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Effect of noise cancelling audio equipment

  1. Sep 20, 2015 #1
    Noise cancelling earbuds/headphones differ from noise isolating earbuds/headphones. Noise isolation just keeps the sound out, whereas noise cancellation actively produces sound in order to "cancel" noise.


    I understand how this works technologically, however do these sound waves cancel out so that your ears are subjected to reduced decibels? I have tried a friend's pair. When nothing is going on, you hear lots of "static"-like noises. No doubt this is the earbuds trying to cancel ambient sound.

    Anyhow, i'm wondering if this is good for your hearing, and not just for listening to better music. Can the extra sound waves generated actually increase the ambient volume?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 21, 2015 #2
    Yes, at your ear, it should be less dbm's. Yes, they are cancelled out at the exact spot going into your ear. I lost hearing in one ear working on this stuff, but during actual operation, there are limiters and such to keep it safe. I would use them without worry.
     
  4. Sep 22, 2015 #3
    Yes, depending on the system you might hear an increased "noise floor." But listening with no music in a quiet environment is an unfair test-they are designed for use in noisy places like a plane while listening. I can't imagine problems to your hearing, it should make for less fatigue, BUT again systems vary in their quality.
     
  5. Sep 22, 2015 #4
    Thanks. So what is this "noise floor"? Does this mean the ambient volume my ears truly hear is louder than usual? Suppose I am planning to buy a very good, very expensive set of noise isolating earbuds. Is there science that can verify if these are good for my hearing or bad?
     
  6. Sep 23, 2015 #5

    Borg

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    Noise floor would be a slight background hiss that you might hear from the headphones if you were in a quiet room with no music playing.
     
  7. Sep 23, 2015 #6
    Thanks. But how about the effects of noise cancellation on my ears?
    "Is there science that can verify if these are good for my hearing or bad?" I haven't heard much from people about the actual science of this. Is this "noise floor" or ambient volume actually louder than the non-actively-cancelled ambience?
     
  8. Sep 23, 2015 #7
    I would have though that the most you would experience from using these in a quiet environment is a low volume white noise.
    It seems to me unlikely that this might damage (or for that matter improve) your hearing in any way.
    They aren't doing anything to your biochemistry or nervous system.
     
  9. Sep 23, 2015 #8

    Borg

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    The sound waves cancel each other out which is effectively the same as no sound in the first place. They are good for your hearing as long as you aren't listening to your music loudly. The Wiki article on Noise Cancelling Headphones has more pros and cons. Here is a six page article on the the details - How Noise Cancelling Headphones work.
    Again, the floor noise is very minor. You would have to be in a quiet room with no music playing to even notice it.
     
  10. Sep 23, 2015 #9

    Borg

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    Here's a link on destructive interference. The ultimate goal of noise cancelling headphones is to duplicate the outside noise with a signal that is 180 degrees out of phase and mix it in.
     
  11. Sep 27, 2015 #10
    Thanks. So I'll be planning on buying some noise cancelling earbuds.
     
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