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Why do noise canceling headphones hurt my ears?



  A lady peels off her noise-suppressing headphones and grimaces in pain.
Gang Liu / Shutterstock

Do your new noise-canceling headphones exert a painful sense of "pressure" on your ears? It turns out that your mind is playing a joke on you.

Over the past decade, noise-canceling headphones have become more common, affordable and effective. However, as headphones can better filter out external noise, more and more people complain that they cause earache, headaches, and a sense of "pressure" in the inner ear. These complaints are older than 2009, why is not this problem? has been solved? Well, first we have to understand how noise canceling headphones work.

ANC headphones hear and suppress external noise

Contrary to popular belief, active noise canceling headphones (or ANCs) do not block noise by physically protecting your ear from external sound waves. They are not like fluffy rifle earmuffs. they are only small pieces of plastic. How do ANC headphones pick up the sound?

Like light, sound moves in "waves" through the air. And just as different light frequencies are recognized as different colors, different sound frequencies are perceived as different pitches. [1

9659004] The thing is that sound is a "blast". Unlike light, sound can move through solid objects such as walls, water, and a plastic headphone. Low-frequency sound waves can move very well through solid objects (think of a bass drum), but high-frequency sounds (like the unpleasant sound of a CRT TV) can not move so well through objects.

  A diagram for the operation of noise cancellation
Wikipedia

ANC headphones are therefore aimed at eliminating low-frequency noise. To do this, you monitor your sound environment with a built-in microphone, identify the frequencies of the sounds, and push your ears off with an anti-noise wave that suppresses unwanted external noise.

That sounds complicated, but it's easy to understand. An anti-noise wave is basically a mirrored version of the sound your headphones are trying to eliminate. It is the same frequency (pitch) of unwanted noise, but with reverse polarity (again a mirror version). If two sounds of opposite polarity meet, both are canceled. It's funny, but that's a science.

Why do my ears feel "under pressure" in an airplane?

Okay, ANC headphones suppress noise by pumping an anti-noise wave into your ears. But why are they hurting people's ears and causing headaches?

Most people describe the feel of ANC headphones as a kind of "pressure" on the ears, such as the change in atmospheric pressure when they ascend in an airplane or plunge deep into the ocean. It is therefore important to understand how air pressure works (and how it affects sound perception) before we find out why ANC headphones are "pushing" your ears.

Atmospheric pressure (also called air pressure and air pressure) is force stretched on a surface through its atmosphere. The gravity of our earth constantly pulls the atmosphere down, so that the air at low altitude (the bottom of the ocean) is denser than at high altitude (a mountain peak or an airplane in flight).

Well, the atmospheric density is not what causes painful pressure in your ears. This feeling of "pressure" is the difference between the air pressure of your inner ears and the air pressure of your environment. When you are at high altitude, the air in your ears wants to escape. When you are at low altitude and under a lot of pressure, your inner ears need more air so they will not collapse. If you put your ears on it, you'll just balance your in-ear air pressure with the air pressure in your environment, and the feeling of "pressure" will subside.

ANC headphones Do not turn off the "pressure" on your ears

However, your brain does not just rely on earache and headaches to determine when the air pressure changes. It also examines how strong your middle ear vibrates.

When you board an airplane for the first time, your ear has a higher air density than your surroundings. As a result, your inner ear is a bit like a balloon, it is under heavy pressure and it does not vibrate much. This lack of vibration leads to a decrease in low frequency hearing, so your brain tends to work on the assumption that a loss of low frequency hearing indicates a change in atmospheric pressure. (This is also why you can hear better on an airplane after you've torn your ears open.)

  A man enjoying the sweet sound of his noise-canceling headphones
Kite_rin / Shutterstock

Remember How ANC headphones aim for suppression low-frequency ambient noise, like the sound of an engine? Sometimes this can tempt your brain to notice a change in air pressure.

Of course, your brain does not get pain or discomfort. So it starts emulating those feelings to encourage you to open your ears. Since popping the ears does not resolve the lack of low frequency ambient noise, the sensation of pain and pressure may increase until you remove your ANC headset.

Some people are not built for ANC headphones.

Some people No complaints when using ANC headphones. Others get used to the feeling over time, but some people can not get over the pressure that ANC headphones can trigger.

So, when your brand-new ANC headphones trigger a sense of "pressure," earache, jaw pain, and headaches, your ability to deal with the situation is minimal. You could use the headset for about 15 minutes and hope your brain adjusts, or you could return the headset and put your money back in soundproof earphones or some shooting earmuffs to put on a regular pair of earphones.

Just keep it in mind Remember that even when a pain sensation is "restored" by your brain, it does not make the pain any less real. If your brain refuses to adapt to an ANC headset, you should leave it at that. There's no need to torment yourself (or possibly hurt yourself) just to suppress ambient noise while listening to podcasts.

Sources: The Friedel Chronicles / Medium, Wikipedia, Starkey


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