Can Noise Cancelling Headphones Be Used Without Music? (Answered!)

Can Noise Cancelling Headphones Be Used Without Music? Is there a constant barrage of obnoxious noises around you?

Perhaps you're considering getting noise-cancelling headphones to enjoy some peace and quiet or to listen to music without being interrupted by other sounds.

They are, indeed, a wise investment; however, understanding how they work will assist you in selecting the right pair for you, and there is much more to know about them before you put them on.

Continue reading to learn if noise-cancelling headphones can be used without music, as well as what else you can do with this amazing piece of modern technology!


Can Noise Cancelling Headphones Be Used Without Music?
Can Noise Cancelling Headphones Be Used Without Music?

So, Can Noise Cancelling Headphones Be Used Without Music?

In short, the answer is yes, noise cancelling headphones can be used without listening to music. As mentioned, technology has come quite a way over the last decade, particularly for personal listening devices like headphones.


You had no choice but to wear large headphones that went over your ears and were wired to your device. While wired versions are still available, most people prefer the Bluetooth style, which is completely wireless.

Bluetooth headphones, wireless earbuds, and, of course, noise-cancelling headphones are available. Most headphones provide some sound dampening, but active noise-cancelling headphones are the way to go.

They differ from regular headphones in that they lack passive noise-cancelling capabilities via padding. They function by utilizing a small microphone built into the headphones. This microphone then picks up on the noise around you, and the headphones play a sound that contrasts with that noise to drown it out.

Isn't it fascinating? Noise-cancelling headphones are ideal for frequent travelers, music enthusiasts, and anyone who simply needs to concentrate and find some peace in a chaotic world. With noise-cancelling headphones, we're now spoiled for choice. You can wear them over your ear, on your ear, or inside your ear.

Do you want them with or without wires? And, fortunately for you, because the technology has been adopted by many manufacturers other than Bose (the original creators of the technology), you have a variety of price points to choose from.

They are still more expensive than standard headphones, but the price is well worth it for what you get. However, you should be aware that not all noise-cancelling headphones are well-made. Bose is one of the top brands because they were the first to develop the concept, but other brands do an excellent job while others could do better.

That is why it is critical to select a reputable brand that is well-known for its effective active noise-cancellation technology.

In addition, you should be aware that you can use the noise cancellation function (abbreviated ‘NC') without playing music. This is a fantastic feature to have over regular headphones because it can block out background noises when you're in a noisy environment, such as a crowded subway car or on a transatlantic flight.

There are minor differences between models, but the basic premise is that you can use your headphones without connecting them to a device or playing music.

Typically, you'll need to connect the stereo cable that comes with them to your smartphone or other device so that it doesn't engage in the auto-off or auto power mode setting, which is the case for most models after 5 minutes of inactivity. This prevents the headphones from powering down and allows you to use the NC function to preserve your prized peace and quiet.


Mostly, you'll need to consider the sounds you want to drown out. If the constant chatter in the other cubicles is getting on your nerves at work, noise-cancelling headphones would be a better option. These have better insulation to keep out unwanted random sounds, whereas active noise-cancelling headphones are best for low frequency sounds like a jet engine's roar.

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If you're a frequent traveler looking for more peace and quiet on an airplane before a big meeting on the other side of the country, active noise-cancelling headphones will be everything you've hoped for.

Unfortunately, there are no all-purpose headphones available at this time. You'll need to decide which features are most important to you and then find the right pair to meet those needs. If you're mostly concerned with how music sounds through your headphones, noise-cancelling headphones, while not bad, won't provide you with that pristine sound quality.

Almost every noise-cancelling pair of headphones on the market sounds different when NC is turned on versus when it is turned off. In other words, if you want the best sound, you must always have them on, which will drain the battery.

That isn't necessarily a bad thing in and of itself, but it's something you should be aware of before purchasing them, lest you be disappointed. If you choose the in-ear style, the battery pack is an external unit. If they aren't, they are built into the ear cup.

They're a little heavier, but they're not as uncomfortable as wearing a bowling ball on your head. Again, this isn't a big deal, but if you expect them to be as light as an ultra-light pair of regular headphones, you'll need to account for the weight difference.

