What Using Noise-Canceling Headphones All Day Does To Your Body

If you work at a desk all day, you might wear noise-canceling headphones to block out noise so you can focus — primarily if you work from home where there are many possible distractions. But what happens to your body when you wear noise-canceling headphones all day? Is it healthy? 

First, we need to understand how noise-canceling headphones work. There are two different types of noise cancellation — passive noise cancellation or PNC and active noise cancellation or ANC. They cancel out noise for you in different ways. Active noise cancellation headphones make a frequency to block out noise, while passive noise cancellation headphones make a physical seal over or in your ears to block out noise (via Headphonesty). 

Passive noise-canceling headphones work well when you're dealing with temporary loud noises like cars honking, people yelling, a baby crying, emergency vehicle sirens, and other short but loud sounds. Active noise cancellation headphones block out ambient noise like talking, cooking, and other constant but quieter sounds similar to noise in a coffee shop. According to CNET, ANC headphones won't block out those short, loud bursts of noise like the PNC headphones will, the same way PNC headphones won't block out ambient noise the way ANC headphones will.

Noise-canceling headphones can reduce stress

Have you ever just wanted to block out all the noise in the world for a little while? Noise-canceling headphones can do that for you, helping reduce noise-related stress. According to the Hearing Health Foundation, certain noises can trigger a stress response in your brain. Which noises do this depend on which noises your brain perceives as dangerous. For some people, that can be all loud noises. Stress can cause an increase in your heart rate, increased blood pressure, reduced metabolism, gastrointestinal problems, reduced libido, and immune system problems. In addition, Headphonesty adds that noise-related stress can cause migraines and ulcers. 

Wearing headphones all day can reduce your noise-related stress. If you're working in an office, in a coffee shop, or at home, you'll probably want active noise-canceling headphones to block out the ambient noise. If you work near traffic or a construction site, you probably want passive noise-canceling headphones to block out those bursts of loud noises. 

Kids and adults sensitive to noise can find relief with active noise-canceling headphones. For this purpose, Headphonesty recommends using mid-priced ANC headphones, as they work best for this purpose.

Safety concerns with noise-canceling headphones

If you experience jaw pain, headaches, ear pressure, and dizziness, this could be due to the pressure from noise-canceling headphones, according to Headphonesty. You could feel the need to remove your headphones after a few hours of use if the pressure affects you. If this happens to you, look for noise-canceling headphones made for traveling, as there will be no pressure. 

Hearing loss is another possible adverse health effect of using headphones. While PNC headphones can protect hearing in people who work on construction sites, on airplanes, and with explosives, people who wear ANC headphones might have a different experience. Wearing ANC headphones blocks ambient noise, but you can also listen to music, podcasts, or your game. According to NIH, repeated or long sounds at or above 85 decibels can cause hearing loss, and the louder the noise is, the faster it will cause hearing loss. Healthy Hearing recommends keeping what you're listening to on your noise-canceling headphones at 50% of the full volume. That volume should be at or below 70 decibels, which is safe to listen to. 

Get a hearing test done at your annual checkup with your doctor to help determine if you have any hearing loss. If you do, you can ask for a referral to an otolaryngologist or ENT for further examination and treatment.