Tag Archive: noise-cancelling headphones

An explainer on noise cancelling headphones:

How do noise cancelling headphones work? Royce Wilson, news.com.au, writes about noise cancelling headphones, the cure-all to our modern noisy world.  But have you ever wondered how they actually work?  Wilson reports that there are “two types of noise cancelling technologies for headphones — passive and active,” and he asked University of Queensland School of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering research fellow and lecturer Dr Konstanty Bialkowski about the different approaches.  Dr. Bialkowski said that the passive technology is “like having a cup around your ear that reduces high-frequency noise” (“people talking or high-pitched squealing”), while active cancellation is for low-frequency noise (e.g., low-pitched hum like a car engine, aeroplane engine or a fan).  With active cancellation, the headset, which has a microphone, “knows the distance between the microphone and your ear and it makes [a] complete opposite noise” to cancel out the distracting noise.

Click the link for the full article, which includes a review of the Sony’s MDR-1000X wireless noise cancelling headphones.

 

If life is fair, the person responsible for the first open plan office

will spend eternity in his or her own special ring in hell. Whatever the initial motivation for the open floor plan–we recall it was to encourage “collaboration,” which must have been the word du jour at the time–many who followed this “innovation” only did so to reap cost savings. That open floor plans are and were unpopular with the worker bees was dismissed without serious consideration as finance departments and underperforming CEOs gleefully counted pennies (that would soon find their way to their bonus checks).

Sadly, this short-sighted and short-term attempt to shore up shaky financial reports is causing some very real problems.  As Amy X. Wang, Quartz, notes, “[s]tudies have found that lack of sound privacy is the biggest drain on employee morale, and that workers lose as much as 86 minutes a day to distractions.”  In fact, in the last year a flurry of articles have come out that acknowledge the very real costs of open plan offices.  So what will our corporate overlords do?  Will they call in the designers and reconfigure the office space?  Don’t hold your breath.  They will more likely send Wang’s article, “The complete guide to noise-canceling in open offices and other hectic spaces,” to the underlings and go back to surfing the web looking for their next unnecessary purchase.

As for Wang’s advice?  The usual: invest in a pair of noise-cancelling headphones, download white noise apps, get a plant, go for a walk.  Saved you a click.

Link via Quiet Revolution: @livequiet.

Here’s some helpful advice for those who work in open-plan offices:

The best ways to cope with a noisy office.  Rachel Becker, writing for The Verge, is wisely concerned about finding a good option to block distracting noise at work that won’t put her hearing at risk.  Becker notes that “[h]earing loss typically occurs as people age” and that it is irreversible, but what she is concerned about is the World Health Organization’s statement that “more than 1.1 billion young adults are also at risk” of hearing loss because approximately “half of [all] people ages 12 to 35 in middle-to-high income countries are exposing themselves to unsafe levels of noise on their devices.”  That is, younger people are engaging in activities that almost guarantee they will suffer hearing loss as they age, something Becker wants to avoid.

Sadly, her review of options doesn’t reveal a perfect answer.  But her article is important because she is young and aware that she may be able to avoid hearing loss entirely by taking steps to protect her hearing today.  She’s right, after all, about hearing loss being irreversible, and the truth is that no one knows when, or if, a cure will be found.  Since noise-induced hearing loss is 100% preventable, Becker is choosing the wiser route: avoid exposing your ears to damaging sound today to preserve your hearing tomorrow.

 

How Background Noise Can Ruin Productivity

and the Gadgets That Can Help.

Open floor plans may excite the finance department, but their effect on worker productivity–and morale–is less than fabulous.  Spare us the noise cancelling headphones, please, and design quieter places where people can do their work.

Amazon addresses the glaring weakness of noise-canceling headphones:

How to balance the benefit of noise cancellation with the danger of not hearing potential warning signs?

And the answer can be found in a new patent that Amazon received this month for “noise-canceling headphones that will allow critical, hand-picked words to be heard by the headphone-wearer.”  While not perfect solution, it’s a start.  Of course, the alternative solution is for government to regulate noise so that noise cancellation headphones are unnecessary, but that is sadly unlikely in our current political environment.