Earmuffs vs Noise-Canceling Headphones

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Updated June 27, 2022

If you are new to the world of sound isolation with regard to personal audio, you may look to compare earmuffs vs noise-canceling headphones. Some of the best headphones, after all, include noise-cancellation technology to block ambient noise. So what are the primary differences between earmuffs and noise-canceling headphones and how to choose the right device for you? Keep reading to find out.


  • Earmuffs include no technology, so they do not have any active noise canceling features, which makes them less effective with low-frequency noise.
  • No noise headphones, on the other hand, employ the latest technologies to reduce ambient background noise and reduce the strain of a noisy environment.
  • You can also listen to music with noise-interrupting headphones as you eliminate each loud noise and you cannot do that with earmuffs.

Noise-Canceling Headphones vs Earmuffs

The primary difference between these two is that earmuffs are not electronic in design, as they are just insulated fabric. Noise-canceling headphones, on the other hand, tend to allow users to listen to music and also block ambient noise if you are wondering how noise-canceling headphones work. In other words, the differences here are stark, which is not always true when making other comparisons, such as when comparing noise-canceling earbuds vs headphones.

Insider Tip

Experiment with different levels of noise reduction to find your perfect match.

Here are some other reasons why these two devices differ.

Active Noise Cancellation

Earmuffs don’t have anything by way of active noise-canceling technology, so you won’t wonder what is the ambient mode with earbuds, as earmuffs lack such an ambient sound reduction mode. Noise-canceling headphones, on the other hand, typically include all manner of audio drivers dedicated to reducing noise. This technology is available on nearly every pair of headphones with noise-canceling features if you are looking to compare gaming headphones vs studio headphones. Earmuffs never have this feature, so active noise-canceling headphones have the edge here when it comes to reducing outside and ambient noise.

Audio Quality

Earmuffs do not play audio at all, so noise-canceling headphones have the edge here. Of course, not all noise-canceling headphones even play audio, as some are designed to strictly reduce outside ambient noise, for taking naps on airplanes and the like. In other words, if listening to music and podcasts is your bag, choose active noise-canceling headphones over earmuffs, or else you’ll have to make a secondary purchase.

Signal Interference

With earmuffs, there is no signal to interfere with, as there is no transmission being released at all. If you are looking into Bluetooth vs wired headphone radiation levels, you’ll find none with earmuffs, but some wireless noise-canceling headphones may release trace amounts of radiation. In most cases, this is perfectly safe, but some noise-canceling headphones can interfere with competing signals, such as those produced by baby monitors and microwaves.


Hearing loss: when are we at risk?

We are at risk when the noise reduction rating raises to unsafe levels. At this point, employ a hearing protector of some kind, such as in-ear headphones and the like.

How do noise-canceling headphones work?

Active noise cancellation creates a noise that integrates with pre-existing noises, thus reducing the noise reduction rating and the number of external noises. Passive noise cancellation merely offers protection.

Should I use earplugs with active noise-canceling headphones?

You can use in-ear headphones, earplugs, and other hearing protection devices while using active models, but be careful to ensure comfort during use.

STAT: Active noise control (ANC), also known as noise cancellation (NC), or active noise reduction (ANR), is a method for reducing unwanted sound by the addition of a second sound specifically designed to cancel the first. (source)

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