Can Noise Canceling Headphones Help Improve Tinnitus?

by Alex.   Last Updated On September 15th, 2022.
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If you love to listen to music at loud levels, then you might be prone to developing tinnitus in your lifetime. Especially young people who listen to podcasts and tunes at deafening sound levels are putting themselves at risk of causing noise induced hearing loss.

Tinnitus sufferers (headphone recos here) describe that having tinnitus is like having schizophrenia that makes them listen to phantom noises, a high-pitched ringing, constant buzzing, clicking, or hissing sound in their ears. Prolonged exposure to loud noises can damage the hair cells in our ears, leading to tinnitus.

While there are no current cures available for tinnitus, people speculate that noise cancelling headphones work in reducing the noises heard by tinnitus sufferers. Noise cancelling headphones are helpful if you want to listen to music but also reduce the risk of developing tinnitus as they reduce ambient noise from your surroundings.

In this article, we will tackle what tinnitus is, the different types of noise cancellation, if noise cancelling headphones are fabulous for people who suffer from tinnitus, how noise cancelling headphones prevent tinnitus, and many more.

Let’s get right into it.

Table of Contents

Tell me the meaning of tinnitus.

Those who have experienced mental illness may also be interested in understanding tinnitus. People with tinnitus also hear constant ringing sounds, such as those with schizophrenia.

This noise does not arise directly from an external source but is created through damage within the inner ear. Most people with tinnitus describe it as a humming or murmur which continues despite the circumstance in which it occurs.

This can occur for multiple reasons – including underlying medical issues such as health or ear injuries from long exposures to powerful sound waves from loud noises.

This auditory symptom is directly related to hearing loss and can annoy sufferers. The people most vulnerable to this issue are DJs, young people, or people who work in a noisy environment with extremely loud machinery.

Do NC headphones help with tinnitus?

Loud background noise and other noisy external sounds will cause mild tinnitus or permanent hearing damage if not taken care of. Not only does a loud noise potentially cause hearing loss, but they are also detrimental to our mental health.

While NC headphones are indeed fabulous a preventing the onset of tinnitus, they are not considered a cure as they don’t work by healing the hair cells inside your ears.

Noise-canceling technology has been implemented for years since aircraft have been developed. Issues arose when the engines of airplanes produced loud sounds and loud, high-pitched noises, which is when engineers developed noise canceling technology to make rides from an aircraft more comfortable and quiet.

And with this, noise-canceling technology also became integrated with newer headphones, which can also be utilized to minimize ambient noise and reduce the risk of hearing loss.

Noise-canceling headphones help prevent tinnitus by reducing sounds from external noise, allowing you to listen to music at lower volumes.

There are different types of noise cancellations. Here are the two types of noise cancellation technology manufacturers integrate into high-end headphones.

"Having a severe tinnitus or infection in the middle ear. XXL size image. iStockalypse Berlin, 2012."

Passive noise cancellation

Passive noise canceling headphones are also known as passive headphones. Passive noise cancellation is achieved by simply blocking the surroundings of the outer ear to minimize the amount of noise that can enter your ear canal.

Since most headphones are made with an outer layer of padding to provide comfort, almost all headphones ever manufactured has some passive noise canceling abilities.

The level at which they provide noise cancellation depends on what materials they use for the padding and what type of headphones you use.

It is known that over-ear headphones provide the best level of passive noise cancellation.

Active noise cancellation

Active noise cancellation is achieved by utilizing the headphones’ microphone to pick up the low frequencies from both a loud and quiet environment and then neutralizing it by making mirrored (anti-noise) sound waves to remove the outside noise.

While the active noise canceling headphones help with noise reduction and will allow you to hear music at a lower volume, a common side effect of using active noise cancellations is that they cause motion sickness, which causes vertigo for some people.

Can noise-canceling headphones cause tinnitus? Is tinnitus worse?

Headphones, in general, can cause tinnitus if you expose yourself to high volumes at prolonged periods.

So listening to music at safe listening levels is crucial if you want to prevent tinnitus from developing; a secure volume that people should listen to music at is 60% of their device’s maximum volume.

While no scientific studies show ANC headphones are fabulous against tinnitus, people who suffer from it have expressed that it has provided them with temporary relief.

In addition, articles about noise-canceling headphones being able to potentially exacerbate tinnitus are entirely false as they are better if you want to avoid tinnitus while listening to music.

