Silent headphones?
July 31, 2010 2:46 PM   Subscribe

I need help building a quiet work environment in a noisy house. Headphone recommendations needed.

This fall I'm going back to law school after an extended break. I had a baby during the break, and am going back to the most extreme part of my program. While I have my husband and sister to watch the baby so that I can study, it is really difficult for me to not want to soothe the baby if I can hear him fussing. I also live in a kind of sprawling/open house, and my work area doesn't have a door.

I'm going to need to study about 8 hours a day outside of school, and would like to be home for most of that to see the babe during breaks and also because I'm breastfeeding. Just staying at school after class isn't really an option.

What can I do to block out the baby, conversations, and the sound of the television? I searched for noise canceling headphones, but they seem to mostly be aimed at those listening to some thumping jams. I pretty much need silence if I hope to retain information. I tend to find white noise distracting. I would really like any headphones to be under $100, if possible.

Thanks you guys!
posted by andlee210 to Shopping (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I don't think noise-canceling headphones will work because they tend to need a fairly consistent noise, like airplane noise. I remember a friend's dad always wore hearing protection earmuffs (like construction workers, machinists, etc. wear) so he could get work done in the midst of noisy kids.
posted by Emanuel at 3:04 PM on July 31, 2010

Best answer: You're probably looking for ear plugs, not headphones:

You'd want noise-isolating headphones (usually based around closed-foam ear plugs) if you want to listen to music while blocking out the ambient noise. If you're just looking for quiet, look for ear plugs:

Noise canceling headphones are active devices: they listen to the ambient noise and create an out-of-phase sound based on that noise in the headphones; they work best for noise that's consistent, like a jet engine from inside the plane, rather than conversation. If you just want to keep out the household sounds without listening to music, look at the first link.
posted by chengjih at 3:11 PM on July 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

So just to be clear, you want headphones through which no music or audio of any kind will be played?

If it's the case that you're not going to actually be listening to anything, I'd recommend the softest earplugs you can find. I have some that are far softer than any I've ever used, but I don't have the box any more. They are striped yellow and orange. They are one of the few kinds of earplugs I can be comfortable wearing for a very long period of time without removing them.

If that's not enough sound protection, wear shooting over-ear protection on top of your earplugs. They look like headphones, but are meant for protecting your hearing from the sound of gun fire.

You could easily make the above setup fit in under $35.

Also, do you wear glasses? If so, make sure whatever over-ear headphone/hearing protection you get will be comfortable in the long term with glasses. I know I tend to get a head-pinching related headache and ear soreness if I wear glasses and headphones for too long.
posted by MonsieurBon at 3:12 PM on July 31, 2010

If you're going to be listening to music (?), buy a pair of in-ear-monitors like the Shure SE115 ($65). If those don't give you enough isolation on their own, wear over the ear hearing protection on top of the headphones.

If you're not looking for music, do the same thing, but start with ear plugs instead of the in-ear-monitors.

I agree that those active noise canceling headphone will probably not be what you want.
posted by paulg at 3:35 PM on July 31, 2010

Just my 2 cents - I couldn't work at home with baby and caretaker. Our solution? Coffee shop and text message, pumped milk in the fridge in a pinch. The baby will get more predictable with time.
posted by k8t at 3:37 PM on July 31, 2010

Yeah, over the ear noise protection sounds like the way to go - you can find comfortable ones for little over $25 at your local home improvement warehouse. While earplugs would work too I personally find they let through more sound.

While you say you don't care for white noise you may want to reconsider or look at something that has more choices (in the iPhone realm there's about 2729193849293239 different apps that play everything from babbling brooks to airplane engine sounds). Perhaps you'll be different but personally I find the complete absence of ALL noise to be distracting. Even if you simply set the white noise at a barely audible level I think you'll find that more condusive.

If that's the case you'll want the kind of noise isolating ear protection at the hardware store that has speakers built in.

On a whole other tack, is there no other nearby location you could study? A library or a neighbor's house that they'd let you use while they're at work? There's a real value in separating your roles, I think, even if it's just by being across the street. Everyone's different but I find when I am working from home I need to utilize a distinct space to put myself in the right mindset.
posted by phearlez at 3:42 PM on July 31, 2010

I have the same can't-work/study-with-any-background-noise and I find these to be super useful. JVC-HAFXC50B-Micro-Inner-Headphone. I just put them on and don't put any music. (These are inear so YMMV on the fitting but they come with 3 different sized tips so one of them should probably work for you.

If you do find something better, or a different solution, please do post it here. :)
posted by bbyboi at 4:56 PM on July 31, 2010

Response by poster: You guys are right, I am definitely looking for more of an earplug. I guess I thought I wanted headphones so that when I chose to I could listen to music, though I'm really not much of an audiophile. The headphones from Apple should suffice. Earplugs are definitely a much cheaper option than the headphones I was looking at!

I wish I could study at a coffee shop, but it takes me a while to get "set up" with everything I need to study (so many books!), and I can't imagine leaving and coming back every 2 hours. Home is where my heart is.
posted by andlee210 at 5:16 PM on July 31, 2010

If the earplugs aren't enough, you can always put your headphones on top of your earplugs. It seems counterintuitive but you will hear the music (but don't put it too loud) and literally nothing else.
posted by fantasticninety at 5:28 PM on July 31, 2010

The headphones from Apple should suffice.

I'd recommend Skullcandy or Shure or Etymotic over Apple. They're all much better value for money.
posted by smorange at 5:39 PM on July 31, 2010

It looks like Amazon is selling the Shure 115 (the entry level ones) for $65, down from $120 — it's actually cheaper than the Apple In-Ears, which are $68, from $70.

The Shures also come with a variety of tips to you can find the ones that feel best in your ears; after all, if they're not comfortable and you don't wear them they're not going to do you much good.
posted by heeeraldo at 7:14 PM on July 31, 2010

Response by poster: I actually already own Apple headphones. Sorry, I should have been more clear. Thanks, again!
posted by andlee210 at 8:32 PM on August 1, 2010

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