ANC Headphones Make Me Sick – Reasons Why It Happens?

Many people have reported feeling nauseous, dizzy, or sick after using ANC headphones. It is either that or a feeling of high pressure inside the ear, which feels as though your ears get clogged. The phenomenon is natural and not limited to a select group of people. Still, it is also unknown who can be affected by this sensation and what type of noise-canceling headphones causes this sensation of sickness.

In this article, we look at why active noise-canceling headphones make you sick, whether you should be concerned about it, whether everyone experiences it and how to minimize it.

Do all active noise-canceling headphones give you a headache or make you sick?

It’s not a flaw or defect in ANC headphones that they make you dizzy or sick when you first try them! You need to get used to them, 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 in such a way that you feel sick, dizzy, claustrophobic, nauseous, have motion sickness, or the impression that the air pressure is abnormally high. In short, you feel different from your natural environment, which is understandable.

Return the headphones if you feel any of the above and your situation doesn’t improve after two weeks.

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.

Reasons why ANC headphones make you feel sick

While it’s unlikely that you’ll feel sick after trying on an ANC headset for a few moments, there are many reasons why many people 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 your ear canal.
  • Silence or high sound pressure does not match visual cues.

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

  • ANC headphones create a noticeable hum below 20 Hz that makes you feel uncomfortable or sick (constant low-frequency sound waves are known to cause nausea, stress, and extreme discomfort)
  • The active noise cancellation level is too high and generates static noise, so even listening to music at low volume may bother you.

Constant low frequency humming noises

Low-frequency sound waves are the most common reason you feel sick when using active noise-canceling headphones. And listening to constant low-frequency noise can affect the way your ears function even after you take off your headphones. Meanwhile, ANC headphones that protect against low frequency noises and don’t produce any humming are highly recommended.

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 important to choose active noise-canceling headphones that you can use even 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. The Sony WH-CH710N generates a slight hum, while the JBL Live 650BTNC produces an unavoidable buzz that is not suitable for sensitive ears.

Static noise

Static noise in ANC headphones is caused by many reasons: electromagnetic interference, multiple electrical components, circuit malfunctions, a lag time of inverse sound waves canceling out the noise sources.

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

As discussed in an article on the various active noise-canceling technologies and their characteristics, hybrid ANC headsets typically produce high-pitched white noise due to additional noise-canceling microphones. These headsets offer additional noise reduction, but not without drawbacks. LINK HERE

The following ANC headphones produce static or high-frequency sounds:

  • Soundcore Life Q35 (very noticeable)
  • Beats Solo Pro (very noticeable)
  • Sony WH-CH710N (very noticeable)
  • Sony WH XB900 (very noticeable)
  • AKG N60NC (very noticeable)
  • AKG N700NC M2 (very noticeable)
  • Bose QC 35 II (noticeable)
  • Sony WH-1000XM4 (noticeable)
  • Marshall Mid ANC (noticeable)
  • Bose 700 (noticeable)
  • Bose QC 45 (noticeable)
  • Philips PH805 (noticeable)
  • Soundcore Life Q30 (noticeable)
  • JBL Quantum 800 Wireless (subtle)
  • Sony WH-1000XM3 (subtle)
  • Sennheiser HD 4.50 BTNC (subtle)
  • Sony WH-H900N h.ear on 2 (subtle)
  • Sennheiser Momentum Wireless 2019 (subtle)

In any case, 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.

Increased sound pressure

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.

The feeling of pressure in your ears is not exactly pleasant. It is not technically called “vertigo,” but it is difficult to find a better name for this sensation. It is not harmful, but it can be annoying, and it’s caused by the lack of low-frequency sounds in the ear.

Increased pressure on the eardrum can make you feel like you are moving, while others feel claustrophobic because of the sensation of high sound pressure. When you remove the ANC headphones, you feel the need to pop your ears, after which they return to normal pressure.

Active noise-canceling headphones that don’t make you feel sick.

Out of the many active noise-canceling headphones currently available, a few of them are completely safe for people with sensitive ears. Their noise reduction performance is also one of the strongest.

