For a lot of people, the introduction of ANC (Active Noise Canceling), was an amazing feature. What better way to listen to your favorite tunes, audiobooks, and podcasts than with the world around you tuned out to a large degree?

Active Noise-Canceling is the headphone’s ability to generate its own soundwaves that match the incoming soundwaves. Your headphones send these matching sound waves outward, canceling out the incoming ones. 

It’s a brilliant feature, even though it does add a large degree of a drain on the battery (assuming you are using wireless headphones/earbuds). For a select few people, it also has another drawback—this one is more physical.

Can Noise-Canceling Headphones Make You Dizzy?

A woman listening to noise canceling headphones

While there is no definitive study confirming a specific feature of ANC headphones causing dizziness and nausea, some people can feel a little dizzy using them. It’s thought that some people can’t handle the weird pressure changes ANC causes in the ears. 

Active noise canceling can mess with your equilibrium. It can affect your ears and the fluid in them that helps your body feel balanced. For a small few, ANC can bring on a sense of vertigo which can cause a feeling of nausea and/or dizziness.

Pressure around your temples from the clamping of headphones can also cause headaches and some dizziness in some people. In this case, switching to open-back headphones may bring some relief.

Most people only feel dizzy and/or nauseous when they first start using noise-canceling headphones. If you gradually increase the amount of time you are wearing the headphones each day you will slowly overcome the negative effects of ANC.

It takes most people one to four weeks of continuous use to be able to overcome the feeling of dizziness. 

It’s important to note, however, that there are two types of noise-canceling technologies—passive and active. It’s the active (ANC) that seems to be the underlying culprit, not the passive noise-canceling headphones. 

The above-linked study, conducted by the National Library of Medicine, determined that sickness was caused after 12 straight hours of listening with the ANC feature on. The thing is, most people don’t listen to anything for 12 hours straight.

What Kind of Issues Can Noise-Canceling Headphones Cause?

The majority of the complaints from people who are affected by the ANC feature in some headphones is dizziness. However, headaches and nausea are also reported as symptoms. Nausea can be bad enough to cause vomiting. 

It’s sort of like how some people are affected by car sickness, getting a nasty sense of nausea from reading a book or looking at their smartphones, while others are perfectly fine and can read while riding in the passenger seat for hours. 

Like getting out of the car when suffering from car sickness, turning the ANC feature off, or removing the headphones seems to be an almost instant remedy. As Active Noise-Canceling becomes more and more prevalent in headphones and wireless earbuds, more people are being affected by it.

Related Article: Can Wireless Headphones Cause Headaches? (Explained)

How Do Noise-Canceling Headphones Make You Dizzy?

Our ears are finely tuned instruments. In fact, get just the tiniest bit of water in one ear, below the eardrum, and you might find yourself walking sideways into a wall before you realize what’s happening. It’s called vertigo and what happens with the ANC feature on is similar. 

Since our ears are used to receiving certain frequencies, ANC messes with the natural function of your ear. When you turn the ANC feature on, even if you’re listening to nothing and sitting in a silent room, you will immediately notice the difference. 

For some, it’s disconcerting but only briefly. For others, it goes beyond being simply disconcerting and turns into nausea, dizziness, and a headache. If it goes on for too long, those who are sensitive to ANC will soon reach the level of vertigo. 

Despite the fact that some people are negatively affected by ANC, it’s mostly harmless, if you consider projectile vomiting harmless. What we mean is that it doesn’t have any long-term effects and it’s certainly not deadly in any way. Even if you get dizzy or sick, turning the feature off will alleviate the symptoms.

Bottom Line

Active Noise-Canceling doesn’t make everyone dizzy. It only affects a minority of people in that way. Most people can listen to their headphones with ANC on for long periods and be perfectly fine. The good news is, you can turn ANC off on almost every headphone or earbud model.