History Of Noise-cancelling Headphones


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Being on a plane, especially during long-distance journeys where one would sit for long hours, can be less enjoyable and troubling due to the turbulence and several disturbing noises made by planes while in motion. Most people, as a result of this, usually get sick and nauseous during flights. This and a few other reasons led to the invention and creation of noise-canceling headphones which have in little time become very popular as it has proven useful and essential.

Noise-canceling headphones, as the name implies, are headphones that remove noise and unwanted sound through a feature known as active noise control. They make it possible to listen to audio sounds or music tracks without having to increase the volume more than required. They are also frequently used by passengers in noise-producing vehicles like planes and jets to help them sleep while in transit. Aviation engineers and personnel also use it as it helps in the safe and easy transmission of information.

Noise-canceling headphones, to an extent, drew inspiration from regular electroacoustic headphones, but they function in different ways. There are also noise-isolating headphones that function in similar ways as noise-canceling headphones but through a distinct feature and technique. Noise-isolating headphones works based on the principle of soundproofing and devices used to make them support soundproofing. Like the regular headphones, they, too, have not always been around as most people think. They were first developed in the mid-nineteenth century and have become a regular feature in people’s daily lives.

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Historical Development Of Noise-cancelling Headphones

The historical journey of noise-canceling headphones is closely linked to that of regular headphones, which was where the inspiration for them was gotten. Although their history seems to be interlinked, they function in different ways and have separate working mechanisms. However, noise-canceling headphones have seen several innovations and upgrades happen during the course of several years and decades.

The idea for noise-canceling technology is accredited to a German medical doctor and philosopher named Paul Lueg. Paul was the first to come up with an elaborate theory on the principle of noise cancellation. However, at the time he developed this theory, there was no technology available to really take the concept through a practical test, so it was dropped in time. However, his idea formed a foundation that has helped shaped noise reduction and cancellation technology even up to the present time and age.

About twenty years later, precisely in the 1950s, Dr. Lawrence Jerome Fogel created his own theory, which also led to him creating a noise-canceling headphone system. His headphone system was one of the first of its kind at that time and was specifically designed for helicopter pilots to help reduce noise interference and concentrate better. His noise-canceling headphones, however didn’t look like anything we have today and were just used by pilots and usually when they were flying.

Check out history of headphones

The invention of the noise-canceling headphones as we know today happened in 1989, a very strategic year in headphones development history. Dr. Amar Bose, a professor and the founder of Bose Corporation, was the brain behind the invention. He got the inspiration for the design while he was on a flight from Zurich to Boston, where he could not enjoy the entertainment provided by the headphones on the plane due to the turbulence and engine noises. His designs of headphones were widely used by several airlines, making it very popular and hugely accepted by a large number of people. His headphones provided premium comfort to the ears while blocking out noises and making the wearer more relaxed. Noise-canceling headphones soon became so popular that other headphone-producing companies began to spring up.

In modern times, noise-canceling headphones are no longer restricted or relegated to the aviation sector alone, although they are still largely used there. They have gradually been incorporated into general life and living accessories. Quite unlike regular headphones, noise-canceling headphones of the 1970s are not too different from the ones we have today, even though several upgrades have been made. They have now become a regular feature of the travel packs of regular flyers. Noise-canceling headphones gradually made their way into other sectors like entertainment as they are now being used for gaming experiences. There are now wireless noise-canceling headphones and digital noise-canceling technology.

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It is also important to note that the Bose Corporation spent about 50 million dollars on research and the development of his concept, which at that was a huge amount of money. He was much criticized for his actions which saw the creation of the Bose Aviation Headset- the first commercially produced noise-canceling headphones in the world, crowning his labors with success.

See also what are volume-limiting headphones


Noise-cancelling, a technology that was initially designed for pilots and the aviation sector, has now significantly become embraced all over the world. Students use noise-cancelling headphones for studying and they are even used by referees in football matches for conveying relevant information. They can also be great sleeping aids and are sometimes recommended for people with insomnia or sleeping disorders where little noises can prevent sleep. They do come in several designs and styles for both comfort and convenience and are valuable assets for frequent travelers who prefer transit by air. They are usually more expensive when compared to regular headphones. Most noise-canceling headphones usually function with power or battery, which can be replaced or recharged. Over the years, noise-canceling technology has dramatically improved and is still getting better. So whether one is involved in the aviation sector or not, noise-canceling headphones are still relevant as too much noise can be dangerous to one’s mental health and can even lead to hearing loss. While the regular headphones transmit sounds, noise-canceling headphones block unnecessary chatter and noises preventing them from being consumed by the wearer. So whether it’s for travel, jogging, studying or gaming, noise-cancelling headphones add value to human lives.