If you specifically want noise-cancelling headphones though, you should get them. They are worth every penny for those that have the need for them. Keep reading and you’ll learn more about them!

How To Use Noise Cancelling Headphones Without Music?
How To Use Noise Cancelling Headphones Without Music?



Noise-cancelling headphones, as previously stated, use a microphone to input surrounding noise in order to process, analyze, and create an opposite sound to counteract that noise. This is what reduces outside noise.

If you imagine the waves of the ocean rolling by, you'd see the crest, which is the high part of the wave, followed by the trough, which is the low part of the wave.

Sound waves are similar to this. When the height of the crest and the depth of the trough are added together, a flat space is formed. That's essentially what noise-cancelling headphones do. While it works wonders, it is not without flaws. With these, there is no such thing as complete silence.

They do provide excellent noise reduction with droning sounds from low frequencies, such as the engine on the plane you've been stuck on for hours. They won't, however, completely silence that chatty guy in the seat next to you who keeps making small talk during the flight.

This is due to the higher frequency of the human voice. Those kinds of sounds will still be heard, but they will be less bothersome than they would be without your noise-cancelling headphones.

How passive noise cancellation works?

Passive noise cancellation does not require any electricity or electronics. Instead, physical barriers are entirely responsible for isolating your ears from the environment. This feature is found on the majority of headphones, particularly over-ear headphones and in-ear monitors.

They are intended to enclose your ears with padding (or ear tips) and form an airtight seal, blocking out and muffling ambient sound. Consider what it sounds like when you cover your ears with your hands. Isn't it much quieter now? That is essentially what it does.

However, effectiveness still depends on the headphones’ overall design. Factors that affect a headphones’ noise isolation include ear cup size, thickness and material of the padding, fit around the ears, and the tightness of the headband’s clamp.

How active noise cancellation works?

Active noise cancellation (ANC) is a more sophisticated technology. It achieves all of the benefits of passive noise isolation. However, it also electronically cancels out unwanted sound waves from the surrounding environment. This is useful for those who prefer complete silence while working or sleeping.

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What is the procedure for this? First, we must establish that sound travels in waves. ANC works by analyzing ambient noise with miniature microphones and producing an opposite signal (also known as anti-phase) to counteract it.

When these two waves interact, they cancel each other out, and you hear nothing. It's the same as adding +1 and -1; you get zero.

Alternative Video: How Noise Cancelling Headphones Work?

How Noise Cancelling Headphones Work?


Noise-cancelling headphones are popular among travelers because they make the journey more enjoyable. With a good pair of these headphones, you'll be able to avoid the typical fatigue that comes with a long-haul flight due to the reduction of low frequency noises.

In-ear models are easier to transport but more uncomfortable than over-ear models. Furthermore, by design, over-ear models provide more passive noise reduction. The disadvantage is that they are bulkier and take up more space in your bag.

You'll have to decide which disadvantage bothers you the least and best suits your needs. If you are not a frequent flyer or have to deal with noisy conversations and higher frequency sounds, noise-cancelling headphones will not provide you with the full benefits.

Noise-isolating earbuds or earplugs will do the trick if you want to block out chatty coworkers, annoying neighbors, or honking taxis below your apartment. They also make earplugs specifically for sleep, so if your issue is high-frequency noises at night while you're trying to sleep, these can be a good option.

Noise-cancelling headphones are amazing for those that need them. They’re an investment though so make sure you’re buying them for the right reasons and you’ll be absolutely delighted with them. Keep reading to find out why they’re worth it!


Yes, noise cancelling headphones still give you the silence you need even without playing music. That said, they still have limitations. And because playing music increases the noise-reducing qualities of these headphones, their limitations become more apparent without music.

Let’s discuss the most common concerns below:

1. Can’t block noise entirely

Noise isolating/cancelling headphones reduce the amount of noise you hear significantly. They cannot, however, completely isolate you from your surroundings.

As previously stated, noise-cancelling headphones create a physical barrier that muffles the sounds around you. Noise isolating headphones can block noises at mid- to high-frequency ranges by 15-30 dB on average, depending on fit, type, and overall build. They do not, however, reduce low-frequency noise (20-800 Hz).

