11 votes

What noise canceling headphones can block?

One of the greatest sources of stress in my life right now is noise. This is consistent with the (presently unconfirmed) hypothesis that I'm probably on the spectrum.

I live in a very noisy neighborhood, with many sources of loud music several days a week. I use a regular headphone to try to isolate myself, but they're not always effective. I was thinking of purchasing a noise canceling headphone (NCH). I'd listen mostly to podcasts and white noise. Hence the title question: can these headphones cancel variable non-regular noises like loud music around me? And to what degree?

Product recommendations are welcomed, with a focus on great noise canceling. I have a preference for over the ear headphones, but that's not a hard requirement. Other than that I don't have any requirements.

Thanks!

27 comments

  1. [2]
    teaearlgraycold
    Link
    They work best with repetitive sounds outside of the human speaking range. Traffic, dishwashers, airplane/car whooshing. Crying babies, conversations or beeping will all make it through quite...

    They work best with repetitive sounds outside of the human speaking range. Traffic, dishwashers, airplane/car whooshing. Crying babies, conversations or beeping will all make it through quite clearly - but they'll all be quieter for sure. So whatever the case noise-cancelling headphones will help. But if you are already bad a tuning out external stimuli you'll find you can still focus on the world around you and distract yourself even with noise cancelling enabled. Your best bet is to try before you buy.

    7 votes
    1. lou
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      Thanks! Trying before buying is not an option because physical stores in my location have few options of noise-canceling headphones, and the ones that do have more options won't let me try them...

      Thanks!

      Trying before buying is not an option because physical stores in my location have few options of noise-canceling headphones, and the ones that do have more options won't let me try them out before buying. That's not something we do for this kind of product around here

      Canceling the noises you mention would most certainly help, but if it is not possible to block loud music at least to some degree I don't think I would buy an NCH. That is quite an expensive purchase in my currency. I'd simply use an earplug instead, but that would make my tinnitus louder and unbearable.

      3 votes
  2. [2]
    an_angry_tiger
    Link
    If you're fine with the feeling of something jammed in your ear, you may want to check out In-Ear Monitors. Little earbuds that seal up pretty well in your ear. It blocks out most of the...

    If you're fine with the feeling of something jammed in your ear, you may want to check out In-Ear Monitors. Little earbuds that seal up pretty well in your ear. It blocks out most of the surrounding sound (much like earplugs, because it's basically the same thing, but with a mini speaker too) and you get great audio fidelity out of it. They're passive noise cancelling, they don't try and play the inverse sound to cancel out noise, they just block out outside sound in general.

    I'd recommend Etymotics, they have a wide range (and also normal earplugs) with some lower end options too:
    https://www.etymotic.com/product/er2se-earphones/

    5 votes
    1. lou
      Link Parent
      No, that wouldn't bother me. That brand is not available in my country, but I'll look into in-ear monitors. Thanks.

      No, that wouldn't bother me. That brand is not available in my country, but I'll look into in-ear monitors. Thanks.

      2 votes
  3. [5]
    stu2b50
    Link
    I really do think so. It definitely works best with constant, low frequency tones, but in my experience it dulls the general noise level of everything. With something like my wh-1000xm4 (but even...

    I really do think so. It definitely works best with constant, low frequency tones, but in my experience it dulls the general noise level of everything.

    With something like my wh-1000xm4 (but even airpods pro), in a room with people speaking, if I have noise canceling on, I can still hear them. However, once music or a podcast is playing, I can't hear anything. Multiple times people have had to tap me on the shoulder to get my attention.

    That's how I got work done in my open office pre pandemic. It can get pretty loud in there! YMMV, though. I certainly think it's worth trying.

    Would definitely recommend wh-1000xm4, the xm3's are also good and cheaper now that the xm4 is out.

    4 votes
    1. [4]
      lou
      Link Parent
      Do you have any experience trying to filter out music?

      Do you have any experience trying to filter out music?

      1 vote
      1. [3]
        stu2b50
        Link Parent
        If you can give me a decibel that the music is at where you sit down to work, I can to simulate how effective it'd be.

        If you can give me a decibel that the music is at where you sit down to work, I can to simulate how effective it'd be.

        1 vote
        1. [2]
          lou
          Link Parent
          Right now my loving neighboor's neverending music is registering 60db inside my house. Enough to make me crazy, but it gets much louder than that on a regular basis, and from many different...

          Right now my loving neighboor's neverending music is registering 60db inside my house. Enough to make me crazy, but it gets much louder than that on a regular basis, and from many different sources. I don't think I'll be home during the weekend (I'm literally running away from the noise), but I will monitor when I get back and will include the results in a new comment. Thanks!

          4 votes
          1. stu2b50
            Link Parent
            Wow, that's, uh, quite loud. I upped the volume on speakers playing music until my apple watch was hovering around 60db, and first of all that's is really loud - it's about half volume, and these...

