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How Noise Cancelling Headphones Work: even Without Music

How Noise Cancelling Headphones Work even Without Music

According to research by Hearing Health Foundation, approximately 48 million people in the US alone are said to have hearing problems. 20% of the kids do have permanent hearing loss due to loud noise exposure.

On the global stage, 466million people have hearing problems. To tackle the problem, people result in the use of noise cancelling headphones.

Before looking at how they work, let’s know what they are and the two types of noise cancellation features.

What are Noise Cancelling Headphones

The noise cancelling headphones refers to special types of headphones which help in reducing the unwanted ambient sounds that enter one’s ears through the active noise control.

This capability does make them have obvious benefits that lie in their capability of reducing unwanted noise. At the same time, they improve the overall listening experience.

These headphones are commonly used by the aircraft crew to help them listen to announcements. One listens with clarity without disruption from the noise that surrounds the aircraft.

We do have two main types of noise cancelling headphones: passive and active headphones.

Difference between active and passive noise Cancelling Headphones

You can easily tell by their names, but let’s explore each;

  • passive noise cancelling headphones blocks out the sound without performing any extra task. This is because all the sound cancelling technology is within the construction of the headphone.
  • On the other hand, active noise cancelling headphones are known to work by making a constant effort of muting the sounds around you.

How the Passive Noise Cancelling Headphones Work

Passive noise cancelling headphones are simple in design. These headphones have been designed to help deaden external noise. They do this with the help of materials that are good at muffling sound.

We do not have anything else past the material. This means that the headphones will be taking a completely passive role when it comes to noise cancellation, hence the name passive.

What these headphones use does depend on the type of headphones you will be purchasing.  For example, a pair of in-ear headphones can use a completely different sound cancelling material than over the ear headphones.

Generally, the over-ear headphones are known to come with the best passive cancelling technology. However, in the in-ear headphones, you can only do much with their small size and proximity to your eardrum.

When is the Right Time to Use the Passive Noise Cancelling Headphones?

For sure, the passive noise cancelling headphones will not be as efficient as the active ones. The active noise cancelling headphones do use passive methods together with other extra features.

However, we still have lots of reasons why you should consider using passive noise cancelling headphones.

One main reason is that they are considerably cheap. Especially if you are interested in a pair of headphones that are able to block out the soft ambiance noise. You will not have to spend extra money on active headphones. You can always go for passive headphones to help save some cash.

The active noise cancelling headphones are also known to be in need of power for its various parts to work. You can feed them with power by use of either a USB cable or batteries.

In case it does sound like a hassle to you, then you can be better off with the dumber passive headphones.

How the Active Noise Cancelling Headphones Work

The active noise cancelling headphones are known to work by making a constant effort of muting the sounds around you. To achieve this, they will have to change the sounds entering your ear.

With this, only the music that enters from the headphones will be heard and all the other things coming from outside will be muted.

The active noise cancelling headphones do work by listening to the surrounding sound.

With this, you will always be in need of a microphone which you will always get already installed on all the active noise cancelling headphones.

It helps in tracking noise that occurs around you and also measures the waves making up the sound.

In case you have ever come across any person speaking next to an oscilloscope with the waves of sound appearing on the on-screen, such are what these headphones do detect.

Whenever a sound is detected, it must be cancelled out.

When compared to when you decide to speak inside an oscilloscope, have you ever monitored what happens whenever it is dead silent?

You will always notice the bar flat lines.

It is the duty of the headphones to ensure sound waves are taken around and cancel them out to help create a flat line.

It achieves this by producing a wave that is directly inverse of what it is hearing.

The sounds roughs and peaks of the waves of sound do meet each other and cancel each other out resulting in a flat line.

When is the Right Time to Use the Active Noise Cancelling Headphones?

The active noise cancelling headphones are never that cheap although they do perform well.

In case you are always working in a noisy area and the regular headphones do not perform well in helping block sound out, active noise canceling headphones will be best suited for you.

How to Use the Noise Cancellation without Playing Music

Do you know it is possible to use noise cancellation function without having to playback music?

It can be a great feature to help block out the sound in the background especially in noise places like in a plane or train.

It is always possible to change the Auto offsetting. The setting enables you to effectively use your headphones without having to keep your headphones connected to any external device without playing any music.

In other models, the auto power mode will always be activated if there is no music being played back every five minutes. In order to avoid this, it is possible for one to make use of the bundled stereo cable which was offered when buying the product.

Ensure you keep it connected to the playback device like an MP3 Player or mobile phone without having to play music. It will help prevent the headphones from getting into the auto power mode.

With this, it is possible to use the NC function along, protect your ears and enjoy the moment of great silence.

Why I Should Consider Buying the Noise Cancelling Headphones

The noise cancelling headphones are great although they do require some big financial investments.

Not all people will need to use the noise cancelling headphones hence, it is important for one to have hard thinking if they need to actually spend extra cash on them.

Most of the individuals who benefit from the noise canceling headphones are those who travel or work in noisy places as they listen to music.

The outside noises are often known to interfere with audio making it extremely difficult to appreciate the music that is playing on the headphones.

Are cheap noise cancelling headphones worth it?

Yes, if you make a good selection. In case you are thinking of purchasing the noise cancelling headphones for the mere sake of blocking out sound, you can consider going for the cheaper alternatives.

For instance, the earplugs are very affordable yet efficient when it comes to blocking noise.

In case you have no plans of listening to music in a louder environment, the noise cancelling headphones may not really be worth it.


Learning on the noise cancelling headphones is one thing, selecting the right one for you is completely a different thing. Check out the best such headphones for concerts or noise areas in that post.

With several types of models currently available in the market, it is important that you take your time when choosing which suits you best.