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Elements S4 • E121

What’s Actually Happening in Your Noise-Canceling Headphones

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Published on Dec 5, 2019

Noise-canceling headphones have been offering humans a layer of protection against the sounds of everyday life for a while now—but how do these ear shields actually work?
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Do you find yourself driven mad by the sounds of everyday life? Throat clearing, construction, keyboard tapping, and loud neighbors? Noise-canceling headphones have been a tried and true way to keep out irritating sounds for decades now—ever since the first patent showed up as early as the early 1930s.

Today, whether it is Bose, Sony, Sennheiser, or Apple’s AirPods (or AirPods Pro), most noise canceling makes use of two technologies: ‘passive noise cancellation,’ which is similar to putting your hands over your ears to muffle the sound, and ‘active noise cancelation,’ which is when microphones detect ambient sounds, convert them into an electrical signal, flip the new sound wave, and when the two waves combine, the opposing sound waves cancel each other out.

This whole ordeal is also known as destructive interference and the results are that sweet, sweet near silence we all crave from our noise-canceling technology.

But still, this headphone technology isn’t perfect.

Find out more about the science behind noise-canceling headphones on this episode of Elements.

#noisecanceling #headphones #technology #Seeker #science #Elements

Read More:
How do noise cancelling headphones like Apple Airpods Pro work?
https://www.newscientist.com/article/...
"The headphones contain miniature speakers so that other people can talk to the wearer. Next to the speaker is a small microphone which picks up the mixture of voice and unwanted background noise which has penetrated from the outside. A circuit processes the sound signal, picks out the unwanted noise, and then reverses it into antisound.

The Pros and Cons of Noise-Canceling Headphones
https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/07/tr...
"In-ear models are easier, though still slightly uncomfortable, to sleep with and are my preference. Over-ear models reduce a little more noise as they are able to passively block some sound because of their design, but they are always bulky on your head or in your bag. "

University of Illinois researchers develop method to cancel noise without ear-blocking headphones
https://csl.illinois.edu/news/univers...
"The main idea behind this research involves combining wireless IoT networks with noise cancellation. A microphone is placed in the environment that senses sounds and sends them over wireless signals to an earpiece. Since wireless signals travel a million times faster than sound, the earphone can receive the sound information much faster than the actual sound itself."

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