re driving or running along an area with lots of traffic, it’s advisable to avoid using noise cancellation altogether.
Such activities require the attentiveness of all our senses and will often need a lightning-fast response from us if something goes wrong.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN NOISE CANCELLING AND ACTIVE NOISE CANCELLING?
The materials used to make passive noise-cancelling headphones simply work to block out sound waves. Consider the last time you wore fluffy ear muffs. They are soft on the outside and only partially block out outside noise.
Then there are active noise-cancelling headphones to consider! Not only does the material block out noise, but it also generates sound waves that simply mimic outside noise, canceling each other out.
HOW TO PREVENT HEARING DAMAGE WHEN USING HEADPHONES?
The main piece of advice for avoiding hearing damage while wearing headphones is to keep the volume moderate. The majority of health issues are caused by high-level volumes. How can I tell if a volume is moderate? This is where a good rule of thumb will come in handy.
Maintain a volume that is lower than the sound of a typical vacuum cleaner, which is around 70 decibels. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends a safe volume level of less than 85 decibels.
What happens when you take the heаdphones off is another indication that the volume is too high. Do your sоunds seem muffled, or do your ears buzz? If you answered yes, you should turn down the sound.
Yes, we all enjoy our games, music, and quiet time. But not at the expense of our hearing. Our ears are delicate, and we only get one pair in our lifetime. It is solely our responsibility to treat them well.
This in-depth guide should have not only helped you understand how to get the most out of your headphones. But also how to look after your ears.
Of course, not all noise canceling headphones are created equal. As a result, we’ve compiled a list of the best noise canceling headphones for every budget and purpose. Feel free to take a look!
FAQs About Noise Cancelling Headphones
Does noise-canceling hurt your ears?
Overall, noise cancellation in headphones has no negative impact on your hearing. When you turn on the ANC, you may hear a slight hissing sound, but that’s all. However, for some people, this can be annoying and even cause dizziness.
Is there radiation in noise-cancelling headphones?
Noise canceling headphones do not endanger your health in any way. The noise cancellation technology in the headphones works well and has no negative consequences. Because they don’t emit any radiation, you shouldn’t be concerned about these headphones causing health problems.
How long can you wear noise cancelling headphones?
To protect your hearing, listen at reasonable volumes: experts say that listening at a maximum of 60% of your device’s volume for 60 minutes is usually safe.
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