The noise canceling feature in noise-canceling headphones allows you to listen to music at relatively safer levels when compared to regular headphones, in which you are forced to listen to music at a high volume, especially when you are in a noisy environment.

Since louder music are contributed to worse nerve damage, it’s crucial that you invest in noise-canceling headphones if you want to avoid tinnitus and hearing loss in the future.

Tell me the best treatment for tinnitus?

Perhaps the best treatment for tinnitus is prevention, as there is no available cure for the said symptom. One way to prevent tinnitus is by purchasing noise-canceling headphones with excellent noise reduction capabilities that will allow you to hear sounds at significantly lower volume levels.

Other tips you can follow to avoid the onset of tinnitus are first to prevent extended exposure to loud noises such as noisy machinery and loud environments.

Another is to turn down the volume of your music-playing device. Remembering, a good rule of thumb is only play music at 60% of your device’s maximum volume.

Another is to reduce exposure to loud sounds and sounds in general. Even music played at low volumes will eventually cause tinnitus if you listen to them the entire day. It’s important to let your ears rest, and the hair cells in your ears relax from the vibrations caused by sound waves from music and noises.

Headphones for tinnitus

Despite having tinnitus, you can still use special type headphones to still listen to your favorite artists. Headphones for tinnitus are called bone conduction headphones; these headphones are specially made for people who suffer from hearing loss or hearing impairments.

These headphones for tinnitus bypass your ear canals and sends sound waves through your bones directly to your eardrums. While these headphones for tinnitus don’t have excellent noise canceling features, they will be guaranteed not to cause tinnitus like earbuds and in-ear headphones do.

Best noise canceling headphones for tinnitus

However, suppose bone conduction headphones are not your style. In that case, you can still opt for noise canceling headphones for tinnitus, such as the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, which has 11 levels of active noise canceling that block voices, crying, and snoring, a revolutionary microphone system that has unrivaled voice pickup, allowing the headphones to counteract the background noises quickly, and high-quality over-ear pads that provide excellent sound isolation, and passive noise canceling.

For a budget friendly ANC headphones, you can try OneOdio A10. However, suppose you want to opt for more expensive headphones for tinnitus. In that case, you can purchase the Sony WH-1000XM3, which is widely regarded as the king of noise-canceling headphones as their top-tier ANC feature ensures a soundproof experience.

In addition, you can choose the level of noise canceling you want as you can adjust the ambient sound being filtered, which will still allow you to be completely aware of your surroundings.

Noise cancellation headphones on a white background

The link between noise-canceling headphones and tinnitus

The link between noise-canceling headphones and tinnitus is that noise-canceling headphones are great at preventing tinnitus. But not only do they help at preventing hearing loss, but they also help you in the long run.

Since noise canceling headphones enable you to listen to music at significantly lower volume levels, you become more used to listening to sounds that way. Soon enough, you might find listening to loud music annoying and distracting.

However, despite this, noise-canceling headphones do have their cons. People have reported that the active noise canceling feature in noise-canceling headphones has caused discomfort, vertigo, and nausea.

Other side effects of using the active noise canceling feature in your headphones include motion sickness, pressure build-up, and headaches.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are noise Cancelling headphones good for tinnitus?

Yes, noise-canceling headphones are indeed fabulous for preventing the onset of tinnitus. Their noise canceling features will allow you to listen to sounds at lower levels which means minor damage to the hair cells inside your ears.

In addition, the ANC feature on these headphones will completely filter out all the loud noises from your surroundings, making your ears safe from loud external noise.

Should I use headphones if I have tinnitus?

If you already have tinnitus, then it’s best to avoid using headphones, as music played at low volumes still emits sound waves that will cause the hair cells to vibrate.

Are noise-canceling headphones able to cancel out the noise from tinnitus?

No, since the noise from tinnitus is sent from our brain, there is no way for the headphone mic to pick it up and cancel it out.

Is tinnitus permanent?

Tinnitus will eventually disappear if you protect your ears from loud sounds.


Listening to music is indeed an excellent pastime for some. It allows you to relax and escape the hustle and bustle of the world. However, always ensure your ears are well protected from loud noises to prevent tinnitus from developing.

We hope this informative article has helped you understand if noise-canceling headphones can help tinnitus.