Are Active Noise Cancelling Headphones Worth It?

Active noise cancelling headphones are headphones that use electronic processing to analyze ambient sound and generate the opposite sound, resulting in less noise overall. They are designed to reduce low-frequency droning sounds, such as the roar of an airplane engine, the hum of a fan, or the rumble of a train. They are popular among travelers, commuters, and anyone who wants to enjoy their audio without being disturbed by external noises.

But are active noise cancelling headphones worth it? Do they work as advertised? And what are the pros and cons of using them? In this article, I will answer these questions and help you decide if ANC headphones are right for you.

The Pros of Active Noise Cancelling Headphones

Active noise cancelling headphones have several advantages that make them worth considering. Some of the pros are:

They can improve your audio quality

By reducing the background noise, active noise cancelling headphones can make your audio sound clearer and more detailed. You can hear more nuances and subtleties in your music, podcasts, or audiobooks. You can also lower the volume, as you don’t need to crank up the sound to overcome the noise.

They can improve your focus and productivity

By blocking out distractions, active noise cancelling headphones can help you concentrate and work more efficiently. You can avoid being interrupted by annoying sounds or conversations around you. You can also create a more relaxing and comfortable environment for yourself. Especially if you work in a noisy or stressful setting.

They can improve your sleep and health:

By creating a quieter and calmer atmosphere, active noise cancelling headphones can help you fall asleep faster and sleep better. You can avoid being disturbed by snoring partners, noisy neighbors, or traffic sounds. You can also benefit from improved sleep quality, which can boost your mood, energy, and immune system.

The Cons of Active Noise Cancelling Headphones

Active noise cancelling headphones are not perfect, however. They also have some drawbacks that you should be aware of. Some of the cons are:

They are expensive

Active noise canceling headphones tend to be more expensive than regular headphones, as they require more technology and components. The price can range from $50 to $500 or more, depending on the brand, model, and features. You may also need to replace or charge the batteries frequently, which adds to the cost.

They are not effective for all sounds

ANC headphones work best for low-frequency droning sounds, but they are not very effective for high-frequency or transient sounds. They cannot block out voices, music, or sudden noises like sirens, alarms, or door slams. ANC headphones may also introduce some hissing or white noise of their own, which may be noticeable or annoying for some people.

They may cause some side effects

ANC headphones may cause some discomfort or side effects for some people, such as headaches, ear pressure, dizziness, or nausea. This may be due to the difference in air pressure between the ears and the environment, or the sensitivity to the sound waves produced by the headphones. These effects are usually mild and temporary, but they may affect your enjoyment or tolerance of using them.

Active Noise Cancelling Headphones

Are Noise Cancelling Headphones Safe?

According to several sources including Headphonesty and Dr. Weil, noise-canceling headphones are safe to use. Noise-cancelling technology was originally invented to protect pilots’ hearing from loud plane engines. Noise-canceling headphones can also help prevent hearing loss and alleviate noise-related stress. However, it’s important to use headphones responsibly and follow safe listening practices to protect your hearing.

Is it OK to wear noise cancelling headphones all day?

Noise-cancelling headphones can generally be worn safely, similar to how we wear eyeglasses. However, it’s important to note that wearing them excessively might potentially impact your noise-localization neural circuitry. Experts suggest that prolonged use of these headphones may affect your ability to accurately determine the direction of sounds.

Why does active noise cancelling feel weird?

When you initially wear noise-cancelling headphones, you might experience a sensation similar to the pressure you feel when trying to “pop” your ears. This sensation occurs because your brain interprets the absence of low-frequency sounds as a difference in pressure between the inner and outer ear, much like the pressure change experienced during ascent in an airplane.

Why does ANC hurt my ears?

The discomfort experienced with active noise-canceling (ANC) headphones can be attributed to their operational mechanism, as we mentioned earlier. By using phase inversion to counter external sound waves, ANC headphones create a suction-like effect inside the ear. As a result, the brain often misinterprets this as a change in pressure, leading to a perceived feeling of pressure.


Active noise cancelling headphones are headphones that use electronic processing to reduce ambient noise and create a quieter and more pleasant listening experience. They have several pros, such as improving your audio quality, focus, productivity, sleep, and health. They also have some cons, such as being expensive, not effective for all sounds, and causing some side effects.

Whether active noise cancelling headphones are worth it depends on your personal preference, lifestyle, and budget. If you value peace and quiet and don’t mind spending more money and dealing with some potential drawbacks, then active noise cancelling headphones may be a good choice for you. If you don’t mind some background noise and prefer saving money and avoiding some possible discomforts, then active noise cancelling headphones may not be necessary for you.

Ultimately, the best way to decide if active noise cancelling headphones are worth it is to try them out for yourself and see how they work for you. You can read reviews online or visit a store to test different models and compare their performance and features. You can also look for deals online or wait for sales to get them at a lower price.

Active noise cancelling headphones are not for everyone, but they may be worth it for some people who want to enjoy their audio without being bothered by external noises.

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