Is Noise Cancelling Bad for Your Ears? [Benefits & Risks]

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There’s so much noise in today’s world. So, it’s hard to impute anyone looking to enjoy a lulling experience with a pair of top-quality, noise-cancelling headphones. These devices are great for blocking out noise and supporting a distraction-free experience, which are some of their enticing features.

Is Noise Canceling Bad for Your Ears

But as alluring as these devices seem, it is no news that several users have complained of adverse effects of using noise-cancelling headphones for extended periods. So, it begs the question, “Is Noise Cancelling Bad for Your Ears?”

To answer shortly, No! Noise-cancelling headphones are safe to use on their own. In actual fact, the ANC technology was designed for pilots to keep the distractions out and protect them from hair loss.

Why are there negative reports concerning prolonged usage if that’s the case? Read on to learn more about how noise-cancelling headphones work, the benefits, the risks, and how to use them safely.

How Does Noise Cancelling Work?

The noise cancelling feature involves creating an exact sound wave matching the external noise, which will be played oppositely. This way, the opposite soundwave cancels out the noise in your environment. This active noise cancellation requires a power source or batteries to function.

How Does Noise Canceling Work

Alternatively, the passive noise cancelling works without a power source, but the result is not up to par with its counterpart. This option takes a different approach by relying on sound-absorbing materials to keep the external noise out. Passive noise cancelling is often referred to as noise isolation.

Furthermore, noise cancelling does not eliminate the exterior noise completely but attenuates them. This means you can still hear the surrounding noise since you are still exposed to the noise source. For instance, using noise-cancelling earbuds or headphones in an aeroplane won’t eliminate the engine roar completely but silence most of the noise.

Also, it’s important to note that noise-cancelling technology might disappoint you if you intend to block low or irregular noise frequencies like human voices.

The Benefits Of Noise-Cancelling Headphones

As mentioned earlier, active noise cancellation creates similar but opposite components of the ambient sound to cancel it out. So, is there any benefit to using this ANC technology?

Benefits Of Noise-Canceling Headphones

Improved Concentration

This is one of the most palpable benefits of using a pair of high-quality noise-cancelling headphones is improved focus and concentration since the external noise is silent. It knocks down the noise level, which means little to no distraction while learning or working on a project.

Many studies have successfully associated high noise levels with low memory retention. So, suppose you are trying to increase productivity in a busy, noisy environment. In that case, these devices should earn a place in your arsenal.

Better listening experience

Listening to music outdoors can be challenging, especially in crowded areas. This compels listeners to increase the volume of the music, which is an unhealthy practice. Thanks to the noise-cancelling feature, you can listen to your music at the ideal level without disturbing external noise, leaving users with an incredible listening experience.

Better conversation

Another fantastic thing about these devices is their ability to improve your phone call experience. If you are in a chaotic setting, it gets worse when you are trying to relay important information, and the noise keeps proving your effort useless.

The ambient noise is suppressed with noise-cancelling headphones to ensure the receiver hears your message clearly, without running out of the cafeteria or supermarket.

Improve sleep quality

One of the many reasons people find it hard to have a good night’s rest even after an exhausting day’s work is the extended exposure to high noise levels or background noise.

Whether it’s the snoring sound coming from your partner to your upstairs neighbour’s stomping noise, your sleep quality is affected and non-restorative. Hence, it might help to use noise-cancelling earbuds or headphones to stay safe from these audio triggers.

Alleviate stress

Studies have shown that long constant exposure to noisy background sound has a detrimental turn on your hearing. Besides, repeated exposure puts you at risk of permanent hearing loss.

Furthermore, high noise levels trigger a stress response in the brainstem by releasing a stress hormone called cortisol. Also, it’s not unusual for an involuntary startle reaction to happen. These stressors can be avoided with a good pair of noise-cancelling headphones.

The Risks Of Noise-Cancelling Headphones

There’s no denying that noise-cancelling headphones offer a sheer number of benefits. However, it doesn’t come without its flaws. These safety concerns are valid for premium and budget-friendly options.

Risks Of Noise-Canceling Headphones

Pressure on ears

Many noise-cancelling earbuds or headphones users complain of ear pressure, dizziness, headaches, and jaw pain. Mainly, ear pressure is the most common complaint, similar to the experience of an aeroplane taking off.

Now, let’s understand the effect of barometric pressure on your ears. When planes ascend, the air density outside and inside our ears differs. When the external pressure is lower than the air density in the ears, we perceive less low-frequency sound due to less vibration in our ears.

So, ANC earbuds or headphones replicate this effect on our ears causing us to feel pressured in our ears and headaches after a while. It’s important to note that some people get used to these devices and won’t experience these triggers and symptoms. Others might take a couple of hours to experience these negativities. Sadly, there is no cure for this, and you might just have to trade your ANC for PNC headphones.


With ANC, a persistent buzzing or ringing sound isn’t atypical and gets more pronounced without ambient sound. Anyone with this disorder gets easily triggered by anything interfering with or damaging the sensitive ear’s internal structures.

Many users complain of experiencing tinnitus while using noise-cancelling headphones. However, there’s yet to be a scientific study that links ANC headphones to tinnitus.

Surprisingly, tinnitus sufferers are advised to use ANC headphones to cancel out the background noise, removing the need to increase the volume.

How To Use Noise-Cancelling Headphones Safely

Working out or going on an errand without your ANC headphones can be inconceivable. But this addictive act alone has placed millions of people at risk of hearing loss and other hearing-related problems.

So, it’s essential to learn how to protect your ears by using the ANC devices appropriately:

Block out the loud noises

Suppose your world revolves around chaotic environments like construction sites or airports. In that case, these noise-cancellation headphones might be a must-have for you. While they do not silence the ambient noise completely, they block out a significant component of loud noise. This means you can still hear other people talk and remain aware of your surroundings without taking out the ANC device.

Even better, it guarantees a better listening experience without having to hurt your ears by increasing the volume. With regular earphones, the only way to enjoy your music and favourite podcast in such a loud environment is by blaring it and hurting those ears.

Use at lower volume

Noise-cancelling headphones are designed to cancel out external noise. Therefore, listening to your music at a high volume can be avoided. Extended exposure to loud music, over time, is considered unhealthy. After a while, your ears adapt to the blaring noise, which will hurt your ears. It’s strongly advised to keep your music or podcast volume between 70 to 80 per cent.

Related FAQs

How safe are ANC earbuds and headphones?

There are some concerns with using ANC devices. However, the only known health risk associated with this technology is vertigo. It creates a pressure effect on the sensitive components of your eardrum, which result in vertigo. While there are claims that ANC leads to tinnitus, no study has yet to support it.

Is active noise cancellation terrible for your ears?

No, ANC isn’t bad for your ears. This technology is designed to suppress background noise for a better listening experience at an ideal volume level.

Is sleeping with ANC headphones bad?

Sleeping with devices overnight is unhygienic, causing bacteria and earwax to build up in your ear, leading to swollen eardrums and infection.


All in all, ANC technology is harmless to your ears. However, it’s up to you to take precautions to ensure the earbuds and headphones are safe for use, especially for extended usage periods. Noise-cancelling devices are great for protecting your ears from blaring noises.

Nonetheless, if you keep exposing your ear to loud music, you increase your odds of hearing loss and other related problems.

David Briley

David Briley

My name is David Briley, a soundproofing expert with a burning passion for curating and creating audio since adolescence. The need for a quiescent working and living environment cannot be overemphasized.

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