Are Noise Cancelling Headphones Safe?

Noise cancelling headphones are more popular than ever but are they safe to use?

In short, yes.

They are safe to use regularly and can actually protect your ears against damage from traditional headphones.

However, this does not mean there are not drawbacks to using noise cancelling headphones.

Let’s take a closer look at both sides of this complex question so you can make an informed decision as to whether noise cancelling headphones are the right choice for you.

The Downsides of Noise Cancelling Headphones

When you use active noise cancelling headphones, they are not silent. You will be able to hear a slight hissing noise when they are turned on.

This hissing noise does not have an effect on most people but it has been known to make some people feel dizzy and nauseous.

However, it does not cause any health issues or hearing damage.

If you can hear the hissing noise and find it irritating then passive noise isolating headphones may be a better option.

noise cancelling headphones on a fence

Passive noise isolating headphones block out sounds by creating a seal and using soundproof materials such as foam or cushioning.

Passive noise cancelling headphones do not require power or any technical aspects so you won’t get any noise or buzzing sounds through these headphones.

The noise cancelling headphones you choose will depend on personal preference and the sounds you want the headphones to eliminate.

Both types of noise cancelling headphone are safe and do not harm your health.

Noise cancellation headphones are not like mobile phones, they don’t emit any kind of radiation so there is no need to worry about the potential hazards of frequent use or low-level radiation exposure.

Noise cancelling headphones are designed to help protect you from a loud world and can actually be beneficial.

How Can Noise Cancelling Headphones Be Beneficial?

Being exposed to constant noise for extended periods of time can be damaging to your hearing.

Loud noise such as jackhammers, airplanes and traffic noise can damage your hearing, impact your sleep, increase stress levels and cause headaches.

using headphones to protect hearing while using noisy machinery

It’s not just loud noises that are an issue, constant low-level noise is also dangerous. Constant low-level noise can also increase levels of stress hormones and impact your health.

Whatever the type of noise is, wearing noise-canceling headphones can provide you with protection against prolonged sound exposure.

The headphones help to eliminate background noise so you can enjoy peace and quiet or listen to music without having to crank up the volume and you can sleep in them too.

Listening to music through headphones with the volume turned all the way up is potentially damaging to your hearing too.

There are two key types of noise cancelling headphones so be sure to choose the type that is best suited to you, your situation and the noise you want to neutralize.

Do Noise Cancelling Headphones Protect Hearing?

Both active and passive noise cancelling headphones can protect your hearing.

Active headphones help you keep your music volume turned down and passive headphones help to stop the noises from reaching your ears in the first place.

in ear noise cancelling headphones

However, active noise cancelling headphones are not able to protect you from sudden, loud noises as the mechanism works by picking up the incoming sound through a microphone and playing the opposite sound to cancel it out.

The system cannot handle sudden or random noises effectively and doesn’t offer the level of protection passive headphones do.

Headphones that use a combination of active and passive noise cancelling technology provide the most effective results in both eliminating background noise and in protecting your hearing across a range of scenarios.

Is It Dangerous to Use Noise Cancelling Headphone for Long Periods of Time?

When it comes to using active noise cancelling headphones where inaudible soundwaves are being played to counteract incoming sound, there is no evidence that indicates this is dangerous.

It should not matter how long you wear the headphones for, as long as you are not blasting music through them it should not damage your hearing or be dangerous to your health.

Any sound that is louder than 85 decibels is considered loud enough to be harmful. Sound that is approximately 100 decibels can cause hearing damage within 30 minutes.

If you are listening to music using headphones it can be difficult to know what is considered loud or dangerous.

A helpful rule of thumb is listening at no more than 60% of the maximum volume for no longer than 60 minutes at a time.

This can help you prevent hearing damage resulting from exposure to loud sounds.

How to Prevent Hearing Damage

Noise-induced hearing loss is an issue experienced by many people in today’s world. It occurs when loud (or long-lasting) sounds damage the inner ear.

Anyone can be effected by noise-induced hearing loss as it relates to exposure to harmful noise rather than age or health.

Using headphones can be damaging to your hearing if you turn the volume up to high levels.

man using headphones

Music through headphones at maximum level can produce the same decibel ratings as those experienced at concerts and sporting events.

Knowing what volume level is too high is difficult to gauge.

Try to keep it lower than the sound level of a typical vacuum cleaner.

If you pause the music and your ears buzz or ring and other sounds seem muted or dulled this may be a sign to turn down the volume.

Noise cancelling headphones can help protect your hearing as you won’t need to turn the volume up so high to hear your favorite songs and podcasts.

The biggest risk posed by any headphones is high volume levels so if you keep the volume down then you will have nothing to worry about.

If you are looking to drown out sounds, use noise cancelling headphones instead of high volumes.

Noise Cancelling Headphones Vs Traditional Headphones

Different types of headphones offer different advantages and disadvantages.

You may be asking whether noise cancelling headphones are worth the extra cost.

We think they are a great investment if you will make use of them.

Below are the key pros and cons of noise cancelling headphones and traditional headphones to help you decide if noise cancelling headphones are right for you.

Pros of Noise Cancelling Headphones

  • Great at cancelling out or reducing background noise
  • Blocks out a range of sound
  • Ideal for commuting, travel on public transport, working in busy offices etc.
  • Doesn’t impact sound quality (passive noise cancelling technology)
  • Helps protect you from noise-induced hearing loss
  • Helps boost concentration

Cons of Noise Cancelling Headphones

Pros of Traditional Headphones

  • Convenient
  • Low cost
  • Good sound quality
  • You can still hear what is happening around you

Cons of Traditional Headphones

  • Don’t block out background or environmental noise
  • Often requires high volume levels to properly hear the audio

Listening to traditional headphones is great if you’re in a quiet room or spending time alone but other sounds can get through easily making them frustrating to use in areas where there is environmental sound or background noise.

Which Headphones Should I Choose?

The best noise cancelling headphones for you will depend on the noise you are trying to eliminate.

If you need to protect your ears from high frequency sounds or sudden, loud noises such as explosions then you will be best choosing passive noise cancelling headphones.

This is simply because they provide a layer of protection against random or infrequent sounds.

Active noise cancelling headphones don’t have enough time to identify and counteract the noise of sudden or random sounds.

With this in mind, active noise cancelling headphones are best for sounds that are constant such as the buzz of public transport or the sound of a crowded office.

With these types of noises active headphones are very effective.

They are particularly good for ensuring you can listen to your favorite music at reasonable volumes wherever you are.

Safety Tips When Using Headphones

So are noise cancelling headphones safe? Yes, however here are a few tips to help make sure:

  • Keep your music volume at 60% or less
  • Make sure the headphones fit you properly
  • Be aware of how much time you have spent listening to music without a break
  • Don’t push earbuds too far into your ears
  • Keep the headphones clean and don’t let others wear them
  • Be alert of the environment you are in when using headphones

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Welcome to Soundproof Panda!

My name is Dan and I live very close to an internationally famous stadium which generates an awful lot of noise that I'd rather block out!

This site is my place to share what I've been learning on my soundproofing journey.
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