How Do Noise Canceling Headphones Work?

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What Makes Noise Canceling Headphones Work At Blocking Out Sound?

Noise canceling headphones have become very popular in recent years, and it’s common to see people wearing them.

Not only do people wear them when using public transportation, to block out unwanted sounds, but they are also beneficial to use when studying or focusing on a movie or game you are enjoying.

Even though these headphones have become so popular, many people do not understand how they work.

If you have ever wondered how noise-canceling headphones work, read on to learn about the technology used in these headphones.

Active vs. Passive Control

Noise-canceling headphones can be either passive or active.

Any headphone offers a passive reduction of outside noises, which means that they physically block sound waves from reaching your ears.

These headphones work well to block out high-frequency sounds and do so by acting as a physical barrier between your ears and the source of the audio. While this may help to prevent some noise from being heard, there are more advanced types of passive headphones that rely on unique construction to improve their ability to filter out sounds.

Passive headphones that have been specially constructed to filter out noises have high-density foam placed into them. While this does make them significantly more substantial than traditional passive headphones, it also improves sound reduction.

Active noise canceling headphones rely on the same physical structure as passive headphones but take it one step further with additional technology. They can make it impossible for the user to hear lower-frequency sounds. This is possible because these headphones emit sound waves that block out the ones that would otherwise be heard by the user.

Our Top 3 Noise Canceling Headphone Picks

The Necessary Components

There are a few components that are necessary for active noise canceling headphones for them to work correctly. The first is a microphone, which is used to hear what kind of external sounds will not be able to be blocked through passive technology. Also, some electronics are near the microphone in the ear cup. These rely on input from the microphone to generate a replica of the noise and then create its opposite.

By making the user hear the opposite sound wave from external noise, the headphones can cancel out that sound. This is considered an “anti-sound,” and is played into the users’ ears through a speaker. Because these headphones rely on power, there has to be a small battery included allowing them to cancel out the sound. With so many different noise-canceling headphones on the market, it’s best to rely on a buyer’s guide in choosing the right one for your needs.

The Compromise

Some users find that they have to make a compromise when using noise-canceling headphones, and that is that these headphones will sometimes muffle sounds. This is only a problem when the user is wearing the headphones and isn’t just looking for complete silence while listening to their audio. While this may be a problem for some people, others are happy to make the trade-off, as it allows them to focus better without ambient noise.

Additionally, some users complain about a change in air pressure when using noise canceling headphones. Even though there are ports that are built into the air cup of the headphones to reduce this problem, some people still experience it. Air trapped behind the speakers should be released through these air vents so that there is no pressure buildup around the ears which causes discomfort.


Buying noise canceling headphones is a great way to make sure that you can focus on the task at hand or block out ambient noise when you want a little peace and quiet. It’s important to decide how much sound you want to block out, so you can choose between headphones that are active or passive. This is a personal decision and will have a lot to do with how you are going to use your new headphones and how much sound you want to block out.

While passive headphones obstruct sound waves to block ambient noise, active headphones take it a step further. These rely on various technologies, including a microphone and noise canceling circuit, to ensure that they can block unwanted noise. While active noise canceling headphones will cost a little more, they provide much better sound control.

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