Do noise cancelling headphones cause headache.?

Notice: This article contains very little information about headphones induced headache, for more detailed information about headaches and migraines, Their types, prevention and cure read the book your health and headphones


Noise-cancelling headphones unlike the normal headphones, are meant to provide peace and quiet as you put them on. Bose was the first company to introduce the noise cancelling headphones, after it was released that background noises from the trains, airline and highways caused  ear pains, infections and other adverse effects to many people .

In this article, you will understand the science behind noise-cancelling headphones, how they take away the ambient noise and give you maximum listening skills.

You will also learn about the benefits they provide for you, the side effects, the disadvantages and what you need to keep in mind before taking the step to purchase one for yourself.

Side effects of noise cancelling headphones

After some in-depth research, there are various complaints circulating the internet about how these headphones are causing side effects to the extreme of ear infections and severe hearing problems.

According to science, there is so much that can be done to reduce background noises. That is why even with the technology used on the headphones to reduce noise, there will still be a hissing sound in the background.

The sound may cause mild symptoms like dizziness, ear pains, mild headaches or nausea, but it should not cause damage to the ear as it does not emit radiations like mobile phones.

How you use and how long you use the earphones, may cause you to experience mild or extreme side effects from the headphones. In an airplane, if you wear the headphones, it may cause a change in pressure which in turn will cause you to get mild motion sickness. This also goes for tight-fitting headphones and long exposure to wearing them.

All these factors are what is said to cause the side effects of using noise-cancelling headphones, otherwise, once you use these headphones, you probably won’t ever buy yourself the normal type again because they do offer good sound quality as well.

How they work

Some of you may not understand the science behind the noise cancelling headphones, here is a comprehensive elaboration about how they work in contrast to the normal headphones.

Before we dig deep to the world of science, two facts that play a huge role in the mechanisms of headphones, they are;

Amplitude – this refers to the intensity or loudness of sounds

Frequency – this refers to the pitch of the sound.

The higher the pitch the sharper the sound. The brain interprets these two characteristics of sound through our sensory organ, the ears and translates them to the sound we hear in the form of music or just talk.

These headphones work under two mechanisms to prevent noise disturbances as you listen or just wear the headphones.

Active noise cancellation 

Active in this case means direct blockage of noise. Once the sound waves are detected by the ear, the head will analyze the sound and replace the external sounds with a signal that will counter it. That is called destructive interference.

The headphones will create sound waves with the same amplitude and frequency as that of the external sound waves and use it to block the noise away. The sound waves will be 180 degrees out of phase with the intruding waves.

The headphones add an extra level of noise reduction by erasing the low-frequency sound waves you receive and replacing them with the created waves. In short, they work by three options; sound masking with music, physical noise blocking and electronic noise cancellation.

For the active noise cancellation mechanism to work, it needs four essential elements. Microphone – found on the inside of the ear cup, it is meant to listen to the sounds that cannot be passively blocked.

Noise cancelling circuitry – this is where the built-in audio processor will detect the amplitude and frequency of the incoming wave and produce the opposite wave pattern.

Speaker – the anti-sound that will be created from the circuitry will need to be fed into the speaker with the normal audio to cause destruction but not alter the normal audio sound waves.

Battery – by virtue of being active, it needs the source of energy added to the system to produce the effects. For that reason, this type of noise cancellation can block up to 80 decibels making it ideal for air and train travel.

Passive noise cancellation

This type of noise cancellation does not take up much electronics as active. Rather, it uses high-density foam or a sound absorbing material to block or prevent the sound waves from reaching you, this is also known as noise isolation.

It will block out most external noise with the well-fitted ear cups to create a seal around your ears.The best type of headphones with this mechanism is circumaural (surrounding the external ear) headphones. They are tight fitting cup designed headphones meant to seal any external noises.They are most like to cause you motion sickness as air does not get to balance with the outside environment.

