Why Can You Still Hear With Noise Canceling Headphones?

The sole reason for purchasing a noise-canceling headphone may shield you from noise. This is understandable as you may want to cancel out noise from a partying neighbor or cackling kids during a flight. Unfortunately, the inefficiency of noise-canceling headphones in doing this may leave you worried or even frustrated.

Noise-canceling headphones cannot completely isolate sound due to the air trapped between your eardrum and audio device. This is ironic because the air is necessary for you to hear music.

I’m sure you want to understand how to deal with this dilemma. To have a better grasp, let’s consider a couple of other reasons why you still hear sound while using noise-canceling headphones.

Reasons Why You still Hear Sound while Using Noise-Canceling Headphones

No noise-canceling headphones cannot block out all kinds of noise, regardless of how expensive. You can achieve certain efficiency with certain noise-canceling headphones, but they can’t completely shield you from sounds. Presently, no technology exists that can block out noise from unexpected sources like a crying baby or train rumbling.

Let’s consider a few reasons why this may be impossible despite how much you want to get it done.

1. The sound is too high-pitched

Noise-canceling technology works effectively when the frequency of the sound is below 500Hz. You may block out sounds above that frequency, but it wouldn’t be effective, especially frequencies close to 1000Hz.

Engine sounds like a subway train or a rumbling bus are generally below the frequency spectrum of 500Hz. This is why when you clamp on your noise-canceling headphones, they seem to disappear or well minimized that you barely hear them. However, abrupt horning amidst your commute can pierce through because of the higher frequency.

Generally, most conversations are initiated in the frequency range of about 500Hz. It hinges on the proximity of the person conversing with you, how loud their voices are, the pitch, and much more. Considering this, a conversation can range between 500Hz to 5,000Hz.

Noise-canceling headphones are limited by the current technology, which can’t shield sounds above 1000Hz. This limitation binds even the most sophisticated types of these headphones.

2. The headphones are not worn correctly

One of the easiest ways to improve the noise cancellation of your headphone is to fit the headphone rightly. If headphones are fitted loosely, they won’t be able to block out certain levels of noise from the outside. You will automatically notice a noise cancellation ambiance when you find the right fit.

Some headphone users fail to fit the headphones appropriately; hence, there are still sounds conducted through the leaks. Just like every other technological gadget, the wrong usage always results in less efficiency.

3. Adaptive control may be on

Some noise-canceling headphones come with an interesting feature called adaptive control. It’s a smart recognition that enables your noise-canceling headphone to detect the noise intensity of your environment and adjust promptly.

The intensity of noise cancelation is increased in a loud environment and reduced in a quiet one. To achieve the strongest noise canceling effect, always ensure the Adaptive Sound Control is turned off. With this, it would be able to effectively serve all the desired functions conveniently.

How Can I Block Speeches Using Noise-canceling Headphones?

While noise-canceling headphones are ineffective at blocking out conversations, they fairly well at canceling low-frequency low-frequency sounds. Such a sound could be the bass in music. However, if you’re looking at blocking out speech to enable you to hear music or your thoughts, how do you get this done?

Look at it this way – Assume you’re in a coffee shop where sounds of various kids mix. This could range from the next guy’s loud chewing to dish clattering and music. By using noise-masking, you’re drowning out any distasteful noise by topping them off with a more resonant one.

Truly, you can mask speech effectively without turning up the volume of the music you’re playing. This is achieved with a white voice machine. It gives you a range of adjustments to combat any noise. With this, you can block out sounds with pitches as high as 5000Hz.

Are there alternatives to noise-canceling headphones?

Even though noise-canceling headphones come highly recommended, especially for travelers, or factory workers, there are other noise-canceling devices you can try. This is because you can always rely on noise-canceling headphones, especially when mostly situated in areas with high-pitched sounds. A number of other alternatives to noise-canceling headphones are given below:

1. Earmuffs

Your best bet for noise-canceling may be industrial earmuffs. Earmuffs like Decibel Defense’s Earmuffs are great for masking you from nearby speeches or conversations. These earmuffs completely cover your ears to provide you with proper noise isolation.

If you’re in a work environment where lots of talking goes on, you can use them together with premium noise-isolating earbuds. With this two, you can play white noise and attain the exact peaceful ambiance you seek.

With earmuffs, you also don’t have to increase the volume of your earbuds. This is possible due to the noise isolation of the muffs. A 20% or 30% volume would definitely give you a wonderful listening experience.

Other earmuffs like Pro for Sho come in handy when you need to block out conversations while sitting in a coffee shop. They’re perfect if you don’t want to hear people around you and focus on that project you’re working on, on your PC.

2. Foam Earplugs

Making another trip and wondering the best way to drown out loud chatters? You may need to stock up on foam earplugs. They are very affordable and are effective noise-canceling devices you can trust besides headphones. Foam earplugs are great at reducing noise from human speech, but they don’t fair well at blocking louder voices.

