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How Does Noise Cancelling Work?

How Does Noise Cancelling Work?

Noise Cancelling is a term that is thrown around a lot when discussing headphones. Headphones tend to be more expensive when they contain active noise cancellation functionality. But a lot of people, whether they’re certified audiophiles or casual listeners, tout the benefits of noise cancellation as absolutely worth the cost.

What is noise cancelling? How does noise cancelling work? In order to help you make a decision as to whether or not noise cancelling is the option for you, we have compiled a series of frequently asked questions so you can decide for yourself.

What's the difference between active noise cancelling and noise isolation?

Before we can discuss how noise cancellation works, we need to address a common misconception, which is that noise cancellation and noise isolation are the same thing. Instead, they are both different methods of achieving a similar result, i.e. blocking out unwanted ambient sound when listening to headphones.

How does noise isolation work?

Noise isolation is the considerably low-fi method of the two. It involves the simple act of blocking the ear canal and therefore obstructing sound waves from the outside. For headphones, this is achieved because headphone cushions cover the ear, while earbud tips are built to rest inside the ear canal. 

Because noise isolation is so comparatively low tech, it is also a cheaper option for noise reduction. However, if noise isolation earbuds or headphones do not adequately cover the ear canal, they won’t effectively block out noise, meaning the user may turn the volume up to excessive levels in order to compensate.

How does active noise cancellation work?

Active noise cancellation, on the other hand, is more technical. Essentially, a small microphone inside the headphones will record the ambient sound, which exists in the form of a sinusoidal wave. A small amplifier then generates noise waves that are the inverse of that ambient sound, causing the two sound waves to cancel each other out, thus eliminating background noise.

Active noise cancellation is typically used for long, droning sounds such as traffic or an electrical hum. Shorter, sharper sounds such as voices or a sudden impact will not be blocked out by active noise cancelling. 

Is active noise cancelling better than passive?

There is no exact measure to determine which of the two is better, as both target different kinds of sounds. Active noise cancellation is better for low frequency noise, namely droning ambience, whereas noise isolation, if used properly, does a better job of blocking more immediate high and mid frequency noise. 

Most high-end earphones and headphones actually combine noise cancelling and noise isolation for optimal effect. This is why the Nuraphone has an unprecedented design that incorporates both headphone cushions and earbuds, as well as active noise cancelation that the user can control. With a touch, the Nuraphone will block everything except your sound.

What are the benefits of noise cancelling headphones?

In addition to the main benefit of being able to listen to your music with a whole new level of fidelity free from the interruptions of the outside world, noise cancelling headphones also offer other benefits, such as:

- A boost in concentration, as the removal of noise allows for better cognitive performance.
- Easier travel on particularly noisy transport such as trains or planes.
- Clearer conversations when answering calls.
- Health benefits
, as prolonged exposure to noise pollution can be attributed to a wide range of problems such as cardiovascular disease, sleep disturbance, tinnitus, cognitive impairment and irritation.
- A refuge for people with sensitive hearing or sensory overstimulation.
- Less risk of excessive volume, as you’ll be able to hear the music clearly without needing it to be louder.

Is noise cancelling bad for you?

Noise cancelling is not bad for you. There are no health risks directly associated with noise cancellation

It is possible, though unlikely, for noise cancelling headphones to cause discomfort. The discomfort is caused by the brain perceiving a change in air pressure that is not there due to the sudden removal of low-frequency noise, similar to what happens in airplanes. 

There have also been attempts to link noise cancellation to tinnitus, but there isn’t any scientific evidence to back these claims.

What are the best noise-cancelling headphones available?

The best noise-cancelling headphones are the Nuraphone, that offer so much more than just active noise-cancelling. 

It actively monitors how you listen to music by using an extremely small microphone to measure the otoacoustic emission (OAE), a tiny sound that reverberates from the ear when the eardrum vibrates in response to external tones.  It then produces a personalised sound profile based on the information encoded in the OAE that measures your ears’ sensitivity to certain sound frequencies. 

So, not only do you get an immersive listening experience free from interruption, you get the perfect listening experience catered to you.

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