            Wow, that's, uh, quite loud. I upped the volume on speakers playing music until my apple watch was hovering around 60db, and first of all that's is really loud - it's about half volume, and these speakers are right next to me!

            I then played this youtube video of white noise: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nMfPqeZjc2c&t=54s and upped the volume until it droned the music out entirely. I tested this with the Sony WH-1000mx4s as the ANC representative, and my ATH-M50x as a "normal" pair of headphones (they're closed backs).

            I had to put it at exactly half volume on the slider on my iPhone until I could stop hearing it on the Sony's. Which is, to be clear, pretty damn high - the hearing widget said it was about 55 dbs going out from my phone (although obviously that doesn't mean much, since the phone doesn't know anything after it sends the signal out).

            With the ATH-M50x, I was one notch away from max volume until I could not hear the music, and it was quite honestly painful to listen to.

            So it does seem to help quite a bit over a traditional pair of headphones. Not a panacea, though, but if the question is whether or not it'll have an affect vs no noise canceling, seems like the answer is yes.

            6 votes
  4. [6]
    HotPants
    Link
    Have you tried Howard Leight by Honeywell Laser Lite High Visibility Disposable Foam Earplugs?

    Have you tried Howard Leight by Honeywell Laser Lite High Visibility Disposable Foam Earplugs?

    3 votes
    1. [5]
      lou
      Link Parent
      Tinnitus makes it hard for me to be without any sound input since the sound produced by my own ear becomes unbearable in that condition. I could try a small earbud, which is then covered by an...

      Tinnitus makes it hard for me to be without any sound input since the sound produced by my own ear becomes unbearable in that condition.

      I could try a small earbud, which is then covered by an industrial over-the-ear hearing protection. Not very comfortable, but much much cheaper, like @spiffytech suggests.

      Thanks ;)

      3 votes
      1. HotPants
        Link Parent
        The other thing to consider might be bone conduction headphones with foam/ OTE hearing protection. One of my colleagues with severe tinnitus swears by bone conduction.

        The other thing to consider might be bone conduction headphones with foam/ OTE hearing protection.

        One of my colleagues with severe tinnitus swears by bone conduction.

        3 votes
      2. [2]
        Rudism
        Link Parent
        It could just be a coincidence, but I never really noticed my own tinnitus until after I started using active noise canceling headphones a couple years ago. I wouldn't necessarily say that NCH...

        It could just be a coincidence, but I never really noticed my own tinnitus until after I started using active noise canceling headphones a couple years ago. I wouldn't necessarily say that NCH cause it or make it worse, but they definitely make it more noticeable to me even when listening to music or white noise. To the point where I also notice it when I'm not wearing the headphones a lot more often now as well.

        2 votes
        1. lou
          Link Parent
          This sounds like a very low tinnitus, you got lucky, buddy. Mine can't be missed :(

          This sounds like a very low tinnitus, you got lucky, buddy. Mine can't be missed :(

          1 vote
      3. tomf
        Link Parent
        not sure if this has come up before, but have you ever tried a tool like this? https://generalfuzz.net/acrn/

        not sure if this has come up before, but have you ever tried a tool like this? https://generalfuzz.net/acrn/

        1 vote
  5. [9]
    spiffytech
    (edited )
    Link
    I've seen a number of people recommend using standard earbuds in conjunction industrial earmuffs, the kind of things people use for chainsaws. Cheaper to get buy, more effective at killing noise....

    I've seen a number of people recommend using standard earbuds in conjunction industrial earmuffs, the kind of things people use for chainsaws. Cheaper to get buy, more effective at killing noise.

    I've had good experiences with active noise cancellation on headphones, but you're shelling out to buy a quality pair, and there are some common scenarios where they perform worse (e.g., people speaking right beside you). ANC is good for steady noises (hums, whirrs) low noises, and distant noises, and if you're playing music too you basically can't hear anything unless it's loud and right next to you.

    I'd steer clear of the Bose QC 2. The sound quality was unremarkable, and it always gave me a weird sensation of pressure in my ears when the ANC was enabled. I've heard that from others, too.

    I'm enjoying my Razer Opus headphones. The noise cancellation works really well, and I have no complaints about the sound quality. They also twist to store flat, which is convenient for storing larger headphones.

    3 votes
    1. [3]
      lou
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      Yesterday, after reading your comment, I found a 3M industrial Muffler which advertises a reduction of 21db, and it miraculously got to my home today. It was very cheap. The reduction is...

      Yesterday, after reading your comment, I found a 3M industrial Muffler which advertises a reduction of 21db, and it miraculously got to my home today. It was very cheap. The reduction is noticeable, and I'm able to put my wired earbuds inside it. It's definitely an improvement, but the music of course bothers me still, and it can get pretty hot. I found another 3M muffler advertising a 29db reduction and more comfort, which sounds nice, but is 4 times the price. Maybe I'll get it later on.