This is because some of those vibrations from those conversing are conducted through your bones. They will effectively dampen it. However, if you desire quieter to enable you to dose off, you can listen to white noise on your headphones.

Earplugs take some time to get used to if you normally don’t use them. When you eventually do, they can be very refreshing to use.

3. Noise-isolating earphones

Noise-isolating earphones can be a great option for people who feel comfortable inserting things into their ears and want to drown out the noise. Moreover, they’re very affordable. The most important thing is finding a good fit into the earbud that will cut off noise without having to turn up the volume.

All you have to do is play white noise through this device to close up any other residue of unwanted noise.  They are just what would help deal with the noisy environment.

What Are The Benefits and Downsides of Noise-Canceling Headphones?

With the world becoming noisier, a lot of people have resorted to the use of noise-canceling headphones. Most people need this to shut off the outside world and focus on key projects that require full attention. Some people, however, become addicted or dependent on this device for their daily routine.

Like many other products, it is crucial to be aware of the downsides and benefits of it before purchasing. You may be wondering, Is a noise-canceling headphone really worth it? Well, you can answer that for yourself when you’re aware of the benefit and downsides. Here are things you should always take note of:

Pros of the feature

  • Active Noise Cancellation: Using active noise cancellation will help you stay secluded from the noise around you. This technology works by using microphones to pick out the sound waves that approach your ear. The earpiece then emits a counter wave to diminish it.

This way, you’re sure to always have chatters, rumblings and the kinds of irregular sounds blocked out.

  • Swappable Cancellation: The noise-canceling headphone can do this in situations where you do not want to entirely shut out the whole world. It may be certain instances where you want to hear your surrounding but don’t want to do this by swapping headphones. You can simply just turn cancellation off with a toggle.

You can then turn it back on when you get into a noisy place and want to shut off the noise. This swappable feature is what makes noise-canceling headphones a choice gadget among other noise-canceling devices.

  • It does not require high volumes: Oftentimes, when people turn up the volumes of their headsets, it’s usually due to the unpleasant sound they’re immersed in. There is no need to turn up your music volume that high with noise-canceling headphones. You can simply use you’ll headphones to drown out this unpleasant sound.
  • Enjoy a better listening experience: Music becomes more pleasurable when you can sieve out what you want to hear from what you don’t want to. This, in return, spices your listening experience. You can then focus on calls and other important discussions by avoiding any sound from outside.
  • Perfect for traveling: Noise-canceling headphones are suitable for people who often travel. You may be working on your laptop while traveling. They are the ideal gadget that helps you concentrate on work or even to read when there is chatter.

Cons of the noise cancellation headphones

There are a few drawbacks or downsides to noise headphones. You must consider them before buying one.

  • Music Distortion: Noise-canceling headphones need to counter outside sound with sound waves. This may, in turn, affect the quality of your audio. If you’re an audiophile, this may bother you greatly.

Others may not really notice this, but this distortion may become very obvious if you’re using low-quality headphones.

  • High power consumption: The design parameters need to be tailored in such a way that it meets a quality performance. This may, in turn, lead to high weight and high power consumption. Most noise-canceling headphones come with internal batteries. The Bluetooth types especially are designed to have this feature. Since they have to be designed to carry these batteries, it reflects their weight, a huge downside.
  • Noise Cancellation works with power: Their constant need to be charged places the user on a cumbersome responsibility. This is because onboard technology can’t be charged ports on audio headphones. You will need to manually change them each time you want to use the cancellation.
  • Hearing loss risk: Being constantly exposed to high levels of sounds, you’re at risk of damaging your ears. Listening to loud music for a significant period increases your risk of ear damage. This is a huge problem for many people around the world.

Using headphones, in many ways, increases the risk of permanent hearing loss or ear damage. You can combat this, however, while using your headphone. It only means you have to seek quieter environments.

Still, placing sounds close to your ears for long periods predisposes you to ear problems.

  • Cost of purchase: Noise-canceling headphones may be expensive to buy, especially when you’re opting for high-quality ones. Comparing the cost of getting a noise-canceling headphone to normal headphones shows you how costly they are. This is usually due to the structure, design, and sophistication, which makes them more high-priced.


Noise cancellation works best when the ambient sound in your environment is constant. It’s also only effective in low to medium range pitch. If you’re always traveling or surrounded by people in a noisy environment, a headphone’s noise-canceling effect may be of importance.

However, for voices, you need to consider the noise-isolation capabilities of the noise-canceling headphone you’re buying.

This post exposes some of the reasons you may still hear the sound even while using noise-canceling headphones. Other alternatives to noise-canceling headphones have also been highlighted. You should always note the reason a noise-canceling headphone may not shield you from noise.

A lot of factors contribute to that, and they have been discussed above as well. When shopping for noise-canceling headphones, it is always better to go for ones with advanced features like adaptive control. This way, your quest for a noise-free reality is achieved.

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