Noise canceling headphones vs earmuffs

Noise canceling headphones vs earmuffs: which one should I choose to protect hearing? Are they work the same in all frequencies or designed for specific purposes? If you too can decide between Noise canceling headphones and earmuffs, keep reading on!

In this comprehensive article, we have compared both noise canceling devices in plenty of aspects and figure out their best working zone and purposes.


Noise canceling headphones vs earmuffs: What Is The Key Difference?

Noise canceling headphones vs earmuffs


The main difference between noise canceling headphones and earmuffs is that the earmuff is better for use as a hearing protector in extremely noisy environments due to its noise reduction rating.
Noise canceling headphones vs earmuffs: In-Depth Comparison


Following we have compared both noises canceling headphones and earmuffs briefly in their key aspects:


Hearing protector

Hearing protector Headphones


Noise canceling headphones help protect hearing; however, it isn’t a rated hearing protection device as don t have U.S NRRR.

Even the best ANC headphones have a mid-frequency weakness. In this case, earmuffs are far better.
That’s why properly rated and labeled earmuffs or earplugs are preferable to wear during grinding down tiles, running a gas-powered lawn mower, and working in a factory.

At a time, earmuffs will let you enjoy music, radio, or audiobooks while saving the ears from extreme sound pollution.

Does it mean noise-cancelling headphones aren’t good for protecting hearing?

In general, noise canceling headphones are made of a combination of noise-isolating ear cups and noise canceling electronics to reduce noise reaching the ear.

Noise canceling headphones can reduce low-frequency noise coming from engines, airplanes, HVAC, vehicles, and bass noise.

Their ear cups can also be relatively effective to reduce mid-frequency noise and finely reduce high-frequency noise.
At a time, you can also enjoy lectures, music, and audiobook at lower volumes.

However, all the noise canceling headphones aren’t performing the same.


Wearing Comfort

The Noise canceling headphones are especially designed for comfortable wear while earmuffs improve hearing protection.

The earmuff’s headband can put great clamping force on the ears comparing the headphone’s headband. By doing so, the earmuff ensures a proper seal between the head and ear pads.

However, earmuffs can be relatively comfortable and snug fit after taking some effort.
Conversely, wearing noise-cancelling headphones feels extremely soft and comfortable and sometimes feels like nothing on the ears.

The cushioned headband put slight pressure while holding the ear cushion in place and isolating it from the environments.


Durability and maintenance


Headband and ear cups

Earmuffs are highly durable than Noise canceling headphones. However, headphone’s headband includes hinges that allow folding them. These are also mostly covered with smooth faux leather and the cushions are made of soft protein leather.

Throwing headphones in a backpack without covering the hard cases and contacting with other items can town the ear cushion, creak the ear cups, and worse the headband.

Conversely, most earmuffs come with a steel wire headband and plastic or rubber top, making them extremely tough to break. Their ear cups are also made from hard plastic and can absorb pressure, wear and tear quite efficiently.

Ear cushion wear and tear

The leather cushions of noise canceling headphones are fairly soft however can weaken under heat and sweat and the top layer can flake off.

Conversely, the earmuff’s ear cushions are mostly made of soft plastic and these can absorb sweat quite efficiently, making them easier to clean with soap and water.

But after consistent use in rough conditions can make the ear cushion hard and its foam lining can get dirty.
The foam that is better for isolation falls apart more quickly under sweat, heat, and dirt.

That’s why you may need to replace the foam lining and ear pads of the earmuffs every year after using them regularly.

Though some well known brands offer replacement of ear pads, unknown brands don’t offer this service.
So, while purchasing expensive noise canceling headphones make sure they have a replacement for ear cushions or are compatible with third parties.



Noise canceling headphones are usually electrically powered. So you won’t get better low-frequency noise reduction without juice.

However passive noise reduction earmuffs don’t have such a case, these devices noise using their cushions, ear cups, and isolation.

Radio earmuffs, Bluetooth earmuffs, and earmuffs that include electronics for communication and active listening require batteries. However the devices use the battery for extra functionality rather than noise reduction.

The rechargeable battery contains in active noise canceling headphones aren’t replaceable. It means their longevity is limited.

Older noise canceling headphones mostly used AAA batteries and their batteries are also replaceable.
Despite this, some electronic earmuffs run with AA- or AAA batteries and they are replaceable too.



Are noise canceling headphones the same as ear protection?

Noise canceling headphones are identical to ear protection. These devices are designed to block unnecessary ambient sounds in low frequency.


Are in-ear or over-ear headphones better at noise canceling?

Both of the devices are great options for portability and impressive battery life. However, in terms of noise canceling, the on-ear headphones will be a better option. Despite this, over-ear headphones are suitable for active noise cancellation, have better audio quality, and are slightly heavier.


Final words

So, Noise canceling headphones vs earmuffs: which device is better? Noise canceling headphones are perfect for comfortable wear and reducing low-frequency noise. Some high-end noise canceling headphones also provide better decent passive noise isolation.

But earmuffs are preferable for wearing in extreme noisy environments to protect ears and keep the work continue. Even some top-rated earmuff can benefit you with low frequency noise reduction like noise canceling headphones.

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