In contrast, on top of the 15-30 dB blocked from passive noise cancellation, ANC headphones can also block an additional 30 dB of low frequency (<1kHz) noise. As a result, ANC headphones can reduce noise by as much as 60 dB.

2. Restricted by battery life

ANC headphones are available in both wired and wireless configurations. However, even when using them wired, the headphones' batteries must be charged in order for ANC to function. This is due to the fact that the circuit that cancels out ambient noise requires a separate power source to function.

The power source in the headphones is provided by a rechargeable or replaceable battery. As a result, battery life is an important consideration when selecting noise cancelling headphones.

The average battery life of noise canceling headphones varies significantly depending on the brand and model. However, expect that turning on ANC will drain the battery much faster than turning it off.

3. May cause pressure on the ears

Low-frequency ambient noises are cancelled by ANC headphones. This causes your brain to believe that there is a change in air pressure, which causes some people to feel “pressure” in their ears. You get the same sensation as when you go to high altitudes (for example, on a plane ride) and want your ears to “pop.”

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As a result, some people believe that ANC headphones are dangerous. However, because the lack of low-frequency sounds is caused by the ANC rather than a difference in air pressure, popping your ears won't help. As a result, the “pressure” bothers you until you remove the headphones.

Oftentimes, you can compensate for the loss of low-frequency ambient noises by listening to music with great bass frequencies. That’s why not listening to music further agitates this issue.

Limitations Of Noise Cancelling Headphones
Limitations Of Noise Cancelling Headphones


Yes, noise-cancelling headphones are well worth the investment. However, they are expensive, so make sure the points mentioned above are relevant to your needs, and you will be glad you purchased them.

Remember that there is a lot of clever marketing surrounding all of them with the promise of 95 percent noise reduction. That's an excellent selling point, but you should investigate it further. Ultimately, it all boils down to your requirements.

If you've ever used a good pair of in-ear headphones, you know how useful they can be. If you need to drown out low-frequency sounds, noise-cancelling headphones will be extremely useful. However, keep in mind that noise-cancelling headphones are available.

Those could be your new best friend when it comes to high-frequency sounds. They should, however, fit properly, and you'll notice a significant difference when they do.

Other factors to consider when purchasing noise-cancelling headphones are the condition of your own ears, the design of the headphones, how well they perform in terms of noise-cancellation, and what you intend to use them for. The best of the best will truly make you feel cut off from the rest of the world.

If you frequently walk or ride your bike through busy city streets, you might want to save your noise-cancelling headphones for other occasions. Being cut off from the sounds of the world isn't always a good thing (or safe!). Make sure to wear noise-cancelling headphones and earbuds responsibly at all times!


You can use your new noise-cancelling headphones without music, but you'll get the best results if you use them correctly. Because of active noise cancellation technology, knowing that they are best for canceling out low-frequency noises will make you a happier person if those are your concerns when purchasing them.

You can use the NC feature without playing music just to get a more quiet environment, which might really help you on a crowded airplane so you can get some sleep or on morning train commutes.

Noise-cancelling headphones are more expensive than other headphones but if the reason you need them is for handling low-frequency irritations, you’ll be making a wise investment into your own slice of silence.

Are Noise Cancelling Headphones Worth It?
Are Noise Cancelling Headphones Worth It?

FAQs About Noise Cancelling Headphones

What are the limitations of noise cancelling headphones?

Drawbacks. Noise-cancelling headphones are usually more expensive than regular headphones. Power is required for active noise control, which is typically supplied by a USB port or a battery that must be replaced or recharged on a regular basis.

Is it possible that noise-cancelling headphones are harmful?

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.

What is the benefit of noise cancellation?

Noise-Cancelling speakers help you, the users of a headset, hear better in loud environments and avoid background noise and distractions.

Does Apple noise cancelling work without music?

“Noise reduction alone does not cancel out all outside noise,” according to Apple, and it cannot, for example, remove a loud thump from the outside world that would otherwise be heard through headphones.

Barry Moroney

Hi, Barry here. I'm a tech writer and blogger. I write about the latest technology, gadgets, and software. I also provide the best how-to and guides on the latest sound systems. I'm always excited to share my knowledge with others!


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