All headphones have a passive mechanism, but the active type has an extra layer of noise reduction. They tend to be heavier than the normal types and their only level of noise reduction is about 15 to 20 decibels which can be a limitation to the user.

Benefits of noise cancelling headphones

These headphones have some greater features that could give you greatest advantages. They include;

Protected hearing – long exposure to loud and low-frequency sound waves can cause great side effects to your sensory organ.

Alleviates fatigue – after you have traveled on exposure to the jet noise or trail rubles or highway noise, you could be nauseated. These headphones could help with that.

Prevent painful migraines– people with migraines prefer quiet areas, these headphones can give you that pleasure. Better noise isolation that aids with sleep insomnia or disorders.


Not all that glitters is gold, these headphones too have their downsides.Some models may have reduced audio quality due to the noise cancellation circuitry.

They are more expensive than normal headphones. One noise cancelling headphone can go for over $500 and the normal headphone can be as low as $50.

Most headphones need power and not the USB power, battery power meaning they need to be constantly replaced or recharged otherwise they will not give you service.

Because of the existence of the batteries, the weight of the headphones increases adversely.

Factors to consider before purchasing

Am sure you are feeling convinced about buying this product, but there are a few factors to look for before taking the step to purchase.

1)The design of the headphones

There are three types of designs for headphones. They include the supra-aural headphones, circumaural headphones and in-ear headphones. The supra-aural headphones are placed lightly on or over the ear. The ear cups are more gentle, softer and free to rotate. There is a feeling of breathing in the ears.

As for the circumaural headphones, they are placed around the ear like a closed back. They are airtight to provide a seal and block  external waves. They tend to be heavier and less comfortable as explained on the passive noise cancellation section.

In-ear headphones are the likes of earbuds and canals that can be placed in the ear like a Bluetooth appliance most people tend to use.

There are many types of noise-cancelling headphones and you are free to choose whichever suits you.Before you continue reading this article, please have a look at the best noise cancelling headphones specially designed for users hearing safety and comfort. check out the reviews please.


Bose QC 35 (II)



Sony WH1000 XM2


Sennheiser HD1


Are you looking for cheap high quality safe headphones? Click the link

2)Battery usage

These headphones may not consume a lot of battery power, but they need to be recharged and replaced every now and then not to mention the models that ate exclusively on battery. Without it, it’s useless.

3)On and off switches

Most models allow you to switch on and off the noise cancellation mode to avoid changes in music quality caused by the circuitry.

4)Sturdiness of construction

It has to look durable for your worth of money, remember they are not at all cheap to the wallet.


They have to provide a good amount of compactness in terms of both sound and music quality and the noise cancellation factor.

6)Comfort and adjust-ability

You should be comfortable to use as some are said to have also caused pain in the jaws. It has to be comforting to the ears and head in general

7)Quality of noise cancellation

A good headphone model should provide noise reduction of about 80 decibels that’s enough to block jet engine noises in the aircraft cabin.

8)Sound of music

One disadvantage is that the music quality may be compromised by the factor of being a noise cancelling headphone but that doesn’t mean you should choose something that doesn’t give off good sound quality.


Again, they are expensive, so if you do not plan on using them regularly, then a cheaper option would be the best.checkout the best high quality cheap noise cancelling headphones here


Most people may have questioned these noise cancelling headphones if at all they are safe for people to use. Facts have shown that they provide a considerable amount of comfort and quiet for those who stay in areas exposed to a lot of loud and low-frequency noise.

They are said to be more beneficial to health than harmful especially if care is taken when being used like avoiding long exposures and tight fitting headphones. Otherwise, they are a solid investment for those who have been thinking of purchasing.

Other related articles

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  2. Are noise cancelling headphones safe or dangerous?
  3. Do noise cancelling headphones cause tinnitus?
  4. Do noise cancelling headphones worth it?
  5. Do noise cancelling headphones cause vertigo?

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