Noise Cancelling Headphones vs Earplugs (which is better)

It can be a daunting and nerve-wracking task to take care of ears in this era, especially with a variety of noise cancelling headphones compared to earplugs.

With so many affordable technological applications in place, the safety of your ears is under compromise if not watched over.

The ears offer a crucial role in our communication. Off late, professional companies provide a variety of headphones and earplugs that can be utilized by any age group.

Comparing Noise Cancelling Headphones Vs Earplugs

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) carried a study in the United States (US) in 2011-2012 about the effects of prolonged exposure to noise for people.

The results of the study were that 12.5% of persons in the age group of 6 to 19 years and 17% of adults in the age group of 20 to 69 years, were vulnerable to permanent damage. Avoid excessive exposure to noise.

Are you confused as to which type of gadget is best for you? Let me take you through a journey of comparing the two.

While each has a benefit a close comparison shows that noise cancelling headphones are better and more effective than earplugs. However, factors like weight and portability can influence which one is more appropriate for you.

1. Understanding Headphones in Noise Cancellation

The noise-canceling headphones are increasingly flooding the market. The two main types that buyers always consider are:

example of noise cancelling headphones
  1. Passive noise canceling.
  2. Active noise canceling.
Passive noise canceling

This type of headphone does not use any power source like a battery in blocking sound.

The materials used like thick padding can hold in sound reduction on the user.

You can also connect them to your media playing device. Check some of the best noise cancelling headphones in this article.

Active noise canceling

Active noise canceling produces sound waves that are 180 degrees. It is an opposite sound wave to the one that is heading for your eardrum.

When the headphone driver sends the inverse wave, the wave cancels the intruding sound wave.

To illustrate this in an example, while on a train, the headphones send out a different wave to cancel the engine noise.

So, you may ask, what are the primary benefits of these headphones.

Advantages of Noise-canceling headphones over earplugs

  • Quality noise reduction

The noise-canceling headphones offer excellent hearing protection against the constant levels of noise.

The noise reduction works on all external noise, including low-frequency sound. Here, you enjoy your music as external sound is blocked and isolated from interference.

  • Focus

When the outside noise finds no entry to your ears, the wearer is also free from any disturbances. More so, you will focus on several tasks much more relaxed.

The noise-canceling software known as Krisp will remove all background noises from both you and other party’s side in a call, when operating in a noisy environment.

  • Comfortable

Suppose the headset is wireless, you have the flexibility of walking around from home to work while listening and speaking. Learn more about this factor in our guide on buying headphones.

You can also listen to your favorite audio music in a range of 150 meters. When worn for an extended period, the user experiences maximum comfort.

  • Adjustable

You may want to turn down the volume and hear the richness and variations in the music that disappears when the volume is on the minimum.

Such a function is a preserve of headphones and this makes them better noise cancelling headphones vs earplugs as we seek to know

  • Travel activities

You may be traveling over a long distance on a train or a plane. That may create a need to block out the outside noise, primarily when there arises a need to sleep, work, read, or study. The noise-canceling headphones can give you a perfect experience when used.

Disadvantages of Noise-canceling headphones

Let’s dive in.

  1. Costly

When manufacturing noise-canceling headphones, additional costs when installing noise-canceling technology comes in. That alone makes them expensive as compared to standard headphones.

  • Bulkier and heavier

The incorporated batteries and new technology necessary to provide noise-canceling functions can make the headphone bulky. The standard ones are lightweight.

2. Understanding Earplugs in Noise Cancelling Headphones

Earplugs can protect you against loud noises and offer a conducive environment to operate without distractions. Earplugs come in different types for specific functions such as:

earbuds for noise cancellation
  1. Earplugs for Sleeping

Alternatively, some people use them to sleep. Why?

Because the user may opt to block the sound from a noisy surrounding and concentrate on sleeping exercise as a health benefit.

  • Earplugs for shooting

They should be worn by anyone in a shooting range to avoid a permanent hearing loss.

  • Earplugs for music

For musicians to prevent hearing loss, they should wear earplugs to reduce noise from their musical instruments.

  • Earplugs for swimming

Swim plugs should be best in use when showering or swimming.

Benefits of Earplugs over Noise-canceling headphones

  1. Lightweight

While using earplugs, you can’t notice any weight on your ears. They are small in size, light in weight, and easy to carry.

  • Durable material

Different manufacturers make earplugs from various material types such as Polymer, Silicone, Foam, and wax. You will have the option of choosing your desired material that does not cause any irritation to your ears.

We have several people who are very sensitive to noise and therefore cannot sleep in a noisy environment. Earplugs can save them. They can block such sounds up to certain decibels.

  • Flexibility

Earplugs are made to achieve different functions. Some can work well during swimming, studying, shooting. You have an option to choose the best type of earplug that will suit your situation.

  • Concentration

Convenient for use in confined areas. You put in and concentrate on your work to avoid outside noises.

  • Reusable

You can use one pair of earplugs several times before dumping it. Earplugs are disposable which is a good health practice.

  • Ear protection

The earplugs can prevent the user from experiencing the pain in the ears when the plane changes pressure.

They stop the air from entering into the ear. Safety of ears is a major factor as discussed in the guide on how to choose headphones or earphones.

  • Comfortable

You can use earplugs for a longer duration and in hot and humid environments while offering a pleasant feeling on your ears.

Disadvantages of Earplugs

  • Limited protection

Earplugs can work well, but you may not have a guarantee of maximum security.

  • Irritation

Several users have had complains about the earplugs. Some irritate the inner ear bringing discomfort.

  •  Fear of loss

Since earplugs are small in size, once misplaced, it is difficult to locate them.

  • It is difficult to insert and remove.
  • It requires more time to put on and use.
  • May irritate the ear canal

It’s everyone’s responsibility to know which ear protection gadgets are suitable for one’s use. We have discussed the two common ones in the market.

That is the noise-canceling headphones and the earplugs. The critical analysis of both can offer incredible insight before settling for a desired one. How can you go about it?

Since our focus is mainly on the two products, our attention to their capabilities is all you want.

Adequate knowledge about the two can save you from any trouble you may incur in the future


The debate of noise cancelling headphones vs earplugs goes down to preferences. This is because, between the two, the better one depends on your preference.

Well, one may be looking for excellent sound quality and noise cancellation, especially when exposed in a noisy surrounding.

Perhaps you want to be using it for an extended period. If you have such a need, choose noise-canceling headphones.

Some other people may only be more comfortable to use an earbud, that is less bulky, and of little cost. You may prefer carrying a small size earplug and reuse it later

Furthermore, noise cancellation may not be a priority. For that matter, I suggest you settle for an earplug.

Watch more on noise cancellation while singing

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James Kanfer
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James Kanfer

James Kanfer is an all-round tech writer with a special focus on creative solutions and ideas on gadgets. I prefer reading about tech and sharing the same.

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