Adapting to noise-cancelling headphone headaches/nausea
January 3, 2014 2:56 PM   Subscribe

I recently received Bose QC15 noise cancelling headphones, and in my first two days wearing them at work -- periodically, about four hours in total each day -- I've experienced mild headaches and mild nausea. Do people experiencing these symptoms eventually adapt, and the symptoms go away?
posted by RobinFiveWords to Technology (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Are the headphones on too tight? I use noise cancelers at work sometimes and the tight grip usually gives me a headache.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 3:10 PM on January 3 [2 favorites]


Headphone fit stuff for sure, and: set the volume in a quiet room, and don't turn them up significantly when you're not in a quiet place. This pretty much applies to everyone using every kind of headphones.
posted by asperity at 3:46 PM on January 3


I had this before I realized the stupid head band part was exerting too much onto a pressure point on my head and around my temples. I had to put a little padding at the apex of the band to lessen the pressure. It's sort of working.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 3:59 PM on January 3


This is a known issue for noise-canceling headphones. I had a severe case of vertigo two years ago after wearing mine for 20 hours (a long flight Oslo - Reykjavik - Portland - Vancouver with long waits in the airports) and I knew it was nothing that I had eaten on the days before. Here is some of the research that I have found:

Medical Study
Some good comments about the medical study

Audiophiles weigh in - some good comments here too

Gizmodo article

Basically, reduce the use, or lighten the seal on your ears so that other noise can come in - and lessen the very real vertigo effect (that affects some, not all, people).

As for me, I use my Bose sparingly - never on ground. If my flight is long, I wear the headphones only on the plane, and not on ground at the airport (though good god I'm often tempted). And if I do get the spins, then I go lie down - either at destination, or back home once safely arrived. The nausea and vertigo are gone within a few hours, and will vary depending on how long I used the 'phones.
posted by seawallrunner at 4:47 PM on January 3 [2 favorites]


I'd attribute this to the headphones pushing slightly on some part of your ear, pushing your ear against your head, or pushing on an area right near your ear and that pressure causing this. I've gotten this with both noise cancelling and non-noise cancelling headphones.

I would return them immediately and try out another manufacturers equivalent model, because every company uses slightly different earcup and headband shapes in addition to generally different foam.

My favorite pair of over the ear headphones ever actually causes this on me with the default headband pad. Definitely investigate that too, and see how it's pressing on the top of your head, how much give it has, whether the plastic is contacting your head, etc.

Search around for posts about people complaining of "clamping" or pressure from these models and see what people say. On some models there's a fairly common mod people do along the lines of "tape something on right here" or "take off the ear cup and pull out some foam right here", etc.

So yea, i think this is the physical headphones themselves. Not the noise cancelling hardware.
posted by emptythought at 5:17 PM on January 3


There's a simple enough way to test whether it's the equipment or the noise-canceling feature: After you're feeling better, wear them for the same period with the power turned off.

I tried the QC15s and they made me feel disoriented and generally weird immediately -- I could actually feel like a vacuum sensation when I wore them. I ended up buying and using the QC3 model and have not had an issue. The guy at the Bose shop says this usually happens with women, something about the way our earballs are built.
posted by mochapickle at 6:22 PM on January 3 [1 favorite]


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