So you’ve just spent a small fortune on new headphones. You open the box, crack the seal on the hard case, put them on, and wait – you can still hear the neighbor’s dog barking. How come?
There aren’t any headphones that block all sounds. Even the best headphones can only reduce noise, not eliminate it. Active noise-canceling headphones electronically minimize background sound, while noise-isolating headphones use silicone or foam to seal around your ears.
The rest of this article will explain how noise-blocking headphones work and how they filter out sound. I’ll tell you what headphones work best for blocking noise and explain the best ways to get some peace and quiet.
Also read: Do Noise Cancelling Headphones Protect Hearing?
Why Headphones Can’t Block All Sounds
Many people use headphones to listen to music, podcasts, audiobooks, or drown out background noise. Do you know how they function?
Fundamentally, headphones are mini speakers that convert electrical energy into sound.
Nowadays, headphones come with a lot of features and are more sophisticated. The latest headphones enable you to block out background interference using cutting-edge design.
Indeed, noise-canceling headphones have become the norm for the modern commuter. Since they’re so popular, let’s now look at how they function and why they can’t eliminate all noise.
How Noise Canceling Headphones Work
Noise-canceling headphones, also known as active noise canceling (ANC), are ideal for blocking unwanted background noise, but they can only do so much. Even though they can lower the volume of a noisy environment by up to 30 decibels, they can’t eliminate all sounds.
With an integrated microphone in the ear cups, the device detects and identifies the frequencies of incoming noise present in your environment. An equalizer then processes the signal and sends a reverse sound wave back through the speakers, canceling the original sound.
Military pilots initially used this technology to cut out engine noise while flying. The same technology helps people traveling on planes or trains who want to block out other noises around them.
Noise-canceling headphones are pretty remarkable. They’re great for reducing background noises at work or home so that you can focus on the task at hand. However, remember that they don’t cancel all background sounds – they only reduce the volume.
Before you buy noise-canceling headphones, consider the following :
- They don’t work on all sounds. They are suitable for low-frequency sounds between 50Hz and 1kHz (like the drone of a plane engine).
- They are battery-operated.
- Due to ANC’s cancellation of low-frequency sound, some users report feeling pressure in their ears.
- They don’t work well with multiple sound sources.
Noise isolating technology or passive noise cancelation headphones come in two types. The traditional type sits over the top of the ears and creates a tight seal to block out sounds.
Then you get the in-ear monitors (IEMs). The idea behind these devices is to fit snugly into your ear canal so that no external sound can enter through them. They also have an extra-thick foam cover that tightly fits your ears, sealing out any unwanted sound.
If you’re planning to buy noise-isolating headphones, consider these factors:
- Passive noise blocking, no batteries needed
- Not very effective at blocking lower frequency sounds
- The right fit is essential
- Suitable for mid to higher-range sounds like human voices
Also read: Cheap vs. Expensive Noise-Canceling Headphones
Are There Any Headphones That Block All Sounds?
People always ask this question, and the truth is that headphones won’t get rid of all sounds. Otherwise, they’d be earplugs.
There are not any headphones that block all sounds. Most headphones can minimize interruption and seal out lower frequencies, but they will not be able to drown out very loud noises.
Although no headphones can deliver absolute silence, a good pair will block out the loudest distractions.
Still, when choosing headphones that block out outside noise, you should consider sound quality, comfort, wireless capability, and noise-canceling technology.
Features to Consider When Choosing Noise-Blocking Headphones
When it comes to buying new headphones, there are so many options that it can be hard to decide which ones are the right fit for you. Nevertheless, narrowing down your choices is easier once you figure out where you’ll be using them.
Above all, your headphones should sound good, fit your style, and feel comfortable.
Here are a few things to keep in mind as you make your final decision:
- Noise-canceling. You’ll want to make sure that your headphones have effective noise-canceling technology. Therefore, block lower frequency noises like traffic or drown out high frequency sounds like human voices or barking dogs.
- Replaceable parts. Look for headphones with swappable earpieces in case one of them breaks during use. If this happens, you can replace them rather than buy new headphones, which sometimes cost hundreds of dollars.
- Wireless or Non-wireless.Consider whether you need wireless or wired headphones. Wireless allows you to move around freely without being tangled up in wires. The downside is that they are more expensive.
When headphones can’t block distracting background noise, it’s time to try other options.
In the next section, I’ll discuss other available methods of blocking background noise.
Alternative Noise-Blocking Methods
Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night because of your neighbor’s dog barking or the sirens of an emergency vehicle?
Maybe you need something to mask those noises so that they don’t disrupt your sleep, right? That’s where white noise comes in.
White noise is a random signal with equal energy at all frequencies, giving it a constant loudness level.
In brief, white noise is a rushing sound that blends different frequencies to create a soothing hum. Therefore think of white sound as a continuous stream that’s neither too loud nor too quiet, but just right between those two extremes.
Many people use white noise machines to mask distracting sounds to sleep or concentrate effectively.
Some of these machines are small enough to fit in your purse or backpack. Others come with speakers so that you can hook them up to your phone or any other device.
Apart from machines, there’re apps for iOS and Android devices that allow you to customize by adjusting the volume and frequency. They also have built-in timers that enable you to set a specific amount of time for the noise, for example, 30 minutes.
Headphones may be a convenient tool for blocking unwanted sounds, but we know that there’s no such thing as one size fits all. That’s why the design and features are compatible with different environments.
Make sure you’re getting a product that fits your needs perfectly, whether it’s a headphone or a white noise device. Finally, you should consider what noise you’re trying to block out and your personal preference for comfort and quality.