So far, these headphones don’t make you sick or dizzy when using the active noise cancellation function:

  • Apple AirPods Max
  • Bowers & Wilkins PX7 & PX
  • Microsoft Surface Headphones 2

Note: Besides not creating any static or hum noise, these headphones also have a great sound quality and excellent active noise attenuation.

Apple AirPods Max

Apple’s AirPods Max offers a decent 20 hours of battery life with ANC and spatial audio enabled and has a fast full charge in less than 2 hours. The headphones are impeccably designed, extremely luxurious, and lightweight. Music playback is also stellar, with a huge range of sound settings available to suit your tastes.

The most important highlight of the AirPods Max is the superb Active Noise Cancellation, which eliminates most external noise. This is hands down the best reliable and consistent noise cancellation performance of any headphones, with no noise generated by the ANC circuitry, unlike other noise cancellation models from Bose or Sony.

Overall, the AirPods Max noise-canceling headphones are the best option if you’re looking for a pair of ANC headphones for a smooth user experience and high-fidelity sound.

Bowers & Wilkins PX7

Bowers & Wilkins PX7 is another finely crafted active noise-canceling headphone with a high-quality ANC system. The ANC is very effective (-20 dB on average) and comparable to Sony WH-1000XM4 and Bose QC 45. On top of that, it doesn’t cause any feeling of sickness even after long-term use as it doesn’t generate any noise residue. It doesn’t produce any hissing or static noise and can operate for a long time after being fully charged.

The sound quality is also excellent and comparable to that of Apple AirPods Max. Music reproduction is high in details, and the mid-to-lows are expressive while the highs are clear. The soundstage is wide, and a good separation makes it great for playing music. The 43.6 mm drivers offer excellent clarity and treble extension; the bass also plays deep and with a strong punch, so it has a nice balance for all types of music.

The PX7 also has excellent Bluetooth connection quality and strong battery life. It supports multi-device connection and high-res Bluetooth codecs like aptX Adaptive and aptX HD, features Ambient Pass-Through and Wear-Detection Sensor. However, it’s not compatible with any voice assistant.

Microsoft Surface Headphones 2

The Microsoft Surface Headphones 2 is the successor to the original Surface Headphones, and it is one of the few dedicated headphones for Windows 10. The Surface Headphones 2 has a smart design, with touchable controls and a good noise cancellation system with 13 levels and zero hiss or static noise. It can connect to two other devices simultaneously and automatically pause when you remove them.

The 40 mm Free Edge drivers offer acceptable sound quality, emphasizing mids and highs. The best aspect of these headphones is the mid-range, with a rich, well-textured sound and beautifully emphasized vocals. I would have liked a little more bass depth and battery life, though they are perfect as active noise-canceling headphones.

The Surface Headphones 2 are a bit large for average-sized ears and are not affordable. You’ll get much more bang for your buck with the Bowers & Wilkins PX. While the Surface 2 headphones have a universal sound response for most music genres, they’re not the most convenient for long listening.


If you had to choose between the three noise-canceling headphones mentioned, the AirPods Max would win out in terms of user experience and reliability of active noise cancellation and raw noise-reduction power. In contrast, the Bowers & Wilkins PX7 is lighter and more comfortable, with powerful ANC, a delightful design, and less expensive.

Most active noise-canceling headphones generate noise to varying degrees, whether it’s static, buzzing, or a slight hum. Nevertheless, the three ANC headsets I’ve mentioned perform fantastically, with zero or imperceptible noise, delivering the best user experience possible and keep you safe from motion sickness.

FAQ about ANC headsets and dizziness

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

It is quite normal for these feelings to occur, especially at first. It’s a matter of adjustment as the person gets used to the difference in sound pressure between the inside and outside 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 get rid of 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 greatly reduce the most disturbing sounds.

Conclusion

Human hearing is sensitive, delicate, and complex. It is important 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 very rare situations, and the chances of them happening to you are quite 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 not only perfect for travel, but also for home or office use.

In addition, ANC headphones protect your hearing and keep you safe. Plus, if you buy any noise-canceling headphones I recommend (Apple AirPods Max, Bowers & Wilkins PX7 or PX, and Microsoft Surface Headphones 2), rest assured you’re getting high-quality ANC headphones that won’t make you feel uneasy.

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