Noise Canceling Vs. Noise Blocking Headphones (Disability Equipment)

Feb 4, 2017 · 6 min read
White noise canceling headphones Vs. black noise blocking headphones on a blue floral background

Don’t have time? Read the TL:DR at the end of the article!

When it comes to accessibility and accommodation devices the use of anti-noise gear is very common by autistics. These headphones can aid people with ADD/ADHD, Sensory Processing Disorder and other disabilities. For me, my headphones are like a cane — they make the world easier and less painful. Using my cane or the headphones allows me to do things I can’t do. The headphones also allow me to do things, do them without melting down or eating up all my energy on being in a place. They make my life easier, and walking outside much more bearable. I don’t tire as much, I can go into shops without being unable to do anything for the next day or becoming very afraid, confused or overwhelmed.

Till my last birthday I used Noise blocking headphones, from the kind used by technicians and electrics which I got from my dad. I also use silicone earplugs with them if I need some extra quiet.

This year my awesome friends collected money and bought me noise canceling headphones. I wanted them but I wasn’t sure if buying them was an investment I was ready for — so this was a great birthday present for me.

I decided to do a review and a side-by-side comparison of the two, with pros and cons for each product. I hope you will find it quite useful for yourself or your dear ones!

Noise Blocking Headphones

Noise Blocking Husqvarna’s Headphones

What I use: Husqvarna’s “Hearing protection” old model.
Weight: ~200gr
Noise reduction; NRR: 25 dB(A) SNR: 27 dB(A)

Other names: Noise isolation headphones, work earmuffs, passive anti-noise headphones, Hearing protection headphones.

Where to get:
You can get those in a shops for work equipment, building and DIY home supplies. Various work places supply noise blocking headphones. You can also get them from different shops on AliExpress, eBay or Amazon.

About 100–500 ILS (25–130 USD), depending on quality.

How they work:
They go around your ear to block sound-waves from around you and contain different materials inside them to block and muffle the noise. The headphones provide physical barrier between your ear and the sounds around you.


  • Relatively cheap (some work places even provide them).


  • Big and bulky — some won’t fit under hats or won’t allow you to sleep in them comfortably on your side/stomach.

Noise Canceling Headphones

Parrot zik 2.0 white noise canceling headphones

What I use: Parrot zik 2.0 white noise canceling headphones.
Weight: 270 gr, Noise canceling: Up to about ~30 dB,

Other names: Active noise canceling headphones, noise canceling headphones, Noise controlling headphones

Where to get: Electronics stores (like BUG), Amazon, eBay, manufacturer's e-shops.

About 1000 — 3000 ILS (250 — 8000 USD), depending on brand and model.

How they work:

The noise canceling works using the physics of sound waves. They use a “counter wave” to cancel the outside noise (Destructive interference). The device can’t predict random noises, so it is more useful for predictable, monotone sounds.

Graphical depiction of active noise reduction, from Wikipedia

Active noise-cancelling headphones use a microphone, amplifier, and speaker to pick up, amplify, and play ambient noise in phase-reversed form; this to some extent cancels out unwanted noise from the environment without affecting the desired sound source, which is not picked up and reversed by the microphone.
- Wikipedia


  • Noise cancelling degree can be controlled via an app.


  • Expensive.


Both passive and active anti-noise headphones have their pros and cons, and you should choose what will work better for you. I recommend getting noise blocking headphones. Their price makes them accessible and because they don’t need as much care to block noises. If you can afford active noise cancelling headphones — they can be great addition to your set of tools for dealing with the world. They worth it, even if they are marketed as “super awesome headphones” for able people. They were not designed with disabled people’s needs in mind. Even if you prefer active noise cancelling, I still recommend buying passive headphones as a backup. Also, having both can widen the times you can make yourself more comfortable. Most of the time I use my passive headphones, because I am less worried that they will break. I think that they cancel speech and noises a little bit better, by my experience. The active headphones are very useful as well, especially if I want to listen to texts while working. They are also great for talking on the phone because they have high-quality microphone.


My final recommendation: active noise cancelling headphones are expensive, but are great. Passive headphones are awesome as well. Get the passive ones, or get both(passive and active) — with the passive functioning as a backup.

Musings from Mars

Autistic, Bisexual, Genderqueer, Polyamorous. Drawing with words, Thinking with colors.


Written by


practically no one. Part time research engineer in an agricultural lab, full time disabled queer in a golden cage build out of lies.

Musings from Mars

Autistic, Bisexual, Genderqueer, Polyamorous. Drawing with words, Thinking with colors.

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