Noise cancellation is popular, but can it cause any harm?  'You'll get used to it'

Noise cancellation is popular, but can it cause any harm? 'You'll get used to it'

With noise cancellation, the sound is literally canceled out, says Eric van Ballegwe, a tech journalist at Tweakers. “The noise that comes in is canceled out by the counter noise.”

“Sound from the outside world is recorded by microphones on the outside of your headphones,” he explains. “With the help of intelligent software, the type of sound to match is quickly calculated. This eliminates external noise in your ears.”

This works well for low tones. “At higher pitches it takes more effort.”

From useful use to recreational use

This technology has been in use longer than we think, says audiologist Jan de Laat from LUMC. “It's been used since the 1970s, for example by air traffic controllers and pilots. So it's a useful use.”

We now use them mainly for recreational purposes, for example while exercising or on public transport. De Laet believes this is a possible solution for people with hypersensitivity to noise. But he says repeated use can make it approved.

“Research shows it can be helpful sometimes, but not always,” says de Laet. “That's because you get used to it and eventually you can't get rid of it.”


He continues: “Then you can no longer get used to all kinds of differences in sounds, because you give in to that extreme sensitivity and, as it were, bury yourself in it more and more.” So it would not be advisable to allow people who are sensitive to stimulation to continue their lives with noise cancellation. “It's better for them to get used to the sounds slowly.”

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In addition to the risk of dependency, audiologists believe there is a possibility that this technique may cause hypersensitivity. “You can imagine that if you use it day after day, habituation will develop, so you can become hypersensitive to the sounds.”

He met his colleague

Despite the risks, de Laet stresses that it is also a very beautiful invention. “If the noise cancellation technology is used moderately for the situation in which it is needed, there is no risk and it is okay.”

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