Do Noise Cancelling Headphones Make You Dizzy? Unravelling the Mystery

Noise-cancelling headphones have become increasingly popular for their ability to block out external sounds, creating a more immersive and distraction-free listening experience.

Users often appreciate the tranquility provided by these headphones, especially in noisy environments like airplanes or busy offices. However, there has been some debate surrounding the potential side effects of these devices, with many users reporting instances of dizziness and disorientation while wearing them.

There may be various reasons for this sensation, and understanding the possible causes and solutions can help individuals make informed decisions about using noise-cancelling headphones.

Active noise-cancelling (ANC) technology relies on picking up external noise, and generating an opposite sound wave to cancel it out.

While this approach is effective in reducing unwanted noise, it is speculated that the remaining sound waves could still transmit energy into the ear, potentially causing some users to experience feelings akin to disequilibrium and dizziness.

Additionally, some individuals might be more sensitive to the sensations caused by ANC, leading to the uncomfortable side effects that only a few users report experiencing.

Key Takeaways

  • Noise-cancelling headphones use active noise cancellation technology to block out external sounds and create a more immersive listening experience.
  • Some users report dizziness and disorientation as potential side effects, which could be attributed to the remaining sound waves transmitted into the ear.
  • Understanding the possible causes and solutions can help make informed decisions about using noise-cancelling headphones and finding alternatives if necessary.

Noise Cancelling and Dizziness

Active Noise Cancellation

Active noise-canceling headphones (ANC) work by electronically determining the difference between wanted and unwanted sounds.

They then create an opposite sound wave to cancel out background noises, allowing you to enjoy your music or podcasts without interference. However, some people experience dizziness and discomfort while using ANC headphones, which can be attributed to factors like the low-frequency sound waves used in this technology.

Low-Frequency Sound Waves

Low-frequency sound waves generated by the noise-canceling process can cause dizziness and eardrum pressure for some individuals.

This sensation may be more pronounced when you’re engaging in activities like running, where your ear is constantly sensing and adapting to the rapid changes in your environment.

To minimize the likelihood of dizziness while using ANC headphones, follow these tips:

  • Take breaks and remove your headphones periodically to allow your ears to adjust
  • Avoid using the noise-canceling feature while engaging in activities that require rapid sensory input, such as running or cycling
  • Experiment with different headphone models, as some may cause less dizziness than others
  • Consult with a healthcare professional if dizziness persists, as it may be related to an underlying ear condition or other medical concerns

By being aware of possible triggers and taking steps to reduce dizziness, you can still enjoy the benefits of noise-canceling headphones without sacrificing comfort.

Possible Causes of Dizziness

Inner Ear Issues

Dizziness can result from various factors, especially when related to the inner ear. Conditions like vertigo or inner ear disturbances can cause severe disorientation, making you feel like the room is spinning or that you’re off balance.

Such vertigo episodes can last minutes to hours and may be associated with a headache, light, and noise sensitivity. Inner ear issues can also lead to hearing loss, which could affect your overall sense of balance.

External Factors

Besides inner ear issues, external factors can play a role in causing dizziness while using noise-cancelling headphones.

For instance, motion sickness can make you feel dizzy or queasy, especially on winding roads or roller coasters. This sensation could potentially be exacerbated by noise-cancelling headphones, as they reduce environmental vibrations and interfere with the natural balance of sounds.

People who are sensitive to slight changes in their environment may be more prone to experiencing dizziness or vertigo when using noise-cancelling technology. It’s essential to be aware of your surroundings and your body’s response to external factors when using such devices.

Health Implications

Headaches and Pain

Using noise-cancelling headphones can potentially lead to headaches and pain for some individuals. This may be due to the pressure created by the noise-cancelling technology.

If you experience discomfort while using these headphones, it is suggested to take breaks or use a different type of headphones. Remember, everyone’s tolerance levels are different.

Tinnitus and Hearing Loss

While noise-cancelling headphones can help reduce exposure to loud noises, they may not be the best option for everyone. If you already experience tinnitus, a ringing or buzzing sound in your ears, using these headphones may potentially exacerbate the condition.

Additionally, long-term use of headphones at high volumes can lead to hearing damage. To protect your hearing, adjust the volume cautiously and take regular breaks from using headphones.

Safety and Precautions

Balancing Benefits and Risks

Using noise-cancelling headphones can greatly improve your productivity by reducing unwanted noise and minimizing noise pollution in your surroundings. However, it’s essential to be aware of potential risks and take necessary precautions.

