Whether you’re commuting, working or enjoying a run in the park, you want to enjoy the music playing through your headphones or earbuds without distracting background noise overpowering it. This is where noise-canceling technology comes in.
There are two types of noise cancellation: active and passive. Which one you should use depends on what type of sounds you want to block out.
Active noise cancellation utilizes a principle of physics known as phase cancellation. Sound travels in waves through the air until it reaches your ear canal and vibrates your eardrum. These sound waves can be canceled out if they meet others in the exact same frequency but with opposite amplitude. Headphones with active noise cancellation utilize microphones inside the earcups to process the incoming sound waves and play the opposite phase, reducing the movement of the waves and perceived volume. This type of noise cancellation works best with low-frequency sounds, like airplane engines.
Passive noise cancellation provides a physical barrier between your ears and the incoming sound waves. High-quality headphones with passive noise cancellation are equipped with earcups that block mid- and high-frequency sounds, like children’s voices and barking dogs. While these types of headphones and earbuds can’t block all mid- and high-frequency sounds, they can significantly reduce them.
Noise-canceling headphones, whether active or passive, can help protect your hearing in several ways. They make it so you can enjoy your music, podcast or audiobook in places with lots of background noise without having to crank up the volume. In addition, passive headphones work like protective earmuffs in that they create a seal around the ear to muffle dangerously loud sounds.
When listening to music through headphones, follow the 60/60 rule: Listen at no more than 60% of your device’s maximum volume for no more than 60 minutes at a time.
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