How Does Active Noise Cancelling Work?

In Uncategorized by Dr. Randi Davis Yontz

Dr. Randi Davis Yontz
Latest posts by Dr. Randi Davis Yontz (see all)

Have you been having trouble with background noise? To drown out the noises on your commute to work or during your everyday activities, you may be turning up the volume on your headphones or earbuds a bit higher each day. Using music to drown out background noise is harmful to your hearing health, and turning up the volume too much can cause hearing loss. Active noise-canceling headphones may be the answer, providing peace without causing hearing damage.


The surprising prevalence of noise


You might not notice it, yet there are dangerously loud sounds all around you. If you’re exposed to deafening sounds for several hours a day, it can cause irreversible hearing impairment. The noise level of heavy traffic alone is roughly 85 decibels (dB). The subway train, speeding through the tunnels and screeching to a halt on the platform, frequently exceeds 100 decibels, causing damage in minutes. A construction site with heavy machinery can reach 110 decibels, causing irreversible hearing damage to people who do not wear hearing protection.


Noise can be harmful


Both children and adults use music to drown out all distracting noise. Have you ever plugged in your earbuds and cranked up the volume? You’re listening to music to drown out the background noise. However, blasting loud music directly into your ears might harm your hearing even more.


But hearing isn’t the only thing that suffers when you’re surrounded by too much noise. According to a recent study, noise significantly impacts your overall health. Noise exposure daily can cause sleep disturbances, irritability, increased stress, and even problems concentrating. Experiencing loud noise regularly raises your risk of cardiovascular disease and hypertension.


For example, if you’re trying to work in a busy office, a portion of your effort goes toward drowning out the background noise. You’ll be fatigued by the end of the day since you’ll have less energy to focus on your work. Even your own home might not be as peaceful as you believe. The refrigerator beeps, the air conditioner cycles on and off, the washing machine spins, and the television in the background. Outside, you can even hear cars driving down the street. All of these noises can cause a lot of tension and annoyance, and you may long for a quiet moment to hear your thoughts.


Enter noise-canceling headphones


Noise-canceling headphones can allow you to hear your music without cranking up the volume if you want to shut out the surrounding noise without hurting your hearing. You can also utilize active noise cancellation to eliminate background noise and enjoy the silence without listening to music. This offers your brain a break from filtering out background noise and can even protect your hearing from potentially dangerously loud noises.


Can they really ‘cancel’ noise?


Active noise cancellation is a simple yet powerful method that helps eliminate all background noise. In many environments like airplanes and other areas with persistent low-frequency sound, you’ll be able to work quietly or listen to music without having to turn up the volume. 


What is the mechanism behind this? Microphones catch up with all of the sounds in your environment and evaluate them. The headphones neutralize these sound waves by playing a 180-degree inverted sound wave before they reach your ears. You won’t hear the background noise or the sound produced by the active noise canceling technology because these two sound waves cancel each other out.


Low-frequency sounds are better attenuated by active noise cancellation than high-frequency sounds. They’ll cut the volume of background noise by about 30 decibels. This means that powerful background noises will be dampened to the point where they are scarcely audible.


That said, noise-canceling headphones are currently less practical for high-frequency sounds like crying babies and talkative coworkers who are standing right next to you. If you’re looking for a way to cancel this kind of noise, you’ll need to wait a few more years for the technology to catch up.


Help with hearing loss


Are you ready to take care of your hearing health? We recommend listening at a 60 percent or lower volume to protect your hearing. It’s also a good idea to rest your ears every hour or so. Visit us today to learn more about active noise cancellation and safe listening techniques.