For some individuals, noise-cancelling technology may cause dizziness due to the low-frequency sound waves produced to cancel out unwanted noise. If you experience dizziness or discomfort while wearing noise-cancelling headphones, it would be wise to take a break and give your ears a rest.

Moreover, remember to keep track of your headphone’s battery life, as longer usage could potentially lead to more discomfort.

Finding the Right Headphones

Selecting the appropriate noise-cancelling headphones is crucial for maximizing their benefits while maintaining your safety and comfort. Some factors to consider when choosing the right headphones include:

  • Fit and comfort: Ensure that the headphones fit well and are comfortable to wear for extended periods.
  • Active vs. passive noise cancellation: Active noise cancellation might cause dizziness or discomfort for some people, while passive noise cancellation relies on the physical design of the ear cups to block out noise and may not cause the same issues.
  • Battery life: Look for headphones with longer battery life to avoid frequent charging interruptions during your work or leisure time.
  • Adjustable noise-cancellation levels: Some noise-cancelling headphones allow you to adjust the level of noise cancellation, which can help you find the right balance between cancelling out unwanted noise and maintaining awareness of your surroundings.

Experiment with different headphones until you find a pair that meets your needs for noise reduction and comfort without compromising your safety or causing discomfort.

By taking these precautions, you’ll be able to enjoy the productivity-enhancing benefits of noise-cancelling headphones while minimizing potential risks.

Alternatives to Noise Cancelling Headphones

If you find that noise-cancelling headphones make you dizzy, there are alternative options that might suit you better. In this section, we’ll discuss two such alternatives: Passive Noise-Canceling Headphones and In-Ear Earphones.

Passive Noise-Canceling Headphones

Passive noise-canceling headphones rely on the physical design and materials used in the ear cups to block out external sounds. Unlike active noise cancelling (ANC) headphones, they don’t emit any sound waves to cancel out external noises. Instead, they create a seal around your ears to effectively reduce the amount of noise entering your ears.

Popular options like the Apple AirPods Max offer both active and passive noise cancellation in their design, allowing you to choose which best suits your needs.

These headphones can be more comfortable for some users compared to ANC headphones, as they don’t cause ear pain or dizziness associated with active noise cancellation systems. Additionally, passive noise-canceling headphones tend to have a longer battery life as they don’t require power to generate the noise cancellation effect.

In-Ear Earphones

In-ear earphones, also known as earbuds or in-ear monitors (IEMs), can offer noise isolation by fitting snugly into your ear canal.

The close fit helps block out external noises and allows you to focus on your music or podcast. Many wireless options, such as Apple AirPods, provide easily portable and convenient solutions.

Since in-ear earphones do not rely on active noise cancellation technology, you won’t experience the same dizziness or ear pain that some people report with ANC headphones.

Remember to select the correct size of ear tips for your ears, as this plays a critical role in providing a secure, comfortable fit and proper noise isolation.


You might experience dizziness while using noise-cancelling headphones, as they can block out your own sounds, making it difficult to hear what’s happening around you.

However, not everyone experiences this effect, so it’s essential to test them for yourself and find a comfortable pair that works best for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do noise-cancelling headphones cause dizziness?

Yes, some users have reported experiencing dizziness while using noise-cancelling headphones. This might be due to the way these headphones electronically manipulate sound waves to cancel out unwanted noise, which could affect your body’s sensory input and balance.

What are side effects of using noise-cancelling technology?

The most common side effects of using noise-cancelling headphones include headaches, dizziness, and nausea. However, these issues are usually temporary and do not cause any long-term harm.

Can noise-cancelling earbuds lead to motion sickness?

Using noise-cancelling earbuds or headphones can lead to a feeling of motion sickness for some individuals. This is because the technology used to cancel out ambient noise might interfere with the proper functioning of your body’s balance and sensory systems.

Do people experience headaches with noise-cancelling headphones?

Yes, some users may experience headaches when using noise-cancelling headphones. These headaches could be caused by the pressure created by the noise-cancellation process or from the restriction of natural sound input.

Is there a connection between earbuds and feeling sick?

There can be a connection between using earbuds, specifically noise-cancelling ones, and feeling sick. The reason behind this is the interference in the natural sounds your ears are accustomed to, thus causing discomfort, dizziness, or even nausea for some individuals.

Why does noise-cancelling cause discomfort for some people?

Noise-cancelling technology can cause discomfort because it alters the way your ears perceive sound. Some individuals may be more sensitive to these changes than others, which can result in physical discomfort or unpleasant sensations such as dizziness, headache, or nausea.

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