How do noise cancelling headphones work?
How do noise cancelling headphones work? (Smithsonian.com)
How do noise cancelling headphones work?
Lexile: 830L
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Just by covering your ears, headphones help block the sounds around you. But active noise cancellation takes a little bit more work.

Different sounds have different waveforms. And a microphone on noise cancelling headphones registers the waveforms coming from the sounds around you. Then, the headphones create a new waveform thats the opposite - the antiphase of the original sound. By adding the two waves together, they cancel each other out in whats called destructive interference. And the result is glorious silence.

Sort of.

It can be tricky to get the antiphase just right, and to keep pace with abrupt noises. So active noise cancellation works best with continuous and low frequency sounds like plane engines.

Critical thinking challenge: Why are noise-canceling headphones most effective against noise from plane engines? Is it because the engines are so loud?

Source URL: https://www.tweentribune.com/article/tween56/how-do-noise-cancelling-headphones-work/

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COMMENTS (52)
  • Jason0421-YYCA
    8/05/2014 - 01:42 p.m.

    REBUTTAL:
    I think that you should talk more about the article because you just said that the power of science was cool. I think that you should talk more about how the headphones are good and how useful it is. I also think that you should talk more about how the thing cancels other sound waves because you didn't write a single thing about the article and you only wrote one sentence.

  • Jason0421-YYCA
    8/05/2014 - 01:55 p.m.

    REBUTTAL:
    I think that you should think that you should read the article again because it specifically tells you why these special hand made headphones can cancel out noise. I also think that you don't really need to make it because it was already made, and you can buy for yourself. I also think that instead of reading the article, you only read the title because it doesn't seem like you actually read it.

  • FelipeMeneses
    8/10/2014 - 09:21 p.m.

    Noise cancelling headphones are pretty straight foward, they have an intergrated microphone which picks up sound waves from the outside and emits opposite sound waves throught the headphones to cancel them. But as the article said, they work better with continuous sounds, much like an airplane, they wouldn't work properly from normal sounds, such as city sounds like traffic and people because the emit abrupt noises.

    I think this type of headphones might be nice to have, but as they don't work on normal circunstancies, I wouldn't pick up a pair, plus there is the discussion about whether using headphones could be bad for your ears or not, they can distract you making you reluctant to accidents, etc.

  • 16Colin-May
    8/13/2014 - 02:56 p.m.

    I never realy knew how noise cancleing headphones worked.Now i know how it works.It puts difernt frequencys out to cancle the noise.Its realy cool.Now it makes me want to buy them.

  • Antonio717200
    8/22/2014 - 12:59 p.m.

    So is it like the material that the headphones are made out that cancels the sounds? Or the technology, because I'm confused on which one it is.

  • RodrigoSuarez
    8/24/2014 - 10:54 a.m.

    I am the kind of person that really needs silence when trying to concentrate and get focused for studying. These headphones have come to help people like me. The point is that they are "noise-canceling", and that implies a quite hard task for them. These headphones cancel the outer noise by producing the right sonority waves at the right time, in order to nulify the noise from the outside. Why are noise-canceling headphones most effective against noise from plane engines or other continuosu low frecuelncy sounds? It is simple, because the level of complexity low frecuency sounds offer to this headphones is the one they can keep up with. Abrupt noises, or rapidly produced high frecuency sounds are a bit harder to solve for the noise cancelling headphones yet.

  • Lorena N
    8/29/2014 - 09:47 p.m.

    Summary: This article is about headphones which was created silence. A company has created a new waveform thats the opposite - the antiphase of the original sound. By adding the two waves together, they cancel each other out in whats called destructive interference. And the result is glorious silence.
    Opinion: This article is awesome I cant believe they make headphone that block out sound. The headphones also block out more noise then when you plug your ears.

  • basketballplayer13
    9/04/2014 - 02:20 p.m.

    i think it is cool that noise can celling headphones make it were u cant here loud noises i think its relly cool i have worn them before

  • ShaneB77
    9/15/2014 - 02:02 p.m.

    SCIENCE: I think it's really amazing how noise canceling headphones are made and how they work. I've personally never owned a pair of noise canceling headphones, but I think they would be really nice to have. They could definitely come in handy when my sister is blasting country music! Overall I think noise canceling headphones are a great, useful device.

    C.T.C: Noise canceling headphones are probably most effective against plane engines because they make a very low frequency sound that the headphones can easily block out.

  • 09Garrett-May
    9/17/2014 - 05:23 p.m.

    thats actully realy cool i didnt know a pare of headphones could do thatbut i know how it works the headphones have a microwave chip of noise cancilling which means the chip kills all of the noise freqwencey outside the headphones which means no noise waves can comes in to this product,cool eh but i still wonder what its values are and it kind of makes me want to buy a set so im not always aynoid.

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