      A lot of people seems to buy these due to autism, which was amusing since I'm currently being asessed for that. I went outside with the muffler (they just look like huge headphones at a glance), and suddenly walking outside was a lot less taxing.

      Edit: wow, since decibel is logarithmic 29db is 6 times more reduction! 21db reduction is quite helpful, but 29db will be just perfect.

      3 votes
      1. [2]
        Gyrfalcon
        Link Parent
        Not sure if these are available or reasonably priced where you are, but if wearing headphones and the hearing protection at the same time is ever a bother, you could try something like these. I...

        Not sure if these are available or reasonably priced where you are, but if wearing headphones and the hearing protection at the same time is ever a bother, you could try something like these. I used them when I played drum set to protect my hearing, but be able to play along with a song I wanted to practice.

        2 votes
    2. [5]
      lou
      Link Parent
      The main issue are the noisy neighbors with very loud music. I'm getting the impression that active noise cancelling may not be a good solution for that.

      ANC is good for steady noises (hums, whirrs) low noises, and distant noises, and if you're playing music too you basically can't hear anything unless it's loud and right next to you.

      The main issue are the noisy neighbors with very loud music. I'm getting the impression that active noise cancelling may not be a good solution for that.

      2 votes
      1. [4]
        spiffytech
        Link Parent
        It depends on how loud that music is. If it's the kind of thing where you can hear a car thumping its bass as it drives by but not really what the music is, ANC may cover it. If it's "the ambient...

        It depends on how loud that music is. If it's the kind of thing where you can hear a car thumping its bass as it drives by but not really what the music is, ANC may cover it. If it's "the ambient volume in my residence is louder than I'd choose to play my own music", then no, ANC isn't the fix.

        Since normal headphones sometimes do the job in your situation, it sounds borderline enough that ANC will likely be a noticeable help, unless the times where normal headphones don't suffice are categorically different from the times where they do.

        My experience with ANC is that it blocks more and more kinds of sounds as those sounds get lower in volume. E.g., conversations are hard for ANC, but ANC performs much better for a conversation across the room than one right beside you. And even for one right beside you you'll see a drop in how loud it sounds, it just won't completely disappear.

        2 votes
        1. [3]
          lou
          Link Parent
          Thanks. I measured it right now and it was 60db. But my subjective feeling is that it often gets twice that. I'd say that it is frequently about the same volume I'd listen to music myself, but 15%...

          Thanks.

          I measured it right now and it was 60db. But my subjective feeling is that it often gets twice that.

          If it's "the ambient volume in my residence is louder than I'd choose to play my own music",

          I'd say that it is frequently about the same volume I'd listen to music myself, but 15% louder.

          2 votes
          1. [2]
            teaearlgraycold
            Link Parent
            If applicable you should complain to your landlord

            If applicable you should complain to your landlord

            4 votes
            1. lou
              (edited )
              Link Parent
              Thanks. We often don't have landlords in my country, not like it works in the US at least. Everything is decided by vote, and where I live the vast majority either creates the noise or supports...

              Thanks.

              We often don't have landlords in my country, not like it works in the US at least. Everything is decided by vote, and where I live the vast majority either creates the noise or supports the noise. The only alternative is to expend a bunch of money to sue the condominium and be hated by most if not all the neighbors, with no guarantee whatsoever that we'll get the intended result.

              With the current prices, moving is not really an option. Besides, our current house is otherwise good for our needs.

              We're looking into soundproofing the house. In the meantime, I'll soundproof my ears :P

              2 votes
  6. [2]
    Bonooru
    Link
    One thing that you might want to try is brown noise over white noise (or some other noise distribution). If you can make your random noise exist over the tonal range that people are speaking in,...

    One thing that you might want to try is brown noise over white noise (or some other noise distribution). If you can make your random noise exist over the tonal range that people are speaking in, that should help with ignoring them.

    I've got a pair of the sony 1000-whatevers and they work well for me. Though, my use case is less ignore people and more ignore engines/motors (which ANC is a good tool for).

    3 votes
    1. lou
      Link Parent
      Thanks. Right now I'm using a noise generator mixing many different sounds, including brown noise and white noise.

      Thanks. Right now I'm using a noise generator mixing many different sounds, including brown noise and white noise.

      1 vote
  7. alcappuccino
    Link
    Are you in Germany by any chance? I could probably get you a discount. But the most important thing is the fit. I have Sennheiser Momentum headphones and to be honest I‘m not really impressed....

    Are you in Germany by any chance? I could probably get you a discount. But the most important thing is the fit.

    I have Sennheiser Momentum headphones and to be honest I‘m not really impressed. Some times I think that my headphones have a defect because the noise is reduced but almost nothing. Sound quality is amazing though

    2 votes