Why Noise-Canceling Headphones Make Me Dizzy?

Many people have reported feeling nauseous, dizzy, or sick after using ANC headphones. It feels like your ears are clogged due to high pressure inside the ear. The phenomenon is natural and not limited to a select group of people. Why Noise-Canceling Headphones Make Me Dizzy, and what type of noise-canceling headphones causes this sensation of sickness?

In this article, I will explain why active noise-canceling headphones make you sick, whether you should be concerned about it, whether everyone experiences it and how to minimize it. So, keep reading. 

Why Noise-Canceling Headphones Make Me Dizzy?

While it’s unlikely that I’ll feel sick after trying on an ANC headset for a few moments, there are many reasons why I get headaches right after wearing active noise-canceling headphones, such as:

  • You may be having trouble acclimating to new equipment.
  • You are sensitive to pressure in my ear canal.
  • Silence or high sound pressure does not match visual cues.

Note: Besides the biological and neurological reasons that make me feel an unbearable sense of pressure in my ear or even a feeling of vertigo or Tinnitus, here are some other reasons why I may feel unwell when using active noise-canceling headphones.

  • ANC headphones create a noticeable hum below 20 Hz, making me feel uncomfortable or sick.
  • The active noise cancellation level is too high and generates static noise, so even listening to music at a low volume may bother me.
  • Constant low-frequency humming noises.
  • Low-frequency sound waves are the most common reason I feel sick when using active noise-canceling headphones.
  • Listening to constant low-frequency noise can affect how my ears function, even after taking off my headphones. 

ProTip: ANC headphones that protect against low-frequency noises and don’t produce any humming are highly recommended.

Role of Low-Frequency Sound Waves

People who wear active noise-canceling headphones to reduce ambient noise can sometimes feel sick after a while because the headphones create background noise between 10 Hz and 40 Hz (low-frequency sound waves). 

It is common for many ANC headphones to generate noise in this frequency range, but not all do. So it’s essential to choose active noise-canceling headphones that you can use without music.

Buzzing does not occur in all headphones and is certainly not experienced by all people. Sometimes, even when you hear the hum, you don’t feel any discomfort, but this depends on the active noise-canceling technology your headphones employ and the morphology of your ear.

In some cases, even though the noise cancellation technology is not incredibly powerful, a constant hum is still produced, proving that this is not an audible effect in high-end ANC headphones. 

Note: The Sony WH-CH710N generates a slight hum, while the JBL Live 650BTNC produces an unavoidable buzz unsuitable for sensitive ears.

Many reasons cause static noise in ANC headphones: electromagnetic interference, multiple electrical components, circuit malfunctions, and a lag time of inverse sound waves canceling the noise sources.

For some, static or white noise is therapeutic and relaxing, but it can be uncomfortable and nauseating for others. It all depends on the frequency of the noise, its intensity, and its pace.

Do all Noise-Canceling Headphones give headaches/ Dizzy?

It’s not a flaw or defect in ANC headphones that make you dizzy or sick. When you try these headphones for the first time, it takes time to adjust according to your nuisance, which may take as little as 5 minutes or as long as 2 weeks.

Naturally, since the brain is not used to the absence of ambient noise, it reacts so that I feel sick, dizzy, claustrophobic, nauseous, and have motion sickness or the impression that the air pressure is abnormally high. In short, I feel different from my natural environment, which is understandable.

Note: Most people can adapt quickly to ANC headphones and get used to the sensation after a few minutes of wear. It depends on ear sensitivity and how your brain perceives the sensation of being in an enclosed space without any sound.

How to deal with dizziness?

The best way to deal with static noise is to turn off the ANC or only use it when the ambient noise is unbearable. With great power comes great responsibility, so use your hybrid noise-canceling headphones only when necessary.

  • Headphones that use active noise cancellation technology can pressure your eardrum from constant sound waves, giving you a headache or even making you feel sick or disoriented.
  • Out of the many active noise-canceling headphones currently available, a few are safe for people with sensitive ears. Their noise reduction performance is also one of the strongest.

Am I supposed to feel dizzy or disoriented when using noise-canceling headphones?

It is pretty standard for these feelings to occur, especially at first. It becomes easier as the person adjusts according to the difference in sound pressure of the headphones. If you feel disoriented or uneasy, it is best to turn off the headphones and give your ears and brain time to relax. It’s also best to gradually practice or get used to them at home without rushing.

If the ANC headphones eliminate all noise, why do I hear a noise that bothers me?

Extra electronics and processing errors are the main reasons you hear disturbing noises from your ANC headphones. Furthermore, ANC headphones can’t get rid of all noise. They are not perfect devices, but they are close to ideal. They can eliminate or significantly reduce the most disturbing sounds.

Why do I feel pressure with noise-canceling headphones?

I noticed a pressure-like feeling in my ears when I first put noise-canceling headphones on, like when I wanted to ‘pop’ my ears. It is caused by the brain perceiving the lack of low-frequency sound as a pressure differential between my inner and outer ear, just like when I ascend in an airplane.

Do noise Canceling headphones have side effects?

Some of the most common complaints surrounding noise-canceling headphones involve jaw pain, headaches, dizziness, and ear pressure. The ear pressure, in particular, is likened to the same ear pressure one feels on an ascending airplane.

Is Active Noise Canceling harmful?

Noise-cancellation earphones pose no risk to your health and are safe to use. Unlike mobile phones, they don’t emit low-level radiation, so you can use your headphones to block out background noises knowing they pose no risk to your safety or well-being.

What are the disadvantages of noise-canceling headphones?

The Cons of Noise-Canceling Headphones are:

  1. These headphones are expensive.   
  2. They can be challenging to use. 
  3. You can get distracted.
  4. They can be dangerous if not used properly. 
  5. They can be a distraction in social settings.

Why do AirPods make me dizzy?

Because of the way AirPods produce low-frequency humming and static noise, I might experience nausea. Some AirPods can increase the sound pressure inside my eardrum, causing me to feel dizzy or get a headache.

Should I sleep with noise-canceling headphones?

ANC headphones are much better at reducing background noises like snoring. Noise-canceling headphones are finely-tuned to detect low-frequency sounds. Such sounds can include airplane engines, air conditioners, and, yes, even snoring.

Is it OK to fall asleep with AirPods in?

Plugging hard plastic earbuds, like AirPods, in your ear may not be terrible in the short term, but falling asleep with them could add discomfort. Plus, in-ear earbuds can lock moisture into your ear canal, especially if you’re headed to bed right after a shower.

Can headphones cause anxiety?

Earphone users showed 1.32-times higher odds for anxiety and depressive symptoms (95% CI = 1.14–1.52, P = 0.040). Nevertheless, the hearing thresholds were comparable between earphone users and control participants. Earphone use was associated with Tinnitus and anxiety or depressive symptoms.

Is noise-canceling good for your ears?

Overall, noise cancellation in headphones doesn’t affect your hearing negatively. You may hear a slight hissing sound when the ANC is turned on, but that’s about it. However, this can irritate some people and even result in dizziness.

Final Thoughts

Human hearing is sensitive, delicate, and complex. It is essential to protect this sense to remain intact as long as possible. Active noise-canceling headphones cause some people to feel uncomfortable or dizzy. These are infrequent situations, and the chances of them happening to you are pretty low.

Once you adjust to the change in sound pressure, which is just a matter of time, ANC headphones’ sound quality and overall user experience will surprise you. The best part is that they are perfect for travel